UNA-USA Youth Leader
1. Why is the United Nations important to the world?
My generation will be defined by global challenges--whether people and nations can come together to reduce disparities in health, wealth, and education, and limit climate change before those gaps widen. The UN provides a voice and a champion to people everywhere – those who need an equalizer – through which meaningful, productive progress can be achieved. Its humanitarian aid, peacekeeping and peacebuilding, research, and cultural preservation are examples. Following genocides and civil wars, natural disasters such as the tsunami in Japan, and other cases of extreme need for assistance, the UN steps up. I am always amazed that the UN can create international cohesion to provide funds for health care in Sub-Saharan African countries, peacekeeping for conflict or disaster zones such as Haiti, and large-scale, effective initiatives such as the push to eradicate AIDS and improve maternal health.
2. How does the UN affect your work or your life?
The UN and its people are an inspiration. I have dedicated time to learning about international topics as varied as health in Sub-Saharan Africa, access to education and literacy, and intercultural communication. Through working with the UN, I have expanded my vision exponentially. The UN provides numerous tools – such as current events, comprehensive resources for topics such as development and aid, and programs to commemorate dates and causes – that enable me to better inform my peers and myself. I founded a Chapter-affiliate of UNA-USA at my high school to strengthen our global citizenship, and look forward to continued engagement at Princeton University.
3. Why should Americans care about the UN’s work?
The UN helps make us all more secure. We as Americans can be distracted by entertainment and domestic issues and forget the struggles of others. Member states and the many people at various UN organizations work together to address issues around the world that state governments are unable to fix. As a result, the UN builds health and stability for people everywhere. Just as Americans enjoy seeing foundations like Make a Wish help others attain happiness, Americans should desire to see the UN fulfill the aspirations and potential of less fortunate peoples around the globe.
4. In your opinion, what has been the UN’s best moment to date?
The UN’s best moments include helping to eliminate diseases in nations (such as blinding trachoma in Morocco) and bringing peace to entire nations such as East Timor, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Sierra Leone. Other fine moments are when the UN gives voice to basic human principles – as in the International Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These are aspirations that people everywhere can share, and challenge us to transform words into results.
5. What do you think is the most exciting opportunity for the UN moving forward?
The UN’s most exciting opportunity is to seize the widespread enthusiasm to reduce social disparities – in health, education, and information access – and to accomplish these goals in culturally sound ways through sustainable community-based interventions. People are realizing that if we invest in human and social capital, we are planting seeds that will then grow to water themselves. This is a way to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and post-2015 goals. What is also exciting about this is the new emphasis to involve youth through social entrepreneurship and activism - an encouraging change from top-down ways of thinking.
6. What is the most effective element of UNA-USA’s work?
Student educational outreach. UNA-USA does a lot of outreach – especially through Model UN and Campus Advocate groups – as well as through conference calls and other UNA-USA sponsored events. Education is a crucial aspect of UNA-USA because it promotes a more informed and caring generation of global citizens. For students, Model UN is an excellent occasion to simulate the United Nations format and proceedings. Model UN engages students in learning about international issues, enables students to analyze the issues and form solutions, generates constructive debate, and introduces them to differing perspectives. UNA-USA has created beneficial resources for educators and students, and provides a structured framework for students to participate.
UNA-USA student chapters allow for a great deal of flexibility. Chapters can operate under the UNA-USA umbrella, with all its resources and support, yet retain the initiative to pursue their areas of greatest interest. These interests can range from genocide prevention to fundraising for schools in developing nations to community programs on international issues such as inequality, conflict, and disease.