Watch sessions from UNA-USA's 2022 virtual Global Engagement Summit

2018 Global Engagement Summit: Inspiring the Next Generation

Walking up the steps of the UN as a young professional was overwhelming in an amazing way – the flags of 193 countries waving, the security line as far as I could see, and years of international history right before me. Young minds from all over the country gathered together in support of the UN for the 2018 Global Engagement Summit. This year, 40% of the nearly 1,400 attendees were under the age of 25! The number of young people eager to learn from dynamic speakers, ambassadors and fellow UNA-USA members is amazing, and the 2018 Global Engagement Summit captured their enthusiasm and gave them new ideas and tools to take with them to their homes, universities, and chapters.


Throughout the summit, I was able to take advantage of so many opportunities to hear from professionals practicing in their respective fields and absorb as much knowledge as I possibly could! As I sat in the audience of the Advocacy through the Arts panel, I found myself wondering how the panelists would portray art as a way to communicate the sustainable development goals. The panel, however, focused on individuals – how can individuals tell their stories and advocate through art? After all, advocacy does start with individuals! Ahmed Badr, a panelist and poet, said that in his experience, “the most amazing thing is when someone realizes they have a story to tell.” As a young person, that resonates with me. There are many different ways you as an individual can use art to advocate for the Sustainable Development Goals – murals, poetry, photography – and in doing so, you can tell your own story, too.

As the day continued, I heard from a variety of speakers on issues that are not only relevant to the global community, but also in my own community and campus. Panelists spoke on human rights, climate change and the role of technology and the private sector in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.


The last panel I attended, The Global Refugee Crisis, was inspiring. Sitting in the General Assembly Hall for the last breakout session was incredible – I was sitting in the seats of world leaders! Gillian Sorensen, a panelist and board member of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), won a standing ovation for her compelling statement that “refugees are not a burden, but a benefit, increasing diversity, creativity and entrepreneurship.” The overwhelming support for refugees was moving. There is something inspirational about a room full of people standing to support those who have lost their voices. Amir Ashour, a panelist and founder of IraQueer, spoke about his journey as a political refugee, fleeing a land that didn’t accept his sexuality. Amir stands with refugees, advocating that “the color of your passport shouldn’t give you more or less rights.” As those words came out of his mouth, you could feel a wave of inspiration make its way through the audience.


Young people are the future. We see the importance of a gender equality, the importance of climate, and the importance of every last one of the Sustainable Development Goals. During the closing plenary, an eighth grader from Morristown, Pennsylvania asked the question that is on everyone’s mind: where does advocacy end and action begin? In his own words: “I tell someone, they tell someone else and they tell someone else, so everybody knows, but nobody does anything.” It is young minds like these that we as a global community need – people who can press boundaries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.


The 2018 Global Engagement Summit brought together people of all ages and backgrounds to learn from each other, share ideas, and of course, support the United Nations! But despite all of our differences, we share the common interest of advocating for the Sustainable Development Goals to make the world a better place for everyone. See more of the highlights from the 2018 Global Engagement Summit on the UNA-USA Facebook page!