Elevate the Voice of Young People at the United Nations as the U.S. Youth Observer to the UN

Munira Khalif | 2017-2018 U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations As the U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations, I have had the opportunity to meet so many passionate young people across the United States and the world. Being among such a vibrant and optimistic generation has given me a renewed sense of hope for the future of our country and our world. Throughout my time in this position, I’ve met many other young people of all ages who are tackling some of the world’s most pressing challenges. My interactions with young people have made it abundantly clear that young people are not waiting for some other time or some other individual to make the changes they wish to see in the world.

I have also had the privilege of traveling around the country to learn about the issues young people are most passionate about and representing their voices at the United Nations. I launched my time as Youth Observer representing American youth at the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA).  I couldn’t help but walk away from UNGA feeling not only re-invigorated and informed, but excited and hopeful about the future. As a young leader myself, I realize that there is no one way to tackle these global issues—be it hunger or gender equality. It comes down to utilizing your platform and paying forth your unique skill sets to identify the best way you can contribute to shaping a better world for all people.

I have met with young leaders not only across the United States but also from countries across the globe. During the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Hyderabad, India, I met with the leaders of various female led enterprises – from a technology company to a women’s empowerment organization. In New York, I engaged in dialogues with youth delegates and representatives from a variety of nations. Most recently, I traveled to Geneva, Switzerland for the Human Rights Council and met with Swiss youth to talk about the importance of being a global citizen and standing up for human rights.

The most potent part of being a Youth Observer has been meeting and relaying the messages of young Americans to a variety of US government leaders and UN officials, including: U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley; Special Advisor for Global Youth Issues Andy Rabens; Ambassador Michele J. Sison; UN Youth Envoy Jayathma Wickramanayake; and others. In meeting with these global leaders my hope has been to amplify the voices of young people at key decision-making tables. Far too often, the very issues that affect young people are discussed without critically engaging young people. Young people tend to be the most vulnerable on a number of global issues and also the least represented. We are told to “wait our turn” and that we do not have the experience to make an impact. Yet, despite these challenges, young people are finding opportunities to get involved, beckon big changes, and make their voices heard. This is exactly what I strived to do as U.S. Youth Observer to the UN, and this is what I hope young people will continue to do for many generations to come.

If you are interested in being the next U.S. Youth Observer to the UN, I encourage you to apply. The most critical role of the Youth Observer is to engage young Americans in the work of the UN, empower them to be active participants in dialogue on international issues, and to have a positive impact in their local communities. Serving as the U.S. Youth Observer to the UN has been an incredible and humbling opportunity. Thank you to everyone who has engaged with me in-person or online, to those who have shared personal stories with me, and to those who are working towards making the world a better place in your own ways. I hope the person who serves in this role next continues to inspire young people around the world to work towards the future we need and deserve. We are the change-makers we have been waiting for.

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