The UN Civil Society Conference: Salt Lake City and the Role of Youth  

This year, Salt Lake City is making history as the first city to ever host the United Nations Civil Society Conference outside of New York City. The 68th Annual conference will be heard around the globe, focusing on a variety of issues. The official theme is “Building Inclusive and Sustainable Communities”. As part of the 2019 conference, the UN and Salt Lake City decided that youth will be responsible for about 40% of the planning and execution of the event. Chapter leader Hannah Olsen of Weber State University was one of 21 members of the UN Salt Lake City Youth Committee who traveled to New York City to tour the UN. UNA-USA sat down with Hannah to discuss the role of Salt Lake City in this year’s conference, and the importance of youth in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

UNA: Why did you get involved in helping re-start the UNA chapter at Weber?

HANNAH: I am representing Weber State University for the UN Salt Lake City youth committee in efforts to plan the 68th annual Civil Society conference being hosted in Salt Lake City in August 2019. Because of this opportunity I was able to go to New York City, tour the UN and meet with the UN NYC youth committee. I absolutely fell in love with the UN, the people involved and with the sustainable development goals.

UNA: Why do you think it’s important for students at Weber to be involved in initiatives like the Sustainable Development Goals?

HANNAH: I think it is important for all people to know about and be involved in the sustainable development goals. It especially fits in at Weber because we have pledged to be carbon neutral by 2050, and beyond environmental issues we have many initiatives that are starting to be pushed such as unity and mental health. So I think the goals are a beautiful way to organize and unify all of us that are truly fighting the same battles all over the world.

UNA: Why do you think it’s important that the voices of young people are represented at the August Civil Society Conference?

HANNAH: We are the future. It is absolutely essential that the youth of the world not only are aware of the issues but are aware of the actions being taken already to combat them. This way we will never fall in a lull in between generations. Youth need to be a part of the discussion and leadership right now so when the generation ahead of us retires we are ready to hit the ground running because we will already know. One of the most powerful forces going against us is the constant restart. Between leadership, between generations, we have to start over and re-educate what the issues are and then the current efforts fighting the issues are forgotten and the new leadership go off with starting their own idea. We have to be able to continue efforts for them to gain enough momentum to make real change.

UNA: What are you looking forward to, or hoping is addressed at the conference?

HANNAH: I’m really looking forward to the round table discussions on the variety of specified topics. I am a person that truly believes you lose your right to complain if you refuse to take action. So I cannot wait to see what some solutions are because that is what we really need. I also am eager to see the reaction of the young people to the UN as a whole. Unfortunately I think many people, especially youth, don’t really know what the UN does or stands for and having it come to our home will really force people to have an open mind and heart and I believe everyone will fall in love with it the way I did. It’s inspirational to see the issue but see that there are powerful people working toward the solution you wanted to see already working.

Registration is open now for the UN Civil Society Conference, taking place August 26-28.  Registrants with affiliations to an academic institution or a non-governmental organization will get priority. Registration is free.