Utah Student Leaders Discuss Theme of Upcoming UN Civil Society Conference

In March, UNA-University of Utah had the amazing opportunity to host a youth working group of student leaders from across the state to discuss the upcoming UN Civil Society Conference – coming to Salt Lake City in August 2019. The topic of our discussion mirrored the conference theme of “Sustainable Cities and Communities.” The students were joined by the U.S. Youth Observer to the UN and Utah native Michael Scott Peters, along with Anna Mahalak, UNA-USA’s Youth Engagement Manager. All the students involved came with their own ideas on how to create a safe, resilient, and inclusive city. Below are a few highlights from our discussion:

  • Education was at the top of everyone’s minds. Often overlooked is the importance of creating opportunities to learn how to live eco-friendly while we’re young. Programs and classes can offer that knowledge and influence the values of young people to live sustainably, for their present and future.
  • We also noted that young professionals in the job market are paying more attention to company values; the decision to join a company depends on company values just as much as economic opportunities. Encouraging companies to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals into their company values is an essential step in uniting everyone to work toward the impacts of the SDGs.
  • We noted the benefits that Model United Nations programs can have on the community. For many people, MUN is where they first get exposed to global issues and work towards comprehensive solutions. Introducing various levels of MUN conferences in schools is a great way to open discourse on global problems that affect all of us, and young minds are the key to solving them.
  • The issue of accessible transportation was another significant topic of our discussion. Access to transportation benefits many aspects of life, including building inclusivity, sustainability, and improving the infrastructure of our cities. The cost to make public transit free is low, and the benefits are high.
  • We discussed the opioid epidemic taking over the nation. Utah has a significant issue with opioid abuse, and we agreed that this is something to be addressed in August since opioid addiction is a global concern.
  • And finally, we noted that the most significant way to create the changes necessary to create a sustainable city requires structural change through policy. Open and inclusive discussions are necessary to solving national and global issues. To have such discourse, we must refrain from prejudice and work towards hearing all voices. It’s important to have a system of means to find connections with fellow advocates and to talk with policymakers as a group. UNA chapters are one way to do that.

I look forward to the UN Civil Society Conference this summer and the progress we gain from it, at home and abroad!