“We have exactly enough time to solve these pressing issues if we start NOW.”

Jackson Dougan was the 2014-2015 U.S. Youth Observer to the UN. 

The U.S. Youth Observer program is a unique investment in one young individual by the U.S. Department of State and the United Nations Foundation for a period of one year. During my time as the Observer, I have created lasting relationships with young people worldwide including life-long connections with Youth Delegates from nearly 44 countries of the United Nations – those that maintain a Youth Delegate program. This position has offered an unparalleled opportunity to work with individuals from the U.S. Department of State, the United Nations Foundation, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, and youth leaders from around the world. As the Observer, I have interacted with policy makers at Foggy Bottom and discussed youth policy with world leaders (Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, and I shared breakfast while discussing the role of youth in country governance). This position has strengthened my commitment to the work of the United Nations 100-fold.

Any young individual motivated by the thought of social progress and interested in an international career should apply to be the 2015/2016 U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations. My career prospects have blossomed in addition to my career focus – where I see myself in 10 years. Flexibility is an asset and multidisciplinary interests will heighten the value of this position to your personal development. My passions for LGBT equality and climate change mitigation developed from experience as a gay student of biology in a rural Oregon. At the United Nations however, individuals realize the interconnectedness of the world’s biggest problems. Equal access to education for example, is impeded by gender inequality and resource inequity (a family surviving on subsistence agriculture can rarely afford to send every household child to school – sometimes miles away). Likewise, child marriage limits a girl’s access to education as much as resource inequity and gender inequality. All social problems are interconnected at the global scale and the United Nations works to find interconnected solutions.

During my time as the Youth Observer, I have traveled with members from the U.S. Department of State to international meetings in Paris, Geneva, and Baku, Azerbaijan. The value of this position supersedes any costs associated with taking time away from studies or work. I have developed an increasing appreciation for the complexity of international dialogue as well as the dedication is requires to solve today’s global issues.

The post of U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations offers a year of learning and social involvement to one fortunate individual who occupies the position. What matters most however, the direction we are looking and not the position we hold.


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