WFUNA Youth Human Rights Training – Thoughts from Rina Patel

Rina Patel, a UNA-USA Bryn Mawr chapter leader, talks about the value of diversity in her experience at the WFUNA Youth Human Rights Training that took place in July 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland.

I’m so incredibly blessed to have been a UNA-USA sponsored participant to the sixth annual WFUNA Youth Human Rights Training.

This experience is truly unparalleled. The group of students we worked with were amazing. I’m so incredibly moved by the level of discourse and ideas we shared.  To have the opportunity to be in a room with some of the brightest individuals from around the world as my peers is truly something I’ll never forget.  I’ve participated in Model United Nations since high school, and in College have been active in my college’s UNA-USA chapter, but never have I felt as much inspiration from the UN as I did in Geneva. I also had never felt as much pride and faith in being a global youth in this generation.

Often times the dreaded title of “millennial” deters members of my generation form thinking we can have an impact and that we have the capacity for lasting change. Let me tell you, if there are more youth in the world like the ones that I had the pleasure of working with in Geneva our world is going to be so good. This group of youth are the most driven, inspiring, and capable people I’ve ever met.

The array of participants in Geneva spanned the world and experiences. We had people who are already working closely with agencies such as UNHCR, and students that have mobilized college chapter across the country to push agendas through their country’s UNAs to their law makers.

What my week at the WFUNA youth human rights training taught me is that people may question the role of the UN, but the UN is one of the only spaces where truly everyone has a seat at the table. This was especially true for the WFUNA conference. Often times in the United States, we talk about diversity, but we speak about how it is necessary without discussing the meaning of why it is necessary. We’ll emphasize the importance of diversity without thinking critically about the deeper implications.

Being in a room of peers from quite literally all over the world with such different lived experiences really enabled me to understand why many voices need to be at the table when it comes to human rights. My lived experienced as a woman of color and as a first generation American are extremely different than that of my friends that were coming from different nations. The challenge of human rights is that we want to universalize how we talk about it and think about it, but each individual’s interactions with human rights mechanism often depends on their personal experiences. In order to have a discussion on the universality of human rights, it’s not just important to have a diverse set of experiences at the table, it is necessary.

Leaving Geneva, I felt invigorated. I truly feel I have solidarity in approaching the world’s challenges. I have a support network and a group of people to look to for inspiration and faith that there are people in my generation thing critically about the world’s problems and how we can work both globally and locally to ensure a better future for us all.