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International Year of Youth

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UN Trip Summary
June 9 , 2011

Mariam Yaqub, CIE Graduate Student

United Nations DPI-NGO Briefing: “Our Year, Our Voice: From IYY to IYV+10 – Young People Building Partnerships and Promoting Dialogue

Chair: Maria-Luisa Chavez, Chief, NGO Relations, Department of Public Information (DPI)

Panelists:

  • Flavia Pansieri, Executive Coordinator of the United Nations Volunteer programme
  • Leonore de Roquefeuil, Consultant for the UN Programme on Youth
  • Daniel Coviello, Lehigh University student majoring in environmental engineering, member of Engineers without Borders, and active with LU’s Community Service Office, including a recent SERVE trip to Antigua
  • Sara Cott, Georgetown University student working with the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation

After an introduction to the topic of youth and volunteerism by Ms. Chavez, who commended the work of youth delegates representing NGOs at the UN, a program pioneered by Lehigh University’s UN partnership office, Ms. Pansieri opened the briefing.  She explained that, due to their age and lack of official titles or credentials, youth are often denied a voice, and offered volunteering as an arena where young people can reclaim their collective and individual voices.  She also highlighted examples of situations in which youth volunteerism has made an important impact on the volunteers as well as their societies, such as in Liberia, where volunteering restored the feelings of optimism and belonging to a community that were destroyed by conflict.  Ms Pansieri also invited the audience to consider the change brought about by young people demanding participation and accountability from their leaders as part of the “Arab Spring.”

As the briefing continued with Ms. De Roquefeuil, Mr. Coviello, and Ms. Cott, the three panelists from the “younger generation,” an overarching theme emerged.  Each speaker discussed the importance of the Internet, especially social media, to youth activism.  Ms. Pansieri mentioned the use of Facebook and Twitter for the Arab Spring revolutions, while Sara Cott discussed her use of social media while organizing the annual Youth Assembly at the UN.  She emphasized that online organizing is unique because of the possibility of “going viral.”

Mr. Coviello, the Lehigh student, also stuck to this theme when he stressed the importance of Skype and email for his work with Engineers Without Borders.  According to Mr. Coviello, one of the most important facets of social engagement is strong communication, in order to ensure that volunteers understand the lives of the people with whom they are working, and are doing their best to serve their needs.  Although Mr. Coviello is especially passionate about environmental issues, and is using his engineering knowledge to pursue this cause, he underscored the importance of the human side of his volunteer efforts, whether with community members in Honduras where he is working to provide clean water, or with his colleagues and mentors in Lehigh’s Community Service Office.  He explained that in order to put the leadership skills he learned as part of the Boy Scouts, and further developed at Lehigh, into practice, he needs the help of other people.  Mr. Coviello declared, “I’m young, but I’m excited. I’m excited for the future” and invited the audience to accompany him, and other young people, as they strive for a better future.

 

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