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"Our Common Humanity in the Information Age: Principles and Values for Development"
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November 29, 2006

Kate Gano

On November 29th 2006, a conference on “Our Common Humanity in the Information Age: Principles and Values for Development” was held at the United Nations in New York City.  On this day dignitaries, activists, and students from across the globe at the UN for one common purpose:  to discuss what it is that binds us as humans together, when there are so many differences which seemed to divide us apart.  The focus of discussion was kept mainly to the use of information technologies (such as cell phones and the internet) and their effect on intercultural relations, as well as the degree of progress being made toward the Millennium Development Goals (and how information technologies can either help or hinder this progress).

   The Millennium Development Goals were created by the UN in 2000, and they represent a resolve to reduce poverty and hunger by half in fifteen years, all while increasing levels of education and equal rights for people of all nations.  The Goals are lofty, and the conference included both dedicated UN officials who believed that they could be achieved as well as an array of skeptics who doubted the possibility.  Yet despite the differing levels of optimism regarding the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs for short), there was one common idea which was reiterated throughout the conversation—the idea that the youth of today are the generation which will, if any, be able to change things for the better.

This idea was echoed by many participants in the previous day’s event, a Youth Forum held on November 28th.  As stated by Mr. Sarbuland Khan,  Director of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs and distinguished speaker at both the Conference and the Youth Forum, “Young people are not the leaders of tomorrow; they are the leaders of today…the older generation is too old to adopt new values...we can only preach.  You can practice.”  Mr. Khan maintained that the youth are the ones with the power to help world’s underprivileged.

Yet the question remains, with all of this power and potential, what exactly are the youth to do?  That question remains to be answered—and perhaps due to its vastness, will never be fully resolved in its entirety.  However, there are steps being made toward reaching a conclusion.  At the Youth Forum and subsequent conference I met many individuals who had dedicated their lives to speaking up for those who have no voice.  If nothing else, the existence of such dedicated individuals gave me hope for our world’s future. 

To read thoughts of those who participated in the Youth Forum, visit

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