Few months after the launching Youths Digest magazine, I received an invitation as an Editor to attend United Nations Youths’ Assembly at New York organised by Friendship Ambassador Foundation.
Realizing that confirmed sponsorship of an event in America doesn’t guarantee automatic visa to the United States, I filled the online application form for the Visa and wait for miracle.
At the US Embassy in Abuja, I was not only scared but terrified seen the number of prospective travellers, especially businessmen and politicians whose visa requests were rejected. I prayed deeply when I overheard a traveller cursing her unknown enemies, for failure to get the Visa.
“Young man, you are the next person!” A voice interrupted my thought. I looked up only to see that the visa officer beckoned to me to come over.
Being an undergraduate student, I learnt that job interviews are tedious, I didn’t anticipate Visa interview could be more rigid, tough and penetrating. Having read most of the correspondences from organisers on the scheduled programmes and activities in New York and other studies, I found it easy responding to the questions. Though convinced on my response, I still had palpable fears of rejection from seeming Interviewer’s interrogation.
“Your Visa will be ready next week!” the Visa Officer responded with finality.
I was not only excited for the opportunity to visit the USA, the fact that the International Youth Conference, known as Youth Assembly would take place inside the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
After two stopover in Amsterdam and Boston, we finally landed in New York City in 18 hours breath-taking journey. We arrived New York City in the Night with the thick cloud hovering over the beautiful city. The impressive wide boulevards and flyovers were fascinating and lovely.
On arrival at the UN Headquarters, delegates were issued tags for easy identification in the Building. The Youth Assembly had in attendance nearly 600 delegates from over 30 countries. Most of the discussions and deliberations focused on the Sustainable Development Goals after the expiration of Millennium Developments Goals (MDGs).
Nigerian-born Amina J. Mohammed who is currently Special Advisor to the Secretary General of the United Nations on Post -2015 Development Planning was among the guest speakers. She set the tune for the conference when she declared that: “Now you have a real chance to make a tremendous impact in the world – as the chosen few.”
Another inspiring speaker was Andy Rabens, US Special Advisor for Global Youth Issues who narrated his experience at the UN General Assembly Hall more than 10 years ago as a young man and intern. He talked about a “Pager” being used then as a mobile device. He said “it would buzz, a number would appear, and you’d go to a pay phone, throw in a quarter, and call them back in a different time. Mobile phones was not too popular then.”
He added that the period, which was before the 9/11 Suicide Bombing in United States there were no Facebook, Twitter, smartphones, selfies or any powerful social networks for easy communication.
I wonder how the youths were communicating before Year 2000 when there were no means of communicating through technology. In fact the youths had far less power at their fingertips compare to modern age. We could not imagine a life without smartphone, internet and social media platforms.
Other speakers agreed that because of technology and demographics, we now live in the most empowered generation the world has ever seen. With about 60 percent of globe population below the age of 35, the youths have the power to change the world positively by mobilizing towards just causes.
The delegates lauded the launching of the Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDGs) that would expand on the success under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). While they agreed that MDGs have recorded reductions in people living in extreme poverty and access to clean water among others, there are more loopholes to be blocked and tackled.
The new agenda of SDGs will likely consist of additional goals for the next 15 years towards eradicating extreme poverty; ensuring environmental sustainability and conservation; advancing gender equality, continuing to tackle conflict and climate change and building peaceful and economically prosperous societies so that no global citizen is left behind.
The young people at the Assembly unanimously agreed that with modern technology and the world of connectivity, there is greater opportunity to not only help shape the world view but to implement SDGs and ensure that concrete progress takes place before our very eyes.
The UN Youth Assembly not only broadens my scope of knowledge on MDGs and SDGs, the trip exposes me to exceptional youths that are passionate about changing the world positively.
Gidado Yushau Shuaib
Baze University, Abuja