The Youth Assembly at the United Nations 2017: A Reflection

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From August 7th to 12th I journeyed to New York for the 20th Youth Assembly at the United Nations, an event which brings together a vast collection of people aged between 16 and 28. Most applicants were chosen based on their individual initiatives and their contributions to society at large. I took part in the event with five other team members under Global Young Voices, who served as a media partner. After posting the event around a few times on social media, I thought I’d share a bit more of it here.

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Heading to New Jersey for the first part of the event, I found that Fairleigh Dickson University (We were based on the Florham Campus) was the birthplace of Global Young Voices. Two members of the team attended the university on study abroad and came up with the media outlet between them; from here FDU threw in their support, which in turn both grew GYV and allowed us to attend the Assembly. A sort of prologue to the Youth Assembly took place at the university called “Sustainable Ventures for Sustainable Development” (SVSD) which interestingly, was made up of mostly African, Chinese and Middle-Eastern groups and their initiatives.

Hope for Oppotunity Interview

Two of the first people I interviewed at Fairleigh Dickinson University, Suaad and Juwahar were from Dubai and had received some recognition for their initiative: “Hope for Opportunity” which aims to promote Saudi Arabian assistance in the refugee crisis. I was struck by how positive and uplifting they were; they understood the kind of injustices in the world yet they believed in their ideas and wanted to take them to the next level. That’s the same thing I can say about each of the delegates who attended the session; they all had such great ambitions and a powerful resolve that brought everyone together as a community. The speakers and panellists at the session would only continue to build these bridges.

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From here, we and the delegates who attended the SVSD moved to New York and UN Headquarters. The opening ceremony featured a range of speakers and saw the GYV set about covering the sessions. There was a wide variety here from Microsoft showing up to teach coding and how robotics can shape the addressing of world issues, a media panel featuring GYV’s founders Edy and Camilla and plenty of other inspirational stories. I remember one speaker in a climate change session receiving a standing ovation after her impassioned speech on living in a United States with difficulties accepting and tackling the very real issue. Throughout the week I did a variety of tasks from collecting images, taking notes of each session and presenting each interview (Live or otherwise) to go up on the GYV website; the latter I thought went very well as I brought a relaxed presence to the delegates who each took it in turns to answer questions. The only real downside was that all the work we did over the four days meant we had little time to explore the city which was probably a little disappointing for those who hadn’t visited New York before. Personally I’ve visited the Big Apple three times over the years, the last being in 2012 where I passed through on a school ski trip.

Stories Across Borders Session

The main goal of the trip though was to run our own session at the UN Assembly; entitled “A Society for All: Stories across Borders, the goal of which was to grant more exposure to initiatives while also building delegate’s confidence in delivering their ideas to others. In the lead-up to the session I was introduced to Ceylin Sener, a sixteen-year-old from Turkey who was chosen to present her initiative, the “Humans First Club”, a group which has assisted Alzheimer’s patients and taken education to children in underdeveloped rural communities. Ceylin, along with three other speakers each gave a ten-minute speech in the style of a TED talk. We all worked together very well and I thought Ceylin really rose to the challenge of delivering that ten-minute speech. The event was my first time mentoring another person and when it came to feedback, I felt I was quite precise with tips. But to improve I feel I could have gone the extra mile by practicing with Ceylin alongside the presentation slides more; there were also a few gaps when it came to presenting on the day such as when and who would change the slides throughout the speech. Despite these gripes, each of the four speeches got some great reactions from the audience, a full house who took up the entire conference room; all ten of us are sure to keep in touch long after the Assembly.

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The GYV team, along with our speakers

All in all, the Youth Assembly was a fantastic event and a real honour to attend as both a citizen of the UK and a member of Global Young Voices. Looking back on an event as big as this really hammers home the importance of many things; networking and collaborating with others, the kind of passion and commitment that can take you to the heights of world leadership (Which some delegates were singled out for in the closing ceremony) and of course the notion that if we all work together by pooling initiatives together then real positive change will come about. I especially enjoyed how the event was a blend of media and governance, bringing the two experiences together.

I’d like to thank many different people; my two colleagues at the Cooperative store who covered an entire week’s worth of shifts, my parents for supporting me in these opportunities, the FDU staff for accommodating us and assisting with equipment, finally the Global Young Voices team for allowing me to come along and everyone I met and spoke to during the week; you were all amazing people and I hoping we’ll be able to attend again in the future.

You can find more of our coverage, including interviews, write-ups and videos on the Global Young Voices website at: http://www.globalyoungvoices.com/the-youth-assembly-at-the-united-nations

Clippings: UKIP’s end and their impact on British politics

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Of all the political parties in the UK, it’s UKIP who have been the biggest wild card. Formed from a set of disillusioned Conservatives who broke away to build their own party, UKIP has been difficult, a thorn in the side of their former party for years. Even the entire EU referendum was proposed by David Cameron to get the rebels in line. Last year, the United Kingdom Independence Party was one of the staunchest supporters of the leave campaign and celebrating across the country when the result came; Nigel Farage declared Brexit the UK’s Independence Day and despite only having a single MP in parliament, the party nevertheless made their mark.

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(Image credited to The Independent)

Almost one year later and UKIP is singing a different tune; its entire namesake was based on leaving the EU and once they got what they wanted, the tide began to change for the party. Nigel Farage would step down on July 4th 2016, having achieved his goal and was replaced by Paul Nuttall who has proven to be an incredibly weak leader; his lies concerning Hillsborough and the bending of the truth in general have dragged his reputation through the mud, putting a lot of people off to UKIP as a whole. Media coverage slipped away as Farage went off to join the LBC (Leading Britain’s Conversation) radio station, directing much of the traffic towards him instead. There may also be a problem with funding for individual members as well. In the lead-up to local elections I spoke to a UKIP candidate who said that they had no team, no office and hardly enough funding to get their message out. All they could do was man the polling stations from time to time; when a party is this weak on a local level, it’s hard to see them making an impact.

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(Image credited to LBC.co.uk)

Is UKIP on its way out? Maybe; the local elections on May 4th 2017 saw the party lose almost all of its seats on councils all over the UK, setting them up for an “annihilation” at next month’s election. This is sure to be good news for the Conservatives as many members of UKIP may re-join their side through assimilation as the June General Election approaches. Just as the Liberal Democrats lost massively in 2015, the same now happened with UKIP. Why? Because no one can take them seriously anymore. But ironically as they spiral down their outlandish ways have been adopted by both press and politicians. Speak to the people in loud, simplistic repetition and you’ll win people over in no time. By playing to people’s fear and anger it was UKIP’s ideas, not their political strategy that stood out recently, so much so that the Conservatives have adopted this mind-set too.

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Recently Theresa May scolded the EU for apparently interfering in the upcoming UK elections in June. This manner of speech combined with the papers following along is a nasty way of framing proceedings, painting a superiority complex, something personified by the party’s 2015 slogan: “If you believe in Britain, vote UKIP”. Alex Salmond, the former leader of the Scottish National Party hit it on the head recently: “The sort of extreme language that Theresa May used in Downing Street the other day, that could have come from Nigel Farage”. Sadly with such a massive disengagement with politics nowadays, this divisive in-your-face attitude is quickly becoming the norm when it comes to winning votes, especially in the right-wing campaigns. In the end, UKIP was a party that could not be ignored; they may not have made it into parliament but their mannerisms did and that could stick around in UK politics for a long time to come.

(All images used for the purposes of review and criticism under fair use)

Clippings: Giving in, appeasement and the roles they play in the modern political game

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As 2016 comes to a close, politics is looking to the future after a set of thunderous earthquakes; there’s one particular trend I’ve noticed. After a Supreme Court ruling, the triggering of the Brexit process was debated in Parliament. I had some hope that the Labour and Liberal Democrats would be able to halt its progress. Perhaps both parties could have pulled together and fight the Brexit con, letting the people know why their vote was the product of lies and manipulation. But it was not to be as parliament voted vastly in favour (461 for to 89 against) of making the Conservatives release a plan for Brexit and aiming to trigger article 50 for next year at the end of March. The controversial move is all but confirmed; quite disappointing but did they really have much of a choice? To go against a vote, even if it was a con would be a bad move from any party wanting to win the next election. Consider the tabloid media’s attack on the UK’s judicial judges after they stated that Brexit could not be triggered without a vote in parliament first (Which is a fundamental part of our democratic process). If Jeremy Corbyn and Tim Farron denied Brexit from going through, the media would tear into them relentlessly and they might as well kiss the 2020 election goodbye. It’s this kind of acceptance that compels parties to act for the bigger picture rather than making moves that could anger the populous. It is also indicative of just how much sway external forces and the media have over the UK. Conversely, the move is certainly holding the current government to account; if Theresa May and her cabinet fail to deliver a comprehensive Brexit plan before then, they will be held as incompetent by their rival parties, thus diminishing their own reputation.

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It’s not just the UK who is tossing around ideas of appeasement; Germany’s next election is taking place between August and October 2017 and this has brought further measures which could be tied in with the events to come. Chancellor Angela Merkel has recently endorsed her party’s proposition for a partial burqa ban, stating that “the full facial veil is inappropriate and should be banned wherever it is legally possible”. When an election is bearing down on you, do you maintain your common policy or alter it somewhat to put more emphasis on integration while also making a light appeal to the far-right sects that have become more common in recent years? It’s easy to suggest that the need to stay in power and win elections is the principal goal of any political party, but this may well come at the cost of inclusiveness. The far right and populism is a side that can no longer be ignored in this regard and it’s possible that aspects of that political viewpoint may slowly become a larger consideration for the left to deal with in the future. We’ll have to watch 2017 carefully.

(Images used for the purposes of review under fair use. Tabloid headlines in public domain)