During the first weekend of February, 14 UTM students (including current students and alum) attended the UN’s 19th Winter Youth Assembly, which took place in New York. The Medium reached out to the attending delegates for their thoughts and insight on this experience and the whole assembly.

Christina Veiga (a third-year student completing an environmental management major), Eashan Karnik (the head delegate and a 2016 UTM psychology graduate), and Maria Povarova (a fourth-year environmental science specialist and environmental management major), were among the delegates who attended the assembly.

The Winter Youth Assembly, which took place at the UN’s headquarters, focused on the 17 sustainable development goals (SDG)—also known as “Global Goals”—set by the United Nations in collaboration with 194 member states from around the world. During this assembly, the focus was particularly on three of the goals: poverty reduction, quality education, and responsible consumption and production.

Given that this was a branch of the UN, the delegates got to spend their time with representatives from countries such as Philippines, Zimbabwe, Korea, and many more.

“In total, about 93 countries were represented at this year’s Winter Youth Assembly,” says Karnik.

Reflecting on the opportunity to network with and learn about so many different perspectives from around the world, Povarova adds, “Such a diverse group of youth was necessary for meaningful discussion on topics where insight from around the world can have different and important perspectives.”

According to Povarova, “The Assembly serves as a unique platform where youth from around the world can engage in discourse surrounding the SDGs, and to develop partnerships between private sectors, civil society, and the UN.”

In line with the themes and focus of the assembly, UTM students had the chance to learn and contribute to the proceedings.

“We went to a panel about sustainable waste, and had the chance as a group to speak about ways we could deal with waste in our community. Our group presented coffee cups as a current waste problem, as they are not recyclable and therefore end up sitting in landfills. Our group proposed to add a tax to the cups, therefore planning to encourage people to bring their own mugs,” says Veiga.

“Further notable conferences included ‘Quality Education for People’ and ‘Planets with Speakers’, from UNESCO and UNICEF, on the importance of education and their barriers, offering ways to get more involved. [There was also a panel discussing] Instagram: using social media to make a positive impact; and the role of youth in Making Policy on how to be more involved in policy decisions that shape our future,” adds Povarova.

Considering the recently-proposed immigration ban within the U.S., there was a potential concern that the UTM delegates may have faced travel issues.

“No one faced issues directly related to recent immigration. However, there were delays on flights for other reasons,” comments Povarova.

“[At the airport] the customs agent did ask us if we were going to protest, and of course we said no, and no other questions were asked,” Veiga recalls.

The UN Winter Youth Assembly gave UTM delegates the chance to learn about some of the most pressing issues about sustainable development extant today. These kinds of assemblies greatly foster global change by empowering youth to act now, for the future.

“We have seen at the summit that action starts at a grassroots level, and we must all be part of that change: #actionbeginswithyouth. This includes being more involved in the public and private sector, NGOs, and governments,” Povarova says.

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