Liveblogging: UN Youth Assembly Day 1 – Call To Action

For some reason the 2nd workshop (Youth Venture) didn’t seem to happen (the speakers didn’t show up) so I went for lunch instead. Now we’re about to start the Call To Action, which basically describes campaigns and how we can get involved.

The first campaign: Hip Hop. Yes, no kidding. Charles Fisher, producer and founder of Def Jam Records, has set up the Hip-hop MDG Campaign, which aims to creative initiatives within the hip-hop music community to talk about the MDGs and how we can help. Charles believes that the hip-hop culture can be used constructively to help the world. There’s a lot of flattery about women, haha! Turns out that Charles believes that gender equality should be at the top of the MDG list, though his reasoning (because it’s the women that take care of the children) is a bit troubling. Oh well.

Charles explains the hip-hop culture – how it’s multi-creative and makes tons of money. It’s a multibillion industry and it’s about time it goes to some good. He talks about how very few young people know about the MDGs, or the Decade of Making a Culture of Peace for Young People, or International Youth Day – ironic! “What can you do about something you don’t know about?” He notes that we are a very good generation and we have the Internet at our disposal – we could live on the Internet if we wanted! (Hmm…)

He’s honoured that we’re not clubbing or chasing girls or playing golf right now…we’re here at the United Nations to CHANGE THE WORLD. Yeah! He’s generally been very optimistic and passionate about using hip-hop to make a difference with the MDGs, which is very innovative and timely. His plan is to get big celebrities in the music industry to do Public Service Announcements with us young people to talk about the MDGs. They also want to use MTV and BET and other media companies to pass those PSAs on, as well as related non-profits and corporations. Now it’s up to us to decide who we want to work with. Yes, we get to decide! We’re going to be a big part of this!

He wants us to get something out of this conference – a partnership with the FAF, the Hip Hop MDG Campaign, and with Dr Valdov. Not just an experience that stays in New York. We should go back to our countries and start a Hip-Hop Youth Summit chapter to discuss these issues amongst ourselves. And he doesn’t want to fail. Now I’m not a big fan of hip hop, but if anyone in MALAYSIA wants to start such a chapter, let me know and I’ll hook you up. He’s worked with massive artists and he’s geared to winning. He thinks we can do it though, because he felt the energy during orientation yesterday and thinks we can carry it on.

One resolution that was passed yesterday was to set up a timeline to get ten million members. Yes, MILLION. We’re going to be co-chair various committees with hip-hop artists (related to the MDGs), keep in touch with them, do concerts and PSAs, all sorts of things – so that the MDGs are going out there. What can we do with ten million members? Change the culture, change the world, make a difference, lobby Congress, change healthcare, change education, change the entertainment industry, change corporations…create a lot of INFLUENCE and CHANGE. (And now a joke about Michael Jackson. Oh dear.)

Hip hop is colourblind! We’re all one people! It’s not like we care who we’re dancing with…

Now we’re being enlisted in the Hip Hop Army, apparently. And when do we need ten million members by? End of the year. Oh yes.

Dr Valdov was talking about how it’s seen as amazing to have young people come together like this. She doesn’t think it’s amazing – she thinks it’s as it should be!

Next up is the Ambassador of Tanzania to the UN, H.E. Ambassador Augustine Mahiga. He feels that the future lies in us youth – to create the world as a safe place and avoid this culture of war. He asks us to uphold the values of the UN as it is a universal organization and it is something we’re inherited – without the UN, who would create another one? It’s imperfect, but it has survived many challenges is a testament to its ability to keep to the ideals of its founders. It is in us to carry on the banner, but also to look at its shortcomings as we have the motivation and energy to see the survival of the UN. Originally the UN was preoccupied with peace (having being set up right after World War 2). While there hasn’t been a world war since, there has been many localized wars, but we have managed to witness peace – especially since the number of wars are decreasing. We still shouldn’t diminish the significance of peace, but that’s not all we want to accomplish.

Is it adequate to explain peace as the absence of war? No. It includes other things, such as security, development (economic, social, cultural, moral), and bringing prosperity.

Our planet is rich with resources. Science is coming up with new discoveries all the time. Yet the activity of human beings are destroying this fragile planets. If we don’t change our actions in environment, then no matter what sort of work we do for peace and security, it would all go to waste. And now we are the custodians of this planet, caretakers and protectors.

If we via the UN wants to bring about peace, we need to partner with each other. We need to invest in each other and craft methods of living together beyond the UN – making it a partnership of human beings.

The new millennium has given us opportunity to develop the Millennium Development Goals. These are eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality and empowering women; reducing child mortality; improve maternal health; combating dangerous diseases such as AIDS/HIV and TB; ensuring environmental sustainability; and developing global partnerships for development. The goals are targeted for 2015 and we are already halfway. Can we make it? Some developed countries have made great success, but many developing countries are having problems.

Universal primary education is one major MDG, and in Africa 50% of countries are lagging behind. Two countries have reached that goal though – and one of them, with nearly 100% enrolment of boys and girls in school, in Tanzania. It comes not just from financial investment or debt forgiveness, but from political will to use the money and aid earned into education, particularly a pro-active investment into women in education. Now comes another political decision: to mobilize public resources to sustain such goals.

Achieving and sustaining this is doable. We will need to make a commitment to spread the message that we are all together and need to help each other, as members of a global civil society. Governments don’t just wake up and do things; they do things depending on the activity of the citizens. Keep leaders on their toes as you make them aware of the needs of the world.

OK, I popped out of the room for a second, and I come back to face a lone violinist. His name is Michael, he’s from the Youth Symphony, and he’s playing for the children. All right then. (Sorry, I missed the context when I was away.)

The representative of the Ambassador of Hungary (who couldn’t make it) sends the Ambassador’s message, about extreme poverty, lack of education, and disease outbreaks amongst school-age children in the world. So far, with the MDGs, there have been some gains, but more really needs to be done. He mentions Oliver Twist, who although hungry and poor, was still richer than most of Africa. Youth often aren’t respected or understood in their countries, but we are responsible for making a difference, and our potentials should be recognized. We can’t do it alone – we must work together if we want to reach that goal. There is also a listing of various initiatives launched by Hungary.

Next up is Swami Gi, an Indian spiritual leader (think Sai Baba) who came to give the Distinguished Service Award to Dr Valdov for her work with young people. Swami Gi told all of us that Dr Valdov was like our mother! It was a surprise for her; the red scarf suits her. When asked about how to achieve world peace, he said that he’s happy to talk about universal integration and peace. If man wished, he can do anything. If we team up, we can do anything. We shouldn’t just send emails, we should send e-smiles too! (Then he sang a song about it!) There’s only one world, one God, one model of beauty, one language. He wants to be young like us, hang out with us. He wants to take away all the bad things, and how? By being young! By building the heart with the Divine Love and Peace, like a candle lighting darkness.

We can bring peace! God wants a gift – not flowers or fruit, but peace.

First of all, we must make ourselves and our minds peaceful. “A doctor shouldn’t be a patient – otherwise he’d have to go to another doctor!” There are problems everywhere and nowhere. How? It’s a problem until we solve it – then it’s not a problem! We have to gain strength – physical, mental, financial, social. We are all humans, no matter what. If you have a problem in the family, come together around the dining table and discuss! Be a “new clear” scientist! And we have to give everyone food, clothing, shelter, education, and medication – everyone in the world. Your body is your home, it follows you everywhere you go.

He’s starting a Divine March between Seattle and (somewhere) on September 1st for peace, so if you want to go, do go. He’s quirky and funny (and now he’s got us SINGING about God – the nonreligious in the room are looking at him strangely) and very, very South Asian grandpa type, haha! At least he made us smile. I was offered to interview him but had to do Model UN.

Five minute stretch, then the next part of calls to action!

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