2016 Summer Youth Assembly Report



Held twice a year, the Youth Assembly at the United Nations is a project of Friendship Ambassadors Foundation that provides a platform to foster dialogue and generate partnerships between exceptional youth, civil society, the private sector, and the United Nations.

On August 10-12, 2016, more than 1,000 youth delegates from nearly 100 different countries gathered at UN Headquarters in New York for the 18th session of the Youth Assembly at the United Nations. With the theme “Transform Vision into Action”, the 2016 Summer edition of the conference focused on tackling each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals as outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development through interactive panels and workshops. 

For the first time in the history of the Youth Assembly at the United Nations, the youth delegates were able to voice and record their recommendations for the implementation of the SDGs in the 2016 Youth Assembly Resolution. The recommendations focused on three goals, including No Poverty, Quality Education, and Responsible Consumption and Production. After thorough discussions and deliberations, the recommendations were presented at the Youth Assembly closing session in the General Assembly Hall on International Youth Day. The youth delegates also pledged to work toward the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development


Opening Session

Jolly Amatya

Youth Chair of the 2016 Summer Youth Assembly

A former youth delegate three years ago, Jolly Amatya served as the Youth Chair of the 2016 Summer Youth Assembly. In her brief speech, she urged the youth delegates to rise to the challenges faced by the young generation and encouraged them to join forces with the United Nations to take action for a better world.

David Hill

Director & Treasurer of Friendship Ambassadors Foundation

In his welcome address, David Hill recognized the importance of youth in the development process as they will be leading the world in the future. He said that while he believes that the youth delegates are already passionate and informed, he was positive the Youth Assembly would bring them a valuable experience and would help them become more energized and more prepared to engage the world.

Yin-Chu Jou

Chair of the 2016 Youth Assembly

In her welcome speech, Yin-Chu Jou emphasized the main purpose of bringing every one together for the Youth Assembly. She went on further by saying, “we are driven by the common passion of building the future we want, a future that leaves no one behind.” Echoing the United Nations Secretary-General’s words, Ms. Jou reminded them of their greatest role: they could be the first generation in the history of the world that can eradicate poverty and also the last generation that can reverse climate change.

H.E. Ms. Simona-Mirela Miculescu

Honorary Chair of the 2016 Youth Assembly / Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UN Office in Belgrade

In a profoundly inspiring welcome statement, H.E. Simona-Mirela Miculescu underlined the impact that today’s young people are making as they are a part of the largest youth generation and are primary agents of change. In addition, Her Excellency stated that truly inclusive societies cannot exist without the full participation of youth: “You as students, workers, consumers, innovators, peace builders and voter can make a huge difference.”

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H.E. Mr. Mogens Lykketoft

President of the 70th session of the General Assembly

In a video message, H.E. Mogens Lykketoft noted that with the largest youth population ever, 1.2 billion youth are often in the front lines of the world’s challenges. Over 73 million young people are unemployed globally, with young women more likely to be underemployed and underpaid. On the other hand, 90 percent of all casualties in direct conflicts occur among young adult males. As young people face these challenges in their daily lives, His Excellency indicated that they are also best placed to address them. “This is the mission of the Youth Assembly and why you are here today,” he noted, “to empower youth to achieve sustainable development on the individual, local and global levels.” 

H.E. Mr. Oh Joon

Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the UN

In his welcome address, H.E. Oh Joon called on youth to help the global community achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. His Excellency stated that in tackling the most pressing challenges, including inequality, climate change, terrorism, unemployment and the refugee crisis, innovative ideas are needed to make breakthroughs. He encouraged young people to think outside the box as they are best poised to exercise the power of imagination. His Excellency also implored young people, the leaders of tomorrow, to continue to make their voices heard. He said that youth can contribute to developing global citizenship, and in this regard, they should leave no one behind, regardless of their gender, nationality, ethnicity or religion.

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H.E. Ms. Chulamanee Chartsuwan

Deputy Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Thailand to the UN

H.E. Chulamanee Chartsuwan pointed that youth should not be shielded from all discussions at the United Nations and that youth delegates’ input are relevant and must be heard. Governments need to utilize this strong force of youth and help unlock their potential so that the SDGs can be realized in the year 2030. As critical agents of change, she said that young people should not wish for fewer problems but they should strive for more skills; they should not wish for less challenges but wish for more wisdom.

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David Nabarro on Behalf of

H.E. Mr. Ban-Ki Moon

United Nations Secretary-General

The United Nations Secretary-General conveyed his message to the youth delegates through his Special Adviser on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In his message, the Secretary-General emphasized the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as a blueprint for the future of people and planet, as well as for peace and prosperity. He said that its success will depend on innovative and dynamic partnerships and active engagement of all sectors of society. In this regard, he said that young people are the most important actors to be engaged because they are the leaders of tomorrow – the mothers and fathers, the teachers, and entrepreneurs. He went further by encouraging young people to always be active and participative in responding to policies defined by their leaders because they have a voice and a critical role in shaping and implementing those policies.

Dr. David Nabarro

Special Adviser on 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Dr. David Nabarro shared a personal narrative of his journey from being a young medical doctor to being an active agent of change in his capacity as a Special Adviser at the United Nations. Dr. Nabarro said he was able to use his expertise as a young doctor to work on underlying causes of underdevelopment, war, and migration as global issues. Setting this as an example, he believes that everyone has an opportunity to be an agent of transformative change by using their individual skills through teaming up with others, listening to people, and participating in global organizations, such as the United Nations.

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Krishanti Vignarajah

Policy Director, Office of the First Lady, The White House

Krishanti Vignarajah leads the Let Girls Learn, an initiative that President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama launched in 2015. With a focus on adolescent girl’s education, she called on youth to take action. She said that the youth delegates “are a positive proof that when young people lead and succeed and then reinvest to ensure other girls and boys have similar opportunities,” they transform the lives of not just a generation but the world’s future. Echoing the Youth Assembly’s rationale, she said that young people are not just the leaders of tomorrow, but of today.

Cheri Kaufman

Founding Partner, Kaufman Astoria Studios

New York philanthropist Cheri Kaufman said, “You have come here from all points of the compass and nearly every continent, to be with others who share your global idealism, your empathy for your fellow humans, and your determination to make a difference.” In her special remarks, she continued by saying that youth are going to change the world with new products, new ways of thinking, and an amazing sense of themselves, their peers and global contemporaries. Expressing her optimism in the potential and capacity of the young generation, Ms. Kaufman advised the youth delegates that since each one of them is a resource for others, they should take strength from each other.

Panel Discussions

Goal 1: No Poverty

The panel highlighted that poverty is a multidimensional issue and that data has risen to become one of the most effective means to understand poverty issues around the world. Data analysis allows us to know where poverty is and who is impacted. The panel also elaborated on youth’s role in fighting poverty. The speakers encouraged young people as data generators and data users to take more proactive steps in producing constant feedback and reports in the fight of poverty eradication. Combining traditional methods with new technology, the panelists said, youth has the capacity and great potential to make commendable progress in ending poverty.

Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

The panel focused on World Bank Group’s contribution in promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all. The speakers explained the interdisciplinary factors involved in sustainable economic development. The panel also highlighted the importance of partnerships in solving job challenges. The “Better Work Program,” a partnership between ILO and IFC, serves to improve working conditions around the world. As the world bank works towards reducing extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity, it emphasizes the importance of financial transparency and data accessibility in achieving these goals, according to the speakers. Going forward, the World Bank is also looking into gender equality, climate actions and refugee crisis to tackle economic issues from multiple angles.

Goal 13: Climate Action

The panel addressed the urgency of climate issues and discussed the viable ways of harnessing clean energy and eventually explained youth’s role in reinforcing environmental sustainability and resiliency. The speakers established that the idea of “new normal” calls for inter-sectorial partnerships to unify and work collaboratively towards feasible solutions. The speakers stated that understanding risks, strengthening governance and therefore investing in resilience are crucial. In  this process, knowledge of disaster risk and measure of risk reduction are important in dealing with environmental injustice. The need to engage youth was brought up by several panelists. Communications, outreach and education were  deemed essential in mobilizing youth in environmental initiatives.  At the same time, the speakers reinforced that collective efforts are required to build more career pathways for youth to engage in various climate conservations.


Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

“Eliminating the Idea of Waste”
The panel explained responsible consumption and production in a very comprehensive way. The concept of circular economy is highlighted as a model to understand the importance of recycling. Often the extra cost incurred and extra steps involved in recycling discourage many corporate organizations or individuals from taking responsible steps in their production or consumption habits. The panelists from Terracycle highlighted the importance of providing both environmentally and economically sustainable solutions for companies. Incentives must be imposed to reshape people’s behaviors into the five Rs, namely, Refuse what you don’t need, Reduce what you need, Reuse what you can, Recycle what you cannot and finally compost the Rest.

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Goal 5: Gender Equality

The panel discussion revolved around gender roles - how gender inequality issue arises and how both women and men could both rise up to social challenges. The panelists encouraged that women must find the courage and faith in themselves to take more active roles and stand up for the causes that they believe in. On the other hand, they said that the effective methodologies should be deployed to engage men, especially young men in understanding their roles and responsibilities in gender equality. Redefining gender roles and challenging social norms require collective efforts. Along, panelists have also highlighted the use of sports and poetry in bridging gender gaps and creating constructive conversations. And amongst all, education still holds its upmost importance in achieving gender equality.

Youth Engagement

“Engaging Youth in Achieving the SDGs”
The panel discussed the great potential that the youth have and the challenges that they face in their attempts to achieve the SDGs. Through personal stories and experiences, the panelists pointed out their concerns and passions, which resonate with many of the young audiences attending the panel. The panelists reinforced that youth engagement has to start from local communities. It was discussed that many young people with potential are chronically underfunded or largely isolated. The session highlighted the need for collaborative platforms to allow scalable and sustainable ideas to shine and to be implemented. Furthermore, it is also essential for the youth to map and document their stories and to effectively measure their social impacts. In this way, youth can leverage on the resources to expand their efforts in achieving the SDGs.

Youth Involvement at the UN

The speakers on this panel pointed out the need to create a balance through a constructed narrative focused on both progress and challenges. They reiterated that getting youth voices heard is the most viable and effective way for youth involvement at the United Nations. One of the panelists was a representative of the SDG Action Campaign. She discussed her organization’s role in involving young citizens to help build and maintain political will and show governments that their people do care. The panelists also weighed in on the importance of social media by saying that it allows youth to be change-makers wherever they are.


Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being

“Health Does Not Exist in a Vacuum: Systems-Wide Approach to SDG 3”

The workshop on Sustainable Development Goal 3 demonstrated, through interactive activity and discussion, that in order to meet the targets of this goal, health cannot be viewed as merely existing in a vacuum. There are multiple facets to ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being. Therefore, we must have a multi-sectoral, collaborative approach to SDG 3.

Social Entrepreneurship

“Unleashing the next generation talent to solve the world’s biggest problems”

The workshop focused essentially on what Echoing Green looks for in selecting early-stage social entrepreneurs for their fellowship program, tips on how to be competitive in their applications for fellowship programs, business plan competitions and incubators. The session also included a short interactive segment on how the delegates can craft their Bold Idea. The workshop also featured some of Echoing Green Fellows (grantees) who shared some insights and advice for early stage leaders.

Goal 14: Life Below Water

“Sustainable Seas”

In this workshop the presenter discussed the objectives of SDG 14. The delegates had a lively debate on various ethical issues regarding international ocean governance. The highlight of this session was the trading of ideas on how these youth delegates could make an impact at home, in their communities.

Goal 15: Life on Land

The workshop focused on social issues and the environment. Juan Chebly works at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). UNEP programs aim to ensure the balance of life on earth by protecting the environment and its habitat. The Environment is crucial in providing food chains, fresh water, air and several components that impact our livelihoods, health and economies. The workshop helped the delegates to understand that climate change is the biggest threat to humanity followed by war.

Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

“Solving the Water Crisis”

In this workshop, participants were challenged by activities and information regarding SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation. They were asked to look at the issue of access to safe drinking water from a variety of perspectives and then challenged to come up with solutions from that perspective. It was an active participation workshop with lively discussion on real solutions for the modern world. This workshop was facilitated by LifeStraw.

Brainstorming Solutions

“Think Thank to Sustainable Development”

The session discussed various challenges to sustainable development, including environmental challenges, poverty alleviation, and education. The speaker discussed four categories: Water, Food, Energy, and Environment. The delegates brainstormed different challenges surrounding these categories and subsequently proffered different sustainable methods to solve the issues.  The workshop was an interactive session whereby delegates came up with real life sustainable recommendations to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

“Naming and Faming: Building Integrity in Your Communities”

The workshop highlighted the need for peace, justice and strong institutions through accountability and partnerships. The Accountability Lab prepares a new generation of active citizens and responsible leaders around the world. The presenter discussed a project that his organization started in Nepal “Nepal Integrity Idol”. A reality TV contest that aims to change the corruption and incompetence that pervades in Nepal’s civil service. The Integrity Idol will be held in Pakistan and other countries in the following years. The workshop helped delegates to understand different narratives and context to hold their governments and leaders accountable without shaming.

Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities

“What Does Belonging Look Like?”

This interactive, digital media and arts-based session was presented by TakingItGlobal. It provided youth the opportunity to explore the different forms and ways belonging is perceived within our communities. The workshop involved a discussion of various examples of belonging, drawing connections between individuals and larger communities. Through the workshop, youth had the opportunity to directly express their own perspective of what belonging means to them. In addition, youth delegates brainstormed and discussed the ways to overcome isolation and foster social connectedness within their respective communities to tackle the targets of SDG 10, Reduced Inequalities.

Goal 2: Zero Hunger

“Youth Leadership to Achieve SDG 2: Key Resource of #GenerationZeroHunger”

The interactive session not only explored currently youth­-led efforts toward Goal 2, but also attempted to mobilize drive, commitment and action for additional implementation immediately. For the majority of the session, the 100­-150 youth in attendance had the opportunity to join one of four focus group discussions:­ young women’s economic empowerment, technology and innovation, linkages between WASH and nutrition, and climate change ­ to exchange experiences, challenges, successes and ideas. Each group presented key findings, and in closing, many youth committed to actionable deliverables to employ upon their return home.

Personal Development

“Learn, Lead, and Change the World”

The National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS), an international honors organization, to connect scholars with enriching experiences, scholarships and resources to advance their academics, personal growth and career interests. Active in education, health, social justice, peace, environmental, economic and poverty issues, NSHSS scholars are significantly contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals. The workshop session showcased five NSHSS members who are enthusiastically transforming their vision for a better world into reality.

Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals

“Global Partnerships in Social Entrepreneurship- An Eco-System of Sustainable Support and Opportunities”

The Resolution Project, Echoing Green, and Atlas Corps each play a crucial role in the development of young entrepreneurs. The panel discussed the opportunities afforded by each of their programs as well as the compounded value of their efforts through collaborative partnership.

Goal 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

“Empowering Women in Latin America through Technology and Open Data”

The speakers explained that the investment in youth is relatively low in Latin America compared to public and private investment in post-secondary education in emerging countries in Southeast Asia. Employment opportunities are limited for young people, especially young women, even for those with education. The workshop focused on the projects of Morrison Technologies. The organization provides IT education to young women so they can become certified technicians.


Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

“Making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe resilient and sustainable”

Dr. Alexander Mirescu moderated this workshop which focused on the theoretical and empirical relationship between global development challenges, including climate change, urbanization, gender equality and poverty reduction. Isaac Preciado shared his unique experiences in private sector, helping Latin American cities achieve the targets of SDG 11. Amanda Colombo’s talk gave evidence to the fact that youth are a key player and active stakeholder in advocating cities, even in the US, to become more resilient and sustainable.

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Goal 7: Affordable & Clean Energy

“Lighting Up Lives, One Bottle at a Time”

This workshop was an invitation to join the Liter of Light global movement against energy poverty. During this session, presenters shared the story of how they rejuvenated energy through the use of plastic bottles and solar energy to lighting up lives in over 20 countries around the world. It also included a DIY activity to teach each delegate how to assemble a FLIP-BOT, one of the organization’s open-source solutions.


Closing Session

The closing session began with a brief introduction of the Youth Assembly Resolution by one of the members of the drafting committee. Following the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development last year, the YA Resolution was developed to ensure that youth delegates’ ideas will be made concrete as a definitive document, which will not only serve as a call to action, but a pledge of commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In recognition of the important role of youth in achieving the SDGs, six pledges of commitment for sustainable development were presented at the General Assembly Hall.


Ahmad Alhendawi

United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth

Ahmad Alhendawi spoke after the presentations and urged the youth delegates to celebrate International Youth Day next year by reporting the progress they have made in reference to these pledges. He also emphasized the importance of putting youth, peace, and security in the center of public discussions, as well as holding leaders accountable in their promise to achieve sustainable development by 2030.

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Andrew Rabens

Special Adviser for Global Youth Issues at the U.S. Department of State

The second half of the closing session was filled with inspirational words and celebrations of youth’s achievement. Andrew Rabens from the US State Department encouraged young people to overcome that powerful force which draws us back from taking action: “It’s time for us to overcome any fears and insecurities that we may have, send forth those ripples of hope from all of our corners of the globe, and build them into a current of youth activism.”

Ravi Karkara

Senior Adviser Strategic Partnership and Advocacy to the Assistant Secretary-General/Deputy Executive Director of UN WOMEN

Ravi Karkara of UN Women urged young people to take action in local and marginalized communities, develop a culture of accountability, and participate in initiatives that advance gender equality and sustainable development: “We call upon you and your leadership today. We need you to bring your voice and expression and tell the world what the Sustainable Development Goals are…We can’t communicate if we don’t do it with youth.” At the end of his speech, he asked everyone in the hall to stand up and pledge to take action in implementing the SDGs.

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Monique Coleman

UN Youth Champion, International Year of Youth 2010

Monique Coleman began her speech with an anecdote of her personal journey from being an actress to taking on a new role as the champion for the International Year of Youth in 2010. From these experiences, she emphasized the importance of putting yourself out there (belief) and taking that first step to attaining your goals (willingness). “How do we transform that vision into action? It starts with belief. We choose to believe in something that’s seemingly impossible.” Ms. Coleman said. She then purported that vision should be connected with one’s passion: “Your purpose requires your passion. It’s a necessary component for the things that you love.” Ms. Coleman also pointed out that young people should not feel discouraged or limited: “Doing the work qualifies you for the work that you are not qualified to do.” Her speech received a standing ovation, which was followed by a “yes, we can” chant by the audience.

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H.E. Ms. Simona-Mirela Miculescu

Honorary Chair of the 2016 Youth Assembly / Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UN Office in Belgrade

As the session drew to a close, the Youth Assembly Honorary Chair, Simona-Mirela Miculescu, asked the audience to say five words to sum up the event. The audience responded with the words “amazing”, “inspiring”, “humble”, “passion” and “voila”. With grace and gratitude, she encouraged the audience to stand up and take a bow to the organizing team, as well as to all of the speakers, as a sign of appreciation. She ended her closing remarks with words of wisdom: “Never forget to dream, to discover, to explore, to vote, to get involved.”

Yin-Chu Jou

Chair of the 2016 Youth Assembly

The 2016 Youth Assembly chair described 2016 as a year of many firsts. This year’s summer edition was the first time that the assembly developed a Youth Assembly Resolution document that reflect the youth delegates’ pledges and recommendations for the Sustainable Development Goals. In terms of online engagement, the youth delegates also took part in taking #SDGselfies, which aims to raise awareness to the goals. Ms. Jou expressed excitement about the coming year and her interest in hearing how youth transform their pledges today into real action. She ended her remarks with a question, “Are you ready to lead?”, to which all the youth delegates said, “Yes!”

David Hill

Director & Treasurer of Friendship Ambassadors Foundation

In his closing speech, Friendship Ambassadors Foundation’s Director and Treasurer underlined the importance of the bond that were made between and among everyone who participated at the Youth Assembly. He expressed his gratitude and appreciation to all who contributed to the growth of the foundation since its inception in 1973. In this spirit of thanks, he recognized the contributions of the Honorary Chair, Chair, and Youth Chair of this year’s Summer Youth Assembly with bouquets of exotic flowers.


Special Sessions

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Youth Assembly Resolution Deliberations

The 2016 Summer Youth Assembly delegates participated in youth-led deliberations structured around three Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Goals 1 (No Poverty), 4 (Quality Education), and 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production). After thorough discussions and deliberations, the recommendations and pledges were presented at the closing session in the General Assembly Hall on International Youth Day.

Youth Assembly Resolution Presentations

The Envoy’s speech was followed by the presentations of youth recommendations for the following goals stated in the 2030 Agenda: (1) SDG 1/No Poverty, (2) SDG 4/Quality Education, and (3) SDG 12/Responsible Consumption and Production. The recommendations were derived from youth delegates’ collective input during concurrent deliberations in the morning. After the reading of the recommendations, youth delegates were invited to raise their lights up in solidarity with one another and with the United Nations to show support of the Sustainable Development Goals. These lights called FLIP-BOTS were built by the youth delegates during the morning sessions and are one of the open-source solutions of the Liter of Light Foundation in their movement against energy poverty. The symbolic light ceremony was followed by a beautiful rendition of “Heal the World” by the Hudson Choir for Peace and Hope with students from the Newark School of Arts, and a special performance by South Korean violinist Nam Joong Kim.

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Outstanding Youth Delegate Awards

The evening went on with the awarding of the Outstanding Youth Delegates for this year’s summer edition. The tradition of selecting excellent young leaders from the pool of YA applicants began this year as a way to recognize youth delegates who are already doing work in their home communities, and are actively participating and contributing ideas in the discussions at the assembly. Out of the 18 finalists, 5 winners were selected after a careful three-part selection process. The winners were awarded with a certificate and a Youth Assembly Outstanding Youth Delegate pin.

The Resolution Social Venture Project Awards

One of the Youth Assembly’s long-term partners, The Resolution Project, went on the stage to award the winners of this year’s Resolution Social Venture Challenge. George Tsiasis said a few words to thank everyone who was involved and to share what the SVC is all about: “It’s always a great privilege to be here and to be among such incredible young people and especially on Youth Day–a fitting day for us to wrap up these proceedings. I think it’s important for you to understand that the reason why The Resolution Project is looking to support you is not because you need us, but because we need you.” In addition, Oliver Libby shared how the history of the Youth Assembly and the Resolution Project has led to 15% of over 220 Resolution fellows from 60 countries around the world. He said that these fellows coming from diverse backgrounds and working on extraordinary projects gave us hope for the future because they’re taking action today. He then remarked: “Many of you have been told that you are a leader of tomorrow and that’s true, and you should be inspired of that. But we are here to say that you are a leader of today, as well. Your ideas can power your communities.”

Out of the 23 teams who participated in the semi-finals, seven were invited to join the finals on Thursday to present their social venture ideas. After careful deliberations, three teams were announced as winners who shall receive funding, mentorship, and access to an ecosystem of support from The Resolution project’s global advisory system. Each member of every team received a Resolution plaque.

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Closing Music Performance

The plenary sessions concluded with a solemn music performance by artists from the University of Newcastle. An original composition entitled “Louder than Words” was written for this year’s Youth Assembly and was sung for the first time at the General Assembly Hall. Youth Chair Jolly Amatya bid the delegates a hopeful farewell: “This is not the end, this is just the beginning.”