Empowering Youth for Global Development
February 15-17, 2019
New York University, New York City, USA
*Please note that the exact details or focus of sessions described below may change. Be on the lookout for speakers and participating organizations soon. This page will be periodically updated with the latest information.
The 23rd Session of The Youth Assembly takes the theme of “Empowering Youth for Global Development.” Throughout history, young people have played crucial roles in leading local and global movements that changed the world, despite the numerous challenges that they often face, such as age discrimination, underrepresentation, lack of resources and unemployment. This conference aims to address these gaps and will work towards fostering the inclusion of youth across all social and regional groups in tackling and solving global challenges.
In view of FAF’s commitment to creating impact for sustainable development, all conference sessions will seek to develop and strengthen tangible, pragmatic skills that can be put to immediate and effective use to solve local and global problems. Additional effort will be made to foster soft skills such as creativity, collaboration, intuition, and developing a global mindset.
Guided by the theme of Empowering Youth for Global Development, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the U.N. 2019 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), the 23rd Session of The Youth Assembly will have the following four focus areas: Empowering Youth, Core Challenges, Regional Inclusion for Global Development and Empowering All: Leaving No One Behind. See below for more information on each focus area, and some of the program sessions that will be included under each of them:
1. Empowering Youth
Youth often lead in passion and raw talent, but too often cannot access the resources and support they need to capitalize on their strengths and implement the solutions that they envision. The Youth Assembly will, therefore, work to empower its participants with the networks, tools and technical skills required to launch and execute projects within sustainable development.
Theses sessions will include discussion on skills such as grant writing, fundraising, and building cross-sectoral partnerships to ensure that participants in the Youth Assembly will be better prepared to convert their ideas for innovative sustainable development solutions into reality. In addition, the chance to exchange ideas with other young leaders and to connect with leading professionals and practitioners in various fields will allow participants to see how these skills are applied in practice to produce tangible results.
Beyond the core program Friendship Ambassadors Foundation will showcase how delegates can access further opportunities for support and mentorship through FAF’s new action-driving initiatives: the Impact Facilitator Program and Impact Challenge. The Impact Facilitator Program will provide continued guidance and resources for Delegates to succeed in their work. Winners of the Impact Challenge will launch their own new social impact projects with funding and mentorship from FAF and other experts in the field.
Program sessions will include:
Empowering Youth for Action on the SDGs
Youth all too often exceed in dedication and raw talent, but cannot find the support or resources they need to bring their ideas into reality. In particular, youth working in the non-profit and social impact sectors typically face great challenges in making their voices heard, and bringing projects into fruition.
This session will showcase different strategies and pathways for youth to become active players in the global movement for sustainable development. Focus will be given to offering specific tools and advice for any young person looking to fight for a better world, whether through joining a small group, an international organization or launching a project of their own that contributes to achieving the SDGs. Attention will also be given to the crucial issues of making youth voices heard, and securing funding for youth-led projects.
Partnerships Across Sectors for Social Impact & Youth Leadership
Any project seeking to bring social impact, no matter how well planned, will likely face some challenges in its implementation. However, one factor that acts as a catalyst towards success is forming and building partnerships. Furthermore, it is increasingly recognised in the modern era that social welfare is not just the concern of the public and NGO sectors, but very much connected to the private sector as well.
Therefore, this session will demonstrate the various pathways that youth with a mission of building a better world can take, including through public, NGO and private sectors, or through an alliance across these sectors. Advice will be offered in particular on the roles that the private sector can play, and on how to form a new partnership for those who have a project underway.
Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation for the SDGs
Since its foundation, The Youth Assembly has brought together not only young leaders with interest in global issues or those working for international organizations, but also many who are developing social impact projects of their own. So often it is those with an entrepreneurial spirit or those who harness new technology who drive progress and discover innovative new solutions for sustainable development.
While the entire Youth Assembly platform can serve as a powerful opportunity to be harnessed for social entrepreneurs, this session will focus specifically on offering advice for those who have launched, or are planning to launch, an independent social impact venture, business, project or campaign, or those looking to capture new opportunities from technology in this field. Examples of successful approaches will be given, along with precise points of advice on finding the strategy, resources, and partnerships needed for success.
Lessons from Successful Youth Leaders: YA Alumni
Over its 17 year history, The Youth Assembly has attracted many exemplary young leaders, who have gone on to make even greater achievements after attending the conference. This session will be a chance to learn from some of the world’s most successful young leaders in the fields of sustainable development and social entrepreneurship, who also previously attended the Youth Assembly. They will share their stories, and their best advice with those aiming to pursue a similar path, and offer insight into what resources, tools and ideas helped lead to their success, and which may help other young leaders in the future.
Youth Assembly Delegates come from an extraordinary range of backgrounds, regions, and fields of expertise. There is great benefit to be had from meeting and sharing ideas with this community of global young leaders, and it is particularly important for all attendees to find others working in similar areas who may be able to mutually benefit from each other’s experiences.
YA Connect will provide a networking platform for exactly this: a chance for delegates to meet, learn from, and potentially form partnerships with those working in a similar field. The room will be set up with different sections for various regions, and various topics within the SDGs, so that one can easily find others who may be appropriate partners or supporters in the future.
YA Impact Facilitator Program Showcase
The Impact Facilitator Program is an exciting new opportunity presented by FAF for Youth Assembly Delegates to continue their engagement with the Youth Assembly community, consisting of thousands of the foremost young leaders across 160 countries. This session will be an opportunity for those interested to learn about the program, whether as an Impact Facilitator, or simply as a delegate wishing to remain engaged.
Impact Facilitators will act as point persons to follow up with and keep track of Youth Delegates actively working on projects in their area. They will connect delegates to each other when there might be opportunity for an advantageous partnership, or can consult with the FAF team to determine how to provide further support, resources or mentorship to a project in need. In this way, Impact Facilitators will serve as a catalyst for extraordinary youth leadership and social venture project development in their region. In turn, all delegates are welcome to attend this session in order to find out more about how to participate in this program, which can offer support for their work following The Youth Assembly.
YA Impact Challenge Finals
The Impact Challenge is Friendship Ambassadors Foundation’s groundbreaking new initiative to foster the launch and growth of brand new social venture projects. Anyone with a project in mind that will bring impact in line with one of the SDGs can apply to the program. Applicants will go through a rigorous selection process, with ten finalists ultimately being chosen to enter the finals, which will take place during The Youth Assembly.
Delegates are invited to observe the finals, as each group presents a pitch for their project. A team of expert judges will then deliberate, and select three winners. Each winning group will receive seed funding, and continued mentorship and support from the FAF team and other experts.
2. Core Challenges – Poverty, Peace, Education and Environment
Youth Assembly Delegates represent some of the top talent and foremost young leaders working within global sustainable development, who are capable of making groundbreaking impact in tackling the core challenges of our time. These core challenges are encapsulated in the United Nations 2030 Agenda and 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to eradicate all forms of poverty, promote prosperity for all people, eliminate social inequalities, and protect our planet. Each year, the U.N. convenes its High-Level Political Forum to assess progress and design new plans for some of the goals. This year the HLPF will cover SDGs 4 (Quality Education for All), 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), 10 (Reduced Inequalities), 13 (Climate Action), 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) and 17 (Partnership for the Goals).
Therefore, inspired by the 2019 HLPF, this Youth Assembly will particularly consider the role of youth in global development with regard to these central issues of education, poverty and economic growth, inequality, environment and peace. This section of the program will include assessment of progress on the issues targeted by these goals, while also exploring new opportunities for advancement through the lens of youth.
Program sessions will include:
Quality Education and the SDGs for the Youth of the Future
One SDG that connects connects to the entire development agenda, and has significant influence on long-term success is Goal 4: Quality Education, which seeks to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” This is a goal where some progress has been made, but still, the latest UN statistics show a participation rate of only 70% of children in primary education globally (41% in sub-Saharan Africa), while 617 million children are not achieving minimum proficiency in reading and mathematics, and only 34% of primary schools in LDCs have access to electricity. This is immensely alarming, and must be one of the top priorities for governments and civil society worldwide.
This panel will seek to engage young leaders as not only beneficiaries, but also stakeholders and active players in the campaign for global quality education. The importance of education will be discussed, along with the conditions that are needed for education to succeed, and how young people can step up their role in spreading quality education worldwide. In addition, it will be discussed how the SDGs and topics fundamental to global sustainable development can be better taught and integrated into children and youth’s learning. Furthermore, the session will consider how modern technology is changing what skills are most necessary in life, and how education systems might adapt to this.
From Poverty to Prosperity: Decent Work & Economic Growth
For perhaps the majority of people around the world, one’s work and profession is the dominant focus and task in life. It not only usually provides income and means for well-being, but also plays a crucial role in happiness and self-worth. Decent work can often be the channel through which people can not only escape from poverty, but also find a purpose in life, and support other needs. Beyond poverty, further challenges in this field may include finding employment, safe work conditions and fair wages among different gender and racial groups.
This panel will take a holistic approach to this topic, deliberating first of all how efforts can be stepped up to end poverty once and for all. The session will then cover how this process might be aided by the provision of better work opportunities, particularly for young people, who often especially suffer from unemployment. Finally, the session will cover the conditions of work and workers, and how these can be improved in different contexts, and also how work opportunities might have to adapt to modern technologies.
Mobilizing Youth for Climate Action
The global population is increasingly aware of the risks posed by environmental issues, notably the three major dangers of global warming, pollution, and destruction of biodiversity. The latest IPCC report suggests that we have just 12 years to enact fundamental changes across various fields if we are to avert catastrophe. Moreover, the issue extends into so many different branches, ranging from plastic pollution, deforestation, agriculture and overfishing, industry, transport and energy. Many are aware of these dangers, but for many the question remains, “what role can I play to make a difference?”
This panel will seek to address this question, discussing the details of the problems we face, but then offering some practical advice on how young people can take action. This may range from campaigning and raising awareness to changing your approach to your personal life, joining a larger climate focused organization, or even launching a new environmental project, business or social venture of your own.
Youth and Goal 16: Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions
Though all might agree on the importance of all of the SDGs taken together, sometimes it is simply impossible for countries to focus on all of the issues at stake, and this is most notably the case when there is conflict. War and violence are not just devastating to human lives and livelihoods: they often also bring economies to a standstill, wreak havoc on the environment and leave thousands as refugees or in poverty and hunger. This is evident in all the current conflict zones in the world with some 82% of the population now living in poverty in Syria, 14 million on the brink of famine in Yemen, 70% illiterate and without health services in South Sudan, and around 50% of youth unemployed in Palestine.
UN SDG 16 aims to, in full, “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”. This goal expresses how peace does not come from conflict resolution alone, but is also grounded in the building of societies that are free from corruption and social exclusion, and protected by strong institutions and the rule of law. One group that has often faced exclusion in peace processes, and in society at large, is youth. Therefore, this panel will seek to explore not only the multidimensional factors that must be addressed to bring about peaceful societies in conflict zones and elsewhere, but also the role that youth can play. Topics covered will include current conflicts, the strengthening of institutions and active advice on how young people can make their voices heard in this field.
3. Regional Inclusion for Global Development
Over its history, The Youth Assembly has brought together young social impact leaders from over 160 different countries. Rooted in Friendship Ambassadors Foundation’s long history of brokering new friendships and channels of cultural exchange around the world, a core element of The Youth Assembly has always been the fostering of new international networks, relationships, and partnerships towards the creation of a global movement of young changemakers. However, in an increasingly globalized world, it is of great importance that the specific needs, challenges and interests of each region are not forgotten.
Hence, The 23rd Youth Assembly will feature sessions targeted to the specific opportunities and concerns of continental regions. In depth analysis will be explored as to how progress towards the Global Goals can be tailored and accelerated in each region. There will also be a focus on the role of youth in each region, and how this can be expanded. In light of the global outlook of the conference, discussions will also include how to better balance global power between regions, and how each region can best be supported by governments, business and civil society from other regions.
Program sessions will include:
Africa: A Continent on The Move
Africa presents some of the greatest challenges on the sustainable development agenda, but also some of the most exciting opportunities. The share of those living in poverty has declined, but estimates still put extreme poverty rates at 40-50%, while the absolute number of those living in poverty has been rising as populations grow. Moreover, an estimated 25% live in hunger, and one in three children do not have access to education, an issue that is especially prevalent among girls. Indeed, social inclusion and equal rights for minority groups is also a highly pressing concern across the continent. Worse yet, several countries, such as Somalia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo remain in the midst of intense violence and conflict.
Nevertheless, though many African countries rank among the world’s poorest, recent years have also seen countries such as Ethiopia, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Tanzania dominate the leadership boards of fastest growing economies in the world, while many major companies see the continent as promising for the future. In certain countries, improved governance, urbanization, new technology and a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation are bringing positive change at ever greater speeds. In addition, Africa’s 54 countries are increasingly trying to work together, particularly through the African Union and the United Nations.
This panel will seek to explore the African continent through both of these lenses. The long-term pressing issues will be analysed, with exploration of how progress can be made and new ideas implemented. At the same time, the potential of new technology and other opportunities will be assessed as to to their realistic chances of making an impact. In addition, the panel will cover how other regions and countries can assist Africa, through trade, foreign direct investment, aid and development assistance.
Latin America and the Caribbean: Next Steps on the Road to Sustainable Development
Latin America and the Caribbean have broadly seen significant success in recent decades, with the majority of countries in the region now considered middle income. However, several urgent issues remain, and recent crises and political instability have led to concern. In particular, natural hazards have affected the region, most notably the Caribbean, where efforts must be increased not only to repair the damage caused by disasters, but also to build back stronger, and ensure that such crises do not increase in the future. Environment is also a leading issue in the region, being home to the Amazon rainforest and its extraordinary biodiversity, which play such a fundamental role in the world’s ecosystem. Another major issue in the region is violent crime, which despite the extraordinary peace that has been achieved between countries, remains at some of the highest levels of anywhere in the world. Other issues range from economic stagnation and currency crisis, to a rise in refugees and lack of balanced representation in politics.
This panel will take a look at some of these most pressing issues in the region, such as refugees, crime, disasters and the environment, while also highlighting successful case studies, and opportunities for progress going forward. Also covered will be collaboration between countries in the region, and the role of outside powers.
Asia: From Rapid Growth to Sustainability & Social Inclusion
Asia has seen perhaps the most intense change of any region in the world in recent decades, moving swiftly from having the vast majority of the world’s population in poverty to having repeated years of rapid economic growth. The conversation is increasingly turning towards the region’s breakneck technological advancement and competition in business across the globe as opposed to internal difficulties. Nevertheless, there are still major obstacles to be overcome in order for the region’s countries to achieve the UN SDGs. For a start, though poverty rates are dropping, tens of millions of people still live in poverty across the continent. Moreover, the rapid economic growth that has lifted so many out of poverty has had unfortunate byproducts, including some extreme cases of wealth inequality, and frequent devastation of the environment. Other major concerns include cases of human rights abuse, urbanization and infrastructure development.
This panel will seek to cover some of these issues, most notably how to ensure that the fantastic economic growth in the region is sustainable, inclusive and wary of environmental concerns. Paths will also be explored as to how human rights abuse can be addressed. In addition, there will be discussion of the incredibly exciting progress on the continent, particularly in technology, and how this success might be able to benefit other regions through trade, investment, and improvement of international relations.
The Middle East and North Africa have seen years of immense change over the 21st Century, with progress in some areas, but tumultuous upheaval and conflict in others. The Arab Spring inspired great hope in many, but the movement has seen increasingly complex deviations and reactions across the region in the years since its beginning. The world’s attention has particularly been drawn to the wars in the region. The ongoing Syrian conflict is one of the deadliest in recent memory; the crisis in Yemen continues, with famine spreading and no progress on peace talks as of yet; the Palestinian struggle has seen no recent progress, and in many other countries in the region human rights remains the most pressing issue.
This session will focus on these urgent crises within the region, assessing where progress could be made, and what role young people could play in this process. However, it will also aim to highlight some of the positive signs in the region, including flourishing business, growing accountability and human rights and adoption of technology in some areas.
4. Empowering All: Leaving No One Behind
2019 will see the U.N. lay particular focus on SDG 10 – reducing inequality within and among countries – but, in fact, the concept of reducing inequality and leaving no one behind extends within all of the SDGs. Whenever progress is made, concern should be taken to see that all groups share the benefits, with no minorities excluded. Achieving this goal means assessing economic inequality, gender inequality, racial issues, respect for indigenous communities, and social inclusion of all, including those with disabilities. It also means the fair provision of representation and opportunities for youth, who typically face particular exclusion within any disadvantaged group.
With attendees from across all social and regional divides, The Youth Assembly exemplifies collaboration across different cultures and communities, and the 23rd Session of The Youth Assembly will bring this topic further to the forefront. This section will look into how we can reduce inequality, and empower all those facing adversity, with additional focus on how youth can be empowered to tackle such issues themselves.
Program sessions will include:
Empowering Youth to Tackle Gender Inequality
One of the core targets in the United Nations push for reduced inequalities around the world is the achievement of equal rights and opportunities for women and girls. Gender parity means more than just the end of discrimination against women, and often involves addressing structural issues such as misogynistic social norms and developing legal frameworks that promote equality for women. Progress is being made in this field, and awareness is growing with the MeToo and Time’sUp movements, but there is still a long way to go. The gender pay gap is still prevalent and sometimes wide around the world, large percentages of women report having experienced at least one incident of sexual abuse in almost all countries, and in global politics, only 23% of parliamentarians are women. Even worse, there are 650 million women worldwide who were married in childhood, and in 30 countries a third of girls are subjected to female genital mutilation (All information from: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg5).
This panel will seek to discuss the latest progress and pathways forwards for gender equality. Particular attention will be paid to how young women can make an impact in this field, as well as how men can play a significant role. Also of note is the economic analysis on this issue, with reports showing that advancing gender equality has the potential to add $12 trillion to the global economy. The session will explore other societal impacts such as this boost to economies, to further show the value and benefits in achieving gender equality.
No One Left Behind: Reducing Inequality for Ethnic and Social Minorities
Despite the many social movements addressing this issue over the 20th Century, inequality between and among groups still remains a pressing concern in all but a few countries around the world. In some cases, prejudice has been in-built in societies over decades, in other cases discrimination has grown in recent years as globalisation, migration and refugee crises have led to the sudden increase of different ethnic groups within various countries. Beyond outright discrimination and human rights abuse, other effects of prejudice can include large income gaps, and lack of access to other resources such as education, voting or fair treatment under the law.
This session will seek to address this topic, expanding upon social exclusion of various racial and social groups, including indigenous communities, and how situations can be improved. A focus will be given not just to remediating current affiliations, but also to how deeper structural changes might be able to change attitudes in the longer term, and the role that youth can play in accelerating such change. In addition, those living in poverty must themselves be considered as a group facing social exclusion, and so, in line with SDG 10, special attention will be paid to relationship between social exclusion and income inequality.
Global Public Health & Inclusion for Those Afflicted
Global health is a field where some of the most exciting advancements have been made in recent history. Scientific breakthroughs and international cooperation has led to the extraordinary eradication of some of the most devastating global diseases, as well as the containment of more recent deadly viruses to emerge. Nevertheless, this is an area where progress must continue. There are still some 300,000 women dying each year from childbirth related causes, 216 million worldwide are suffering from malaria, and many thousands continue to die from illnesses for which treatment is already effective and available if only provided. Moreover, those with physical or mental disabilities still face widespread social exclusion and lack of access to many educational and work opportunities, despite estimations that greater inclusion could bring massive economic benefit.
This panel will seek to examine the next steps in the push for improved global public health, including topics such as scientific research, improving access and affordability of healthcare, and expanding services and opportunities for those with physical or mental disabilities. In addition, consideration will be taken of the varying stages of public health in different regions, and the role that young people can play in this field.