The Impact of Youth Voices: Beyond Model UN


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By Kelsey Cooper, GenUN Fellow 

In February, over 180 students from three states came together to talk about the world’s most pressing issues at Indiana University’s second annual Model United Nations Conference (IUMUNC). From tackling the topics of the current refugee crisis to fighting for the rights of women and children, high school students brought innovative solutions to today’s issues.

It was an inspiring weekend, but discussing the issues is only part of making a difference. As the Founder and Secretary-General of IUMUNC, I was amazed at the number of students that approached me and asked how they can take their debate outside of the classroom. Students want to take action for the causes they are passionate about, and they asked if the voices of youth would ever be heard at the global level. I was impressed with the dedication of some and saddened by the doubtfulness of others.

Our world faces some of the greatest crises in history. Refugees number 60 million, which would make them the 24th largest nation on earth if pooled together. And in spite of the groundbreaking COP21 agreement, the world’s governments still account for a 3.5 degree Celsius rise in global temperature. On the global health front, the Zika virus is ravaging South America.

Participating in Model UN or having a conversation with your friends about world affairs is a big step in the right direction to make a difference. Over the next decade, baby boomers will retire by the millions. Those jobs, positions, initiatives, and offices are ours for the taking.

Last year, the United Nations celebrated two incredible milestones: its 70th anniversary and the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals.  In my work as a community leader and GenUN Fellow, I see firsthand the contributions our generation can make, and how the international community values our opinions and actions. Our voices can and will make a difference.

For high school and college students, advocating for the UN through your UNA-USA chapter is a great way to take what you learn in Model UN to the next level. Here are a few steps to get started:  

  1. Browse the resources available on the GenUN website, which can help you develop ideas for impactful projects on your campus or at your school.
  2. Start a UNA-USA campus chapter or get involved with your local community chapter.
  3. Consider partnering with other initiatives like Girl Up, UNICEF Campus Chapters, and the United Nations Academic Impact Global Youth Forum. Many organizations are empowering students to get involved and make a difference in the world around them.
  4. Write to your Member of Congress about the issues you care about. Check out the UNA-USA website for guidelines on how to do so and what to say.
  5. Help educate your community on how they can make an impact. Post to Social Media and encourage your friends to join along! 

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