by Stella Harper, student and member of the Student Association VSETH, 14 January 2021
A global virtual room
The Youth Assembly is a platform created by the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation that allows youth delegates from all over the world to work on creating a more sustainable planet. The Friendship Ambassador Foundation tries to create global networks and supports sustainable problem solving. Last summer, the 26th Youth Assembly took place virtually, covering the topic of the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 with youth delegates from over 50 different countries, and I was a part of it.
It took place in a virtual room, filled with many young people that had come from countries all over the world. A young man was writing a comment into the virtual Discussion Tool. The comment was regarding the responsibility of large corporations and their role in global sustainability. As his comment suddenly popped up in the virtual platform, one could see the phrase “typing” underneath it. Seconds later, he had received a variety of different answers and comments regarding his remark.
I too, was faced with similar experiences when I was given the opportunity to visit the 26th Youth Assembly, from June 8th to August 9th, 2020.
Because of the Covid-19 Pandemic, this assembly had to take place online for the first time, which meant a new experience for all of the people involved. With the support of virtual tools like a discussion platform, the exchange between delegates was still welcomed and encouraged. This allowed me to share my own interests, and just as the young man mentioned above, I was able to gain insights from the responses of many different youth delegates in regard to the remarks I had made. As diverse as our delegation was, we all had one interest in common: the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).
For all involved, the exchange between the delegates was particularly important due to the Corona Pandemic that was a challenge to us all, no matter where we lived. On the very first day of the conference, one of the delegates created an Excel sheet where we shared our contacts, social media platforms, phone numbers and LinkedIn profiles. As I was coming back from a coffee break between two of the held speeches, I was surprised to find that I had around 35 new requests on Instagram and over 50 new messages in a WhatsApp group called “Youth Assembly Global”. “Networking”, as such, was therefore a very important part of this event; and, through it, we were given the chance to share ideas, trigger new thought processes and connect with each other for future career projects.
Both Fun and an Opportunity
But the conference was not only about building networks. It was made up of numerous speakers who were there to discuss with us the topic “Accelerate! Youth for SDGs 2030”. Along with interesting new information, we had the possibility to ask questions and critically examine the progress of the SDGs. As a student of Environmental Science with a special interest in environmental policies and politics, I had a lot to add to the discussion. It was only after a well-known speaker answered one of my questions, that I realized what important and prestigious people were sitting before me (only virtually, of course) and what a high-leveled conference I was a part of. I was especially thrilled with the speech of Satya Tripathi, Assistant Secretary-General and Head of UN Environment. The content of his Webinar “Environmental Protection and Future Role of Youth” supported my convictions and desire to someday be able to work for the UN.
Let´s hope it will not be the last time
Participating in the 26th Youth Assembly was a fantastic experience for me, and I felt greatly honored that I was able to represent ETH Zurich at the conference. Besides having made new contacts with whom I am continually communicating, the entire know-how transfer from the delegates was an enormous gain for me. This gave me important up-to-date information and the conviction that my future goals were also mirrored by the important work of these delegates in the UN. I wish to thank all the people who made my participation possible, and I hope that there might someday be another occasion for me to be so honored to represent ETH.
Video about the Youth Assembly in 60 seconds
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Stella Harper is an American/Swiss environmental science student who was born and grew up in Berlin, and moved to Zurich to start her studies at ETH Zurich. She hopes that her future career path will allow her to work in environmental politics or project management, with an emphasis on work in the field of sustainable development. She has always looked for opportunities to advance her knowledge and has participated in many workshops and conferences dealing with these subjects. Currently, she is also a member of the Student Association VSETH, where she is responsible for university politics.