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American Youth Voice Support for the UN

(Photo/Stuart Ramson for UNA-USA)

On Feb. 22, over 1,800 members of the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA)  gathered at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. Attendees came together with a common goal: to reassert the commitment of the American people to the goals of the UN and ensure the active participation of the United States in diplomacy.

Many of the attendees represented university chapters of UNA-USA, in hopes of demonstrating that young people care about, and want to participate in the UN and the wider international community. Attendees of the 2019 Global Engagement Summit hailed from 45 states, plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. The day-long summit included speeches from the UN Secretary-General, the President of the General Assembly, and various politicians, ambassadors, and representatives of corporations and non-governmental organizations. As the UNA-USA Campus Fellow for the Northeast Region, this was my third year attending the summit.

Most notably, the opening plenary featured an address by Secretary-General António Guterres who launched his global call for climate action. Before his speech the Secretary-General made his way through the crowd, greeting and taking pictures with attendees.The Secretary-General’s call to action and the reaffirmation of the American people’s commitment to climate action followed the 2017 announcement that the US would leave the Paris climate agreement, a 2015 international agreement to reduce carbon output and combat climate change. Since this announcement that the US would leave the agreement, Americans have shown their commitment to climate action, despite the lack of action at the federal level. UNA-USA Executive Director Chris Whatley said “Today, Americans from coast-to-coast have pledged to drive local action to uphold the historic Paris Agreement on climate change, and they are doing this in the very room where the climate agreement was originally signed”.

(Photo/Stuart Ramson for UNA-USA)

Throughout the day, different sessions addressed a variety of global issues, including the war in Yemen, human rights, access to food, girls’ education and more. Notably, UNA-USA partnered with American corporations that have committed themselves to the Sustainable Development Goals, a series of 17 global goals to address world issues. Don Lewis, the President of Professional Hygiene at Essity, a hygiene and health company with offices in Philadelphia, highlighted his company’s partnership for the Sustainable Development Goals and the important role companies play in achieving the goals while at the podium. Lewis and other leaders from various industries spoke more about the goals at the Student-Corporate Networking Lunch.

(Photo/Stuart Ramson for UNA-USA)

(Photo/Stuart Ramson for UNA-USA)

At the summit over 1,800 Americans came together to voice their support for the work of the UN. In a time where global cooperation is faltering, and diplomacy is under ever-increasing scrutiny, this summit sends a strong message that the American people stand with, and will continue to back the United Nations. Every year that I attend the summit, my faith that Americans can still see the vision of the UN, and stand by it, is reaffirmed.

The author is an employee of the Democratic Caucus of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.  The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Caucus, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives or any individual Representative.