Delegates poured in from around the world into the iconic General Assembly Hall at the United Nations. There was a palpable sense of excitement in the air. On the agenda was climate change, health care, gender equality and all of the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, which were approved by world leaders in these very seats just a fortnight prior.
Such was the ambiance at the start of the 14th-annual Youth Assembly at the United Nations, organized by the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation. The delegates, chock-full of such world leaders as Amina Mohammed, Special Advisor of the Secretary General on Post-2015 Development Planning, were anxious to get started with the wonderful agenda. They bonded with each other over their shared commitment to solving the biggest problems of the 21st century. Plenary sessions became interactive workshops, as delegates were able to ask the speakers any question that came to mind.
By the end of the three-day program, bonds were created, old friendships were renewed, and many, many business cards were exchanged. Indeed, while the Assembly's speeches and workshops were fantastic, it is the partnerships that have been and will be formed between delegates and speakers that will lead to lasting changes felt worldwide.
Personally, attending the Youth Assembly has proved to be an invaluable resource for my professional and personal development. I am currently the Founder and Executive Editor of Pakistanis 4 Social Change, a social journalistic endeavor that enables young Pakistanis all around the world to write about pertinent issues affecting Pakistan and to offer novel solutions to such problems. Also, I am the Founder, President and CEO of Hugs for Pakistan, an NGO committed to empowering women, girls, and youth in Pakistan through providing health care and educational resources to underprivileged Pakistanis. Indeed, fighting gender inequality and misogyny is a top priority for my NGO. As Youth Assembly speaker Hadia Sheerazi points out, even natural disasters are gendered. "Women... are the first to be affected and the last to recover; they bear the brunt of natural disaster."
The connections I have made through the youth assembly are and will be of paramount importance in expanding the scope and forming partnerships with other non-profits and NGOs to tackle the issue of gender inequality, and so much more.
My favorite sessions of the assembly were those conducted by the International Youth Council (IYC), headed by Madeline Ramos (chairperson of IYC International), by Syed Tajammul Hussain (chairperson of IYC Pakistan), and by Manas Dowlani (chairperson of IYC India). The work IYC is doing around the world is truly inspiring. More so, the humble beginnings of the IYC are truly inspiring for any aspiring social entrepreneur. It was in the very seats that I was sitting in that at the Youth Assembly in 2007 the IYC was founded. The founder, Ahmad Alhendawi, is now the United Nations Secretary General's Envoy on Youth. Hearing these individuals talk about the positive difference the IYC has made worldwide inspires me and gives me the belief that I can make a difference, that WE -- the youth of the world -- can and WILL do so.
Ergo, the doors of the youth assembly have now closed. But the opportunities it has opened for making a lasting impact on the world have just begun to be realized. And it is through this realization that the world will change. The Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals is a masterful piece of international legislation, but only if we, the youth, take it upon ourselves to embrace and embody them.
I hope, I pray, I KNOW that in the months, years, and decades to come, it will be my fellow delegates and I who will take charge and create a world of equality, love, and tolerance. All in all, kudos to the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation for running this event. I would highly recommend attending the assembly to any aspiring youth leader from around the world.
Ayyan Zubair is a Freshman at Stony Brook University studying Biomedical Engineering & Economics. To contact Ayyan, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @ayyanicbond .