Shahin at World Youth Conference on Kindness

The National Commission supported UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Leader Shahin Najak to attend the World Youth Conference on Kindness in New Delhi. She reports back on her experience.

From the 19th to the 23rd of August, 60 world youth leaders from 27 countries gathered in O P Jindal International university, New Delhi to discuss the importance of kindness in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Part of this conference began three weeks earlier with weekly online training sessions from facilitators from Life University, Atlanta Georgia on a compassion and integrity course. This course looked at intrinsic bias and the need for humanity to shift towards a more compassionate attitude.

The conference was organised by the UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP) to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and to commemorate kindness as a fundamental tool to help achieve the SDGs by 2030.

With an emphasis on how kindness can help combat the growing rise of violent extremism, we met with an ex Neo Nazi member and learnt his story of how transformative acts of kindness changed his life. There were also panels from an English neuroscientist looking at how the brain responds to different emotions and the long term effect this can have on happiness. A presentation by The Logical Indian, one of the country’s largest social media news platforms, looked at the positives and negatives of large social media platforms as well as the steps necessary to cultivate such a platform.

As part of the application process for this conference, each applicant had to submit their thoughts on the world’s biggest issues and how youth could help to combat this change. 1200 responses were submitted from over 117 countries which went towards drafting the New Delhi Declaration of Kindness. The first of its kind.

Ten youth leaders were selected to draft the declaration. I was one of them. This meant that after a day’s session, we would meet until the early hours of the morning and try to piece together this document. The process began by condensing the 1200 responses to 600 and then to 300. Then from the condensed 300, ten key themes were selected to summarise the overall group of ideas.

Once the draft was written based off the chosen 10 key themes, it went through policy checking by the MGIEP team and the director of the Indian Commission for UNESCO.  The approved declaration was read out to a group of approximately 800 people including the 60 world youth leaders, the MGIEP team, wider Delhi university students and other respected members at Vigyan Bhawan, a premier convention centre of Government.

We were also graced with his Excellency the President of India who addressed the room on the importance of Gandhian principles in the pursuit of peace.

I presented the declaration alongside a fellow youth leader to the entire Vigyan Bhawan, which calls for the United Nations to declare a decade of kindness from 2020-2030 in order to achieve the SDGs.