UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Leader Peter McKenzie represented the National Commission at the UN Youth NZ 20th birthday celebrations this month. He reflects on the event.
UN Youth is a strange organisation. It works tirelessly to increase awareness of international relations and diplomatic practice among the unlikeliest demographic: high school and university students. Not only that, but the people working to do so are young people themselves. It is a combination which some might have predicted would fail. Twenty years on from its founding, UN Youth has blasted that skepticism out of the water. Every year it hosts events which reach thousands of young New Zealanders, helping students from all over the country expand their understanding of the world. Not only does it allow them to step into the shoes of diplomats for a day, it helps them meet the people walking the world stage through its remarkable overseas tours and educational events. Most importantly, it allows young people to chart a course into those professions themselves. Among the thousands of UN Youth alumni are diplomats, aid workers, policy analysts, businesspeople and more.
The good that UN Youth does in empowering young people was on display at its recent 20th Birthday celebration. Old friends and new gathered together to recognise the success that UN Youth has had and acknowledge the hard work done by volunteers, past and present. It was an incredible event, where the focus was above all on sharing the special memories that come from participation in UN Youth. I look forward to hearing more of those memories when I attend UN Youth’s 40th Birthday celebration in 2039!