The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

UN Youth Assembly on Innovation and Collaboration

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Colleen O'Connor '19 and others from the Dartmouth delegation to the 2018 UN Youth Assembly outside the United Nations General Assembly Hall. 

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Colleen O'Connor '19, completely in awe of the UN General Assembly Hall, prior to the President of the General Assembly to address the group. 

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Colleen O'Connor '19 and others from the Dartmouth delegation to the 2018 UN Youth Assembly inside the United Nations General Assembly Hall. 

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The Director of the World Health Organization along with other health officials present on a panel about global health and infectious diseases, during the conference.

Article Type 

Colleen O'Connor '19, attended the 2018 United Nations Youth Assembly on Innovation and Collaboration for a Sustainable Future, and shares her experience here. 

The 2018 United Nations Youth Assembly on Innovation and Collaboration for a Sustainable Future allowed me to engage with student delegates from over 100 countries who all share one common interest: to make the world a better place. The three-day conference, held at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, welcomed students and esteemed guests for a whirlwind weekend of workshops, panels, keynote speeches, and networking.

Among the events I attended, I found the panel titled "The Road of 2030: Engaging the Private Sector in the Pursuit of Sustainable Development Goals" to be the most noteworthy and applicable to my future career aspirations. The panelists represented top executives from a variety of business sectors and explained the latest corporate trend that aims to build a heightened awareness of social problems, while using the private sector to create positive social change. As an aspiring social entrepreneur, I found this panel to be particularly inspiring because it demonstrated that private entities have a sometimes greater ability than public organizations to make swift, sustainable change.

While the conference workshops and panels were inspiring and informational, I found that the most worthwhile and beneficial component of the Youth Assembly were the connections I was able to build with students and young professionals from around the world. As a Stamps Scholar, I am currently working on an individual project to research and promote female empowerment through entrepreneurship in South America and East Asia, specifically in Cusco, Peru and Beijing, China. Thus, this conference allowed me to link up with students from these regions to discuss my work and hear about their own experiences. Because of this conference, I was introduced to a number of women with passions similar to mine, and I have been able to partner with young women from Mexico and Brazil as well as social entrepreneurs from China and Singapore who are interested and willing to help me in my pursuit to promote female entrepreneurship abroad.

Furthermore, the United Nations Youth Assembly allowed me to reflect on what I do not want to do after college. During a workshop titled "Building Partnerships to Eliminate Human Trafficking," a representative from the United States Department of Labor shared statistics and warning signs related to the trafficking of young women. However, when asked what the US Department of Labor was doing with this information and how they planned to put a stop to human trafficking, the representative did not provide a clear answer. Rather, she seemed to continue to promote the information that has been collected on the issue, while side-stepping the question of how the United States has used this information to take action. Although I understand that problems like human trafficking cannot be solved overnight, I, along with many of the other delegates, were disappointed with the answers we received. It appeared that bureaucracy had hindered the ability of the Department of Labor to act on the information they had collected, and, as a result, the world is not much closer to reducing human trafficking on a national nor international level. Therefore, while this panel made me a bit disillusioned by the workings of the public sector, it also reaffirmed that the best way for me to make sustainable, positive change in the future is to do so through the private sector as a social entrepreneur! 

-Submitted by Colleen O'Connor '19, Rockefeller Center Mini Grant Recipient 

The Rockefeller Center's Mini-Grants program funds registration fees for students attending conferences, as well as the costs of bringing guest speakers to Dartmouth. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Rockefeller Center or constitute an endorsement by the Center.

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