Rik Abels '21 Attends the 2018 Winter United Nations Youth Assembly

Rik Abels '21 shares his experience after attending the 2018 Winter Youth Assembly at the United Nations Headquaters in New York.

This was an incredible experience that not only gave me an incredible look into the United Nations’ efforts to combat our world’s biggest problems, but also allowed me to meet incredible people from almost a hundred countries all around the world.

For three days, we attended sessions at the United Nations Headquarters and The Roosevelt Hotel, with the theme of the 21st session of the Youth Assembly being “Innovation and Collaboration for a Sustainable World.” Leading experts from both the public and private sector came to talk about their experiences and what steps we can take to work towards a better world. The conference was built around the UN’s so-called Sustainable Development Goals, which are seventeen major objectives ranging from the eradication of poverty to gender equality. A major focus was climate change and how both companies and governments can work to build solutions. I learned so much about the problems we face today, but even more about concrete steps that can be taken to counter them. It is entirely within our capacity to achieve the majority of these Goals as long as we work together constructively. That is something this conference was really clear about: it is not as impossible as some might think.

Besides the great informational aspect of the conference, it was amazing to talk with peers from all over the world and hear about their experiences with some of the world’s most pressing issues, and what steps can be taken to solve them. I met people from all over the place--from Brazil to Saudi Arabia and China to Kenya. This allowed for a great variety of experiences and perspectives, which greatly enhanced the debate. I remember a conversation with about twenty people about what efforts are being taken in their countries to ensure their citizens have access to clean water. We had people from Nigeria, Canada, and Germany and it was great to hear their perspectives. Conversations such as this one can really help to get a better understanding of on-the-ground issues, and I really enjoyed learning more about these topics.

Another pillar of the conference was leadership. There was a great focus on how we can all get involved in our own communities. We talked a lot about how we can start non-profits, work for local charities, get involved with government, or simply speak out. This part was a great reminder that no matter where you are or what you do, there is always a way to make your voice heard. This conference not only reinforced that sense, but also showed concrete steps that we can take.

Overall, the UNYA was an amazing experience. I learned so much about what problems the world faces today and how we can look for solutions. I also got to meet incredible people with great ideas. I took a lot of inspiration out of this conference, and it is great being able to share that with other people. 

-Submitted by Rik Abels '21, 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.