UN’s 67th DPI/NGO Conference

Catherine Prendergast, DC

The academic year has begun. Once again, we are happy to welcome students from St. John’s University.   Two of them attended the United Nations’ Department of Public Information (DPI) Conference, August 22-23, with Sister Margaret and myself.

Participants included a great deal of youth and it was inspiring to be with these young people at the Conference.

Youth are keen to have an impact on the world, can be key to creative engagement, and are crucial in developing solutions to global issues.

Following is a view of the Conference through the eyes of Seraiah Romero, intern for the Company of the Daughters of Charity, and Kirin Taylor, intern for the Congregation of the Mission.  I hope that you find their summary inspiring.

Links to DPI Conference Conclusion and “We the Future” Youth Declaration:

DPI Conference: Youth Engagement and Multilateralism

By Seraiah Romero and Kirin Taylor

Last week, the Vincentian family attending the UN’s 67th DPI/NGO Conference: “We the Peoples… Together Finding Global Solutions for Global Problems.” The conference describes itself as, “the largest gathering for NGOs taking place at the United Nations,” meaning it has become, “an established forum for networking and exchange of views, opinions, expertise and best- practices on relevant issues…The Conference aims to provide a policy-building forum for NGO collaboration with the United Nations.”

Roundtable: A Repositioned UN Development System

At the heart of Vincentianism, is the goal of identifying and meeting the needs of the marginalized. While advocating in the Vincentian spirit for human rights and the end of street homelessness, our representatives, intern Seraiah Romero from Trinidad and Tobago, and Kirin Taylor from the U.S., were able to contribute to conversations surrounding the importance of youth engagement and multilateralism, among other topics.

They also had the opportunities to hear phenomenal people speak, such as the keynote, Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International. Commonly reiterated by speakers, was how important collaboration is in meeting the SDGs and reversing problems affecting all nation states and all peoples, such as climate change; one key point from these speakers was how involvement of traditionally excluded groups (such as youth and the other-abled) in diplomacy is a requisite for the making of a better world. In fact, the merit of multilateralism (which is essentially the cooperation and alliance of multiple countries in pursuing a common goal or goals) was generally concluded to be the diversity and inclusivity it has the potential of promoting, and the corresponding peace which results from the actualization of such principles

The traditional exclusion of youth from politics, and multilateralism in particular, was another important topic of discussion. According to UNESCO’s statistics on youth, half of the world’s 7.6 billion people are under the age of 30. Yet, youth face barriers to quality education, equal employment, and being represented in decision making processes. At the 67th UN DPI/NGO Conference, 40% of registrants accounted for youth between the ages of 18 to 32 years old.

Participants, Kirin Taylor and Seraiah Romero

In the opening plenary, Ms. Alison Smale acknowledged the presence of youth and their capacity to lead. She offered the resounding question, “What can we do to make young people a part of our decisions?”It was known that young people had a lot to contribute with their creativity and perspectives of the world, but there seemed to be limited opportunities for young people to have a seat at the table. Ms. Shermin Luo shared her concern that “youth were told to follow and wait, but not trusted to lead.” A youth activist herself, Ms. Rose Strauss added that though she made attempts to propel the work of advocacy and justice, she was told by government officials that she was “young and naïve.” These statements challenged NGO representatives, academia, media, the private sector, Member states and other UN members to truly explore the issue of youth engagement, particularly because of its potential to promote fairness and equality, and its embodiment of the people-centered mandate of the United Nations, “leaving no one behind”.

In a round table discussion geared towards achieving a repositioned UN development system, Mr. Humphrey Nabimanya offered that we all need to start looking at youth as “people who would sustain what they started”. Not only did this call for a shift in the perspectives of different generations (including older and younger generations), but it also reiterated the shared responsibility for this shift, which requires action from each generation. In the words of Mr. Prince Gideon Olanrewaju in answer to a question from the audience concerning how one can best maintain enthusiasm when in the midst of systemic barriers, he said, “Passion is not enough, charisma is not enough.” This was further supported by the sentiment of Mr. Mandeep Tiwana in another panel, who stated, “If you want youth to change systems they must be able to challenge power.” Young participants at the conference echoed this; Ms. Alexandria Bramel, still a teenager herself, spoke of disappointing interactions with adults, where she was told she was too young to understand things like inequality and climate change. Rather than discouraging her from acting, Ms. Alexandria Bramel became an outspoken activist.  At the closing plenary, Ms. Rose Strauss, 18 years old, reflected on how devastated she was to hear and come to understand the holocaust, which led to the slaughter of many of her relatives. Connecting those feelings to the present, she passionately stated, “What I say to young people listening today is that we must take sides. Despite how overwhelming this may be.

Multigenerational collaboration was also explored, as it was identified as an integral part to achieving a just and equitable multilateralism; the supporting of each other’s attempts to achieve the SDGs it vital to sustaining spirit and progress. Ms. Frances Zainoeddin expressed that young and old people alike share in environmental, social and economic calamities. Additionally, young and old people alike are passionate about working towards a better world. As a result, she stated, “we must fight ageism with intergenerational action, collaboration, and inclusion”. This is achievable by identifying “what everyone brings to the table and what is the common agenda”, suggested Ms. Nancy A. Henkins.

The conference came to a close with a youth declaration entitled “We the Future”presented by the DPI NGO Conference Youth Sub-committee, on behalf of all the young people gathered. As stated, the declaration serves to, “join our voices and efforts to uphold the value of multilateralism and re-commit ourselves to seeking global solutions for global programs, including but not limited to, achieving the targets set forth in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. More of this declaration is available at: https://outreach.un.org/ngorelations/67th-dpingo-conference

Workshop: The People of Puerto Rico and the SDGs- Shared Planet, Shared Prosperity

Throughout the two days, it was typical to see youth leading workshops, roundtables and exhibits. A spoken word performance by Ms. Yafrieci Peralta and a song by Ms. Mijori Goodwin were just two displays of art that made powerful statements.  Another platform was the Youth Film Series that highlighted short films made by youth as an effort to support the Sustainable Development Goals. Despite the pressing global issues highlighted and explored at the conference, affecting each of us directly to varying degrees, but our common humanity immensely, the display of multi-generational multilateralism demonstrated its merit in identifying solutions for these same issues, while instilling hope, and inspiring collective action.



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