By Cynthia Yue, the 10th U.S. youth observer to the United Nations and former UNICEF Youth Ambassador and UNICEF USA National Council Member
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) are 17 objectives our world strives to achieve. The aim is simple: to make the planet a better and safer place for this generation and the next.
The SDGs carry the dream that global leaders set forth nearly 76 years ago, when they established the United Nations after World War II to rebuild a world that had been devastated by unprecedented levels of destruction. Never again should our people witness the same levels of atrocities. Never again should we stay silent in the face of instability. Never again should our world remain indifferent toward injustice and inequity.
Today, as we build back better through diplomacy and multilateralism, advocating for the SDGs in the United States, especially as young people, is more important than ever. In the past year, our generation has faced a global pandemic, overcome barriers in a virtual environment and challenged the status quo through new forms of advocacy on emerging platforms. Youth have been at the forefront of every great movement, and we must continue to burn bright as we march forward as leaders for a more sustainable future.
In September, I conducted a virtual and hybrid listening tour to directly hear from hundreds of young changemakers across the nation. In collaboration with Key Club International, I was able to speak with Key Club members and leaders who are on the ground conducting work to bridge gaps in their own communities. They are on the front lines for climate activism, meeting with school board officials to incorporate equality into their education systems and showing that activism transcends age.
During my listening tour, young people discussed how they seldom feel as if they can make an international impact. Yet global issues require local solutions, and day-to-day activism and volunteerism that Key Club students exhibit are the antidotes to the barriers we must break.
As a former Key Club student myself, I know that this organization conducts great work to cultivate service-oriented leaders who take action when it is needed, which includes uniting students in solidarity for our world’s greatest issues. Through its partnership with UNICEF USA, Key Club International exposes young people to UNICEF’s work and galvanizes students for the annual Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF campaign.
Moreover, Key Club challenges young people to lead local service projects that directly address the UN SDGs. For instance, during my tenure as a Key Club member, we volunteered to alleviate hunger and poverty in our community by packaging hundreds of donations for families and food pantries. We made blankets for those experiencing homelessness and constructed supplies for homes of elderly residents to reduce inequalities among our neighbors.
At the UNA-USA, our youth members do exactly the same — they build movements within their communities, volunteer in local projects related to the SDGs and inspire others around them to follow suit. Simply put, we are a growing grassroots movement that unites people of all ages, backgrounds and identities in support of a greater future. Whether we are marching for progress, amplifying underrepresented voices or speaking directly to global leaders, we are the nation’s largest and strongest movement to support the United Nations.
As the 10th U.S. youth observer, I am committed to uplifting diverse youth voices, including those of Key Club International, in my work to grow youth activism and the UN’s reach. Internationally, I am leading a Diversity Bloc in the United Nations Youth Delegate Program to highlight diverse perspectives and representatives from the Global South.
Domestically, with the UNA-USA, I am creating opportunities to make the UN more accessible to young people through projects such as the listening tour, the national Case Competition, a diversity series on Instagram Live, an upcoming Racial Justice Workshop series and monthly UN-related events. My greatest goal is to engage with as many young people as possible so they can recognize their immense capacity, influence and power to influence global issues at all levels.
Cynthia Yue will be the keynote speaker for Key Club International’s second Global Engagement Rally at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, December 4 NEED REGISTRATION LINK HERE https://Kiwanis.formstack.com/forms/kci_rally_reg. For updates on her work as the Youth Observer, follow her on social media @usyouthobserver.