Several young adults from Europe, Korea, and the U.S. representing Women's Federation for World Peace, International (WFWPI) attended the 66th Annual UN DPI/NGO Conference held in Gyeongju, Republic of Korea. The theme of the conference was "Education for Global Citizenship: Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals Together." For most, it was their first experience attending this annual international event hosted by the UN Department of Public Information (DPI).
In his address at the opening ceremony, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon remarked, "Youth must assume greater responsibility in creating a better world for all."
Consistent with his message, the DPI/NGO Conference provided the youth represented at the conference with many opportunities for involvement, including daily youth caucuses, a youth hub, and a youth press conference. The conference highlighted the importance of raising the voices of the young people in tackling global issues and promoting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As expressed by Ms. Jana Lajdova, UPF intern in Geneva, a particularly interesting aspect of the conference was "being able to network with young professionals from all around the world who have been engaged in youth activities and advocating for various causes."
The thematic roundtables of the conference gave the WFWPI youth representatives valuable insight into the work of the United Nations and NGOs in promoting the SDGs. Ms. Youngsoon Quinn, WFWPI intern in Korea, shared, "Before the event, I had some awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals. However, after participating in the roundtables and workshops and observing the exhibition hall, I was able to get a first-hand experience of what was being done and what could be done to put the goals into action to care for the human family." Ms. Lajdova also commented, "The content of the meetings and panel discussions gave me a lot to think about, especially on the topic of how to implement the Sustainable Development Goals in my area of work."
In addition to learning about the SDGs and the role of NGOs on the grassroots level, two of the WFWPI youth gained inspiration regarding their respective professional fields. Ms. Nicole Thurner, WFWPI intern in Geneva, applied her experience at the conference to her studies: "I am studying online communications, and this experience helped me realize how important it is to socialize, network and build strong connections with other people, NGOs, and groups to achieve something great. The internet has a huge potential to influence others and stay connected with hundreds of people." Ms. Helen Clerbout-Bressers, WFWPI youth representative from the Netherlands, also reflected, "I was especially inspired by the theme 'education' and how it can greatly impact so many other fields, such as overcoming poverty and extremism by providing young people with new opportunities. As a matter of fact, the theme inspired me so much that I have decided to finally go into teaching myself!"
Throughout the conference, WFWPI youth participants actively supported the WFWPI workshop and exhibition booth. In working together with other WFWPI members, Ms. Althea Corlett, WFWPI youth representative from Malta, felt a sense of partnership: "During the exhibition section and workshop, WFWPI was able to present itself as an active participant in achieving quality education for all. Through our dialogue and presentations, we exchanged ideas about how we can contribute to our societies, nations and world. As a younger member of WFWPI, I made an effort to connect to my peers and form partnerships with the hope to collaborate in the near future. It is truly amazing that, in addition to contributing to the worldly goals of peace, our organization provides so much support on a very personal level. I truly want to thank my peers and the staff of WFWPI for this valuable experience which has been one to remember."
The three-day conference came to a close with the adoption of the "Gyeongju Action Plan," a call for NGOs to achieve the 2030 Agenda, particularly Sustainable Development Goal 4: "Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong opportunities for all." Ms. Mion Mogushi, WFWPI intern in Korea, shared her thoughts on the closing ceremony of the conference: "After the adoption agreement, most participants raised their hands to accept the new declaration, which made everyone, including myself, feel confident about changing the reality and proud to be part of the future construction of the world. I hope that the declaration that was made by 'our own hands' will be productive and effectively influence future generations. As one of the global citizens, I feel responsible for the future and am determined to make a difference."
For these WFWPI young adults, one of the most notable moments of the conference was the realization that WFWPI is more than just another NGO; it has a unique and powerful voice with insight that is essential to establishing a peaceful world. While much of the world can be seen struggling to bridge the generation gap and resolve differences, WFWPI functions on a level of respect, reconciliation and partnership, across generations and for the betterment of all. As global citizens, the embodiment of these qualities and values is crucial in advancing toward a peaceful future.