Five years ago I was just another student in Romania. Today I'm living my dream, being in New York, and working for the Permanent Mission of Romania at the world's most well known international organization -- the United Nations. I still get goose bumps when I think back to my first day walking inside the Security Council where the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, was present.
I have to admit that a big part of getting this opportunity to work at the United Nations was the fact that I was lucky enough to be born in a developed European country, where I was able to study, travel, and work abroad. Nevertheless, besides hard work and determination, what helped turn my dream into a reality was knowing that my success was not only a consequence of my own work, but also being surrounded by other individuals that were working together toward a common goal. After less than six months of working in New York, I built a strong network of like-minded young professionals, all working towards an overarching goal that many 'millennials' have -- to make the world a better and a more sustainable one, while getting our voices heard loud and clear.
The stars aligned when I had the opportunity to be in the same room with more than 1,000 young international delegates who came from all over the globe for the Annual Youth Assembly at the UN. It was that 'aha' moment, when the emblematic UN General Assembly was taken over by determined young people, all with inspirational stories and concrete examples of how they made a positive impact in their own communities. You could feel the energy of the room and see the eagerness and determination to learn how youth could become involved, create sustainable relations and do much more -- for our predecessors, for the next generation and for our planet.
The Secretary General, UN ambassadors and leaders from different sectors were telling us to get out our comfort zones and get involved. It was the first time in months when I was participating in a UN meeting and not feeling like I was only there to listen and take notes, but actually contributing, and that my peers were the main focus of the discussion. I realized then that the statistics were real and that we, the youth, make up nearly half (48%) of the world's population, and in less than 10 years we will account for almost 75% of the global workforce. The Secretary General's words, "The time for action is now!" held significant meaning for me as it signaled that it was time for us to start working together and empowering one another towards creating a better world for future generations.
Six months later I am now part of the team that organizes the Annual Youth Assembly. This conference focuses primarily on youth employment and social entrepreneurship. While we're faced with the unfortunate news that a large part of today's youth are either unemployed, or have no access to education and training, there is hope in that today's social entrepreneurs are working on creating solutions to these challenges. This new trend of social entrepreneurship appears to be a sort of counterbalance that shapes fortune out of misfortune.
On one hand, youth unemployment is pandemic and represents one of the biggest global challenges of our time as it affects not only the present, but also the future. Being unemployed, with no adequate means of self-sustenance, results in a web of interconnected issues creating a generation of failed youth and jeopardizing the future of our planet.
On the other hand, there are the young social entrepreneurs developing smart, new business models every single day and converting obstacles into opportunities to address these stringent issues in a sustainable and visionary way. Given these two parallel realities, one could stop and ask: has the 'rich and poor' gap transformed into one between unemployed youth and young entrepreneurs? And if so, how can we bridge the gap and transform it in a problem-solution narrative? The power of a social entrepreneur's work lies in the ability of the solution, ideas and insights to spread. Success, therefore, means a system or pattern change in which the public and private sectors see value in the creative and entrepreneurial approaches and help restructure the system to incorporate these solutions.
The Youth Assembly at the United Nations (February 5th-6th, 2014) is a unique platform created to foster dialogue and generate partnerships between exceptional youth, UN officials and staff, as well as leaders from the private and the public sector. By creating a powerful cross-sector and cross-national network among the next generation of leaders, the Youth Assembly seeks to put together the facts, the energy and the action in order to discover new ways of working together and making a real difference in areas such as youth unemployment.
Our next youth bloggers will explore such challenges further and come up with fresh ways of approaching youth employment and maximize the potential of the new trend in social entrepreneurship. Their examples and good practices should be a call to action for all of us!