"Pay it forward!" was the name of the blog post that, in November 2011, brought me as a guest on the most watched news show in Romania, in prime time, and on the front page of one of the most read newspapers in my home country. The online version of the article was read by more than 30,000 people, had 2000 shares on Facebook, and generated more than 100 comments. I received more than 500 Facebook friend requests in the first 2 days after the article was published in the newspaper, requests for interviews for several months, and hundreds of emails/ FB messages.
And only one month before the interview was published, I was just a normal student with a very young blog. My voice was now being amplified by media all over the country and beyond its borders: I had a message and people were paying attention.
My message was simple: every contribution, no matter how small, makes a difference as it adds up to others. The goal was to help save the life of a very young, talented doctor, who was the same age I was and was dying of cancer. It was a classic humanitarian message, like the ones that I come across almost every day on blogs from all over the globe and other social media networks.
However, the classic humanitarian message caught fire and exploded in media fireworks. How did that happen? What empowered me, a normal student, to take a public stance toward a humanitarian cause? As it all started with a simple blog post on a personal blog, I believe that my success had three key elements: creativity, courage and ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) -- something that we, the "Millennials", the "Digital Natives," abundantly have. Both the United Nations and the private sector seem to strongly believe that. And now, more than ever before, they are paying attention to us.
In the Opening of the Annual Youth Assembly at the United Nations this August, H. E. Ambassador Simona Miculescu, the Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations, advised the 1000 youth delegates gathered in the General Assembly Hall: "Your main asset should be and is creativity. You must develop and use the skill of creativity as the world progresses towards a new age; it will aid you in global problem-solving and daily living."
H. E. Ambassador Desra Percaya, the Permanent Representative of Indonesia at the United Nations insightfully observed that "Youth have the courage and idealism to be at the forefront of change," while Ambassador Josephine Ojiambo, Former Permanent Representative of Kenya to the United Nations, asked us "Please use the ICTs to get on the board of the post 2015 agenda!" At a high-level private conference on marketing organized by the Columbia Business School, a Senior Marketing Executive of an important company told the participants: "If I want to discover the best way to develop successful products for the future, I look at my 10 year old grandson and at how he uses technology, as he is the future."
And it is good that we have these skills because we need them: 200 million youth live on less than $1 a day, 130 million are illiterate, and 88 million young people are unemployed. Having reached 1.8 billion, we now comprise almost 25% of the world population. However, young people occupy less than 2% of the publicly-elected positions at the global level and most of the youth organizations are not able to fulfill the criteria that the United Nations requires in order to grant them consultative status, which would allow them to bring their contribution to the policy-making processes that shape their future.
We are resourceful, but not empowered.
By developing the World Programme of Action for Youth, the United Nations is trying to address these problems. From September 18th - 20th, the UN Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development hosted the first open meeting with youth-led organizations and networks. Over 100 representatives of these organizations and networks gathered to learn about the progress made so far on the System-Wide Action Plan for Youth, which is the UN system's plan of action for working with and for young people. The UN Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, urged the youth leaders to focus on coordinating their efforts and unifying their voices so that he could amplify them within the United Nations.
Inspired by his advice, we decided to create the "Youth Assembly at the United Nations" Ambassadors series, to empower exceptional young people to join their voices and to amplify them by sending their message to the world. By bringing together their successful stories, we aim to create a platform that will enable readers to get the knowledge and inspiration necessary to take responsibility and action towards creating a better future for themselves and for those around them.
Each of their contribution and of your contribution is important as it adds up to the others and brings us closer to building a more sustainable future for the world that we inhabit. We have the creativity, the courage and the technology to do that. Sharing the knowledge is vital as knowledge is empowerment, so Share it Forward!