The United Nations Day is held annually on October 24 to celebrate the ratification of the UN Charter, as well as to reflect upon the founding purpose of the United Nations. It also represents a day to reflect on the years of unrest following the end of World War II, and how the UN was founded as an intergovernmental organization to maintain global peace and security.
However, while the UN continues to pursue its founding purpose to end the scourge of war, there is always the risk of losing this progress without the presence of intergenerational cooperation and new perspectives and ideas.
In order to commemorate the 76th Anniversary of when the UN Charter went into force and to reinvigorate the UN’s founding spirit centered upon uniting under the banner of peace, Women’s Federation for World Peace International (WFWPI) and the International Association of Youth and Students for Peace (IAYSP) organized a Virtual Forum on the topic of “The UN Dream: Intergenerational Cooperation and our Journey to Peace,” on Friday, October 22, 2021. The forum was co-sponsored by the Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations in New York.
This forum was created to bring together representatives from the elder and younger generations, where inspiration and wisdom can be exchanged, as challenges and hopes are discussed in the UN’s dream for peace. It was our great hope that this forum can provide an embracing platform where people can feel optimism for the future and once again, find hope in and strive together towards achieving the “The UN Dream.”
“The UN Dream” Event was translated in Korean, French, Spanish and Russian, engaging with over 500 viewers worldwide, in 25 countries across six continents, with 249 registrations, 106 attendees and 430 views on Youtube, at the time this article was written.
In the Opening Remarks, H.E. Enrique A. Manalo, Permanent Representative of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations, highlighted the importance of instilling conflict resolution and peace-orientated values among the youth. Ambassador Manalo delineated how the youth are agents of change and engaging them is critical to inclusive nation-building. He continued to affirm the youth by saying “young people have unique skills and perspectives that can inform and benefit peace negotiations.” The Philippines government is currently aiming to pursue a strategy to optimize youth participation in peace processes, while also making certain to fully support all relevant security council resolutions, which aim to actively engage young people to participate meaningfully in peace processes and conflict resolution.
Next, Dr. Rima Salah, Former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, delivered an empowering Keynote Address on the transformative potential intergenerational cooperation can have on world peace. Dr. Salah began by sharing how her motivation for building a world of peace was largely shaped by her childhood as a refugee. She emphasized the role each individual plays in this effort for peace, saying “it is the strength of our partnership, adults and youth that will shape the pace and direction of the progress we make so that the UN delivers on the goals and values of the Charter. It is our shared responsibility. The time is now.”
Ms. Tarina Ahuja, Co-founder and President of the Greater Good Initiative, was the second Keynote Speaker. Ms. Ahuja spoke on the importance of building an exclusive world of peace and justice, ensuring to subdue the barriers that restrict the youth, as well as the importance of building a world of empathy to further achieve the UN dream. Her vibrant energy embodied the Sikh phrase she shared with the audience, “Chardi Kala,” which translates to “eternal optimism.” Ms. Ahuja shared how it is critical that in this time, “we hold onto another, care for another with sincerity, joining hands in our collective liberation.”
The keynote speakers and representatives of the co-sponsoring organizations: Dr. Rima Salah; Ms. Tarina Ahuja; Ms. Katarina Connery, Vice President of WFWP USA; and Mr. Miilhan Stephens, President of Youth and Students for Peace USA, then lead a very engaging and heartfelt discussion under the guidance of fundamental questions such as: “Do you believe the UN is on track in fulfilling the UN Dream?”, “What do you admire about young leaders today? What do you admire about the more seasoned leaders?”, “Have you experienced or seen an example of successful intergenerational cooperation?” and “What will it take for the UN to realize its fullest potential?”
The panel discussion was guided by the free-flowing synergy that was evident throughout, in which the panelists embraced the perspectives of one another so openly.
When asked what the elder generation admires about the younger generation, Dr. Salah was quick to praise the younger generation for their eagerness to learn and their readiness to help for a cause that is greater than themselves. She shared that young people’s energy is what had constantly ignited her spark at the UN for the past 40 years. Dr. Salah showed her full support for youth representation on higher levels of decision-making at the UN.
Ms. Ahuja, in response, shared passionately about what she admired about the more seasoned leaders, which was their willingness to mentor young people by saying “let me show you the way and amplify you.” She also highlighted the fact that young people’s ideas need to be listened to and taken into account when making decisions that impact all.
Ms. Connery, representing WFWP, shared her own valuable experience of intergenerational cooperation in the workplace by stating the importance of how as the younger generation, we must first have the heart “to listen and inherit,” only then can the elder generation entrust the new generation with the responsibility. This mindset of giving first rather than expecting to receive was a breath of fresh air.
Mr. Stephens, representing IAYSP, made an important point about how the youth have the burning passion and energy to make a change but are often “not yet equipped” with the education to know how. He shared admirably about wanting to inherit the elder generation’s loyalty to one cause, to which they have committed their lives to.
These deliberations were a beautiful exchange of ideas and experiences and provided substantial guidance as to the future of the UN, the future of generations to come, as well as what our role can be as individuals to contribute to peace and justice.
Lastly, Closing Remarks were made by Ms. Merly Barlaan, further highlighting the importance of the original founding principles of the UN and intergenerational cooperation. She spoke of WFWP’s mission in envisioning a world of peace “where women lead with a feminine leadership paradigm invoking the feminine maternal instincts of love, virtue, nurturance, wellbeing, cooperation and education.” Ms. Barlaan concluded the event, with the notion that the “UN Dream” can only be achieved when member-states live together and treat each other in solidarity as one global family, quoting the Preamble of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: “A family ‘leaves no one behind,’ seeking ‘universal peace in larger freedom (A/RES/70/1).’”
The UN Dream: Intergenerational Cooperation and our Journey to Peace,” was a critical example of intergenerational trust and partnership, as both the younger and elder generation contributed their wisdom, experiences and optimism for the betterment of humanity.
The event received an overwhelmingly positive response from the audience. Listed are some of the responses.
“I’d like to congratulate you all on such an inspiring, visionary and hopeful forum you’ve organized. Each panelist was amazing with their opinions, views and vision in pursuit of peace. Watching the forum and observing young people’s perspectives gave me great hope for the future. They are the ones that are and will shape a brighter, more peaceful and friendlier world for all. Best wishes and a bright future ahead, WFWPI UN Office.”
“Thank you for inviting me to this very important webinar. I am grateful. A very inspiring, educational webinar. I appreciate this initiative. The collaboration between the younger generation and the older generation is very wonderful. One has the experience and the other the strength and energy. The young will be able to inherit the experiences of the older generation. A diverse view is always beneficial for all.”
“Very inspiring to see cooperation between the wisdom and experience of the elder generation and the passion, energy, and creativity of the younger generation.”
“Thank you for the sharings speakers, listening and reflecting your diverse experiences, gained much ourselves to learn and be learned.”
“Young people keep showing up, speaking out, practice patience the world /universe is waiting to EMBRACE you. You are the Future.”
“This is an awesome panel with an exceptional range of thought, I love the openness and respect of each person’s point of view.”
The recording of the event is available at: https://bit.ly/watchundream