Creating a global network of changemakers

BSc in Economics and Finance graduate, Amanda Yeo, reports on sharing experiences at the UNYANET's General Assembly in Romania
BSc in Economics and Finance graduate, Amanda Yeo
"I will involve more Asian youths to take action and develop a better and more sustainable future": Amanda Yeo
Sharing such intercultural experience is an invaluable asset for my future career as I would like to work in an international environment

How it all started
I am a Malaysian from Kota Kinabalu, East Malaysia. I chose to pursue my undergraduate studies overseas at SIM Global Education (SIM GE) in Singapore. I started participating actively in curricular activities only after studying at SIM. I first heard about the United Nations Youth Associations Network (UNYANET) when I read Liyana Othman's sharing of her experience at the UNYANET General Assembly (GA) in Rome in September 2014. I read about her escapade to Italy and the United Kingdom through the SIMConnect student portal. Liyana’s invitation to listen to her experience at UNYANET caught my attention. I was really interested and eventually, answered Liyana's call to be a blog contributor for the UNYANET blog webpage.

Since I was good at writing articles, the PR officer asked me to be their blog editor. It was during the Skype session with the PR officer that I accepted the challenge to help other volunteers edit articles and ensure the quality of the blogs. Somehow, I must have gained attention of the UNYANET board through these efforts.

What is UNYANET?
UNYANET is an international umbrella organisation for the United Nations Youth Associations. It was set up as an association under Art. 60 of the Swiss Civil Code and seated in Geneva.

In August 2011, youth representatives of the national UNYAs (United Nations Youth Associations) from Austria, Finland, Germany, Norway, Romania and Switzerland, as well as representatives of the UNA Youth Sections (United Nations Association Youth Sections) from Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain and Turkey, met at the United Nations Office in Vienna to establish UNYANET, an international network for UN youth associations and sections worldwide.

At the moment, UNYANET has 18 member associations and 2 observers from Europe, Asia, Africa and North America with approximately 20,000 individual members.

"UNYANET provides advice and assistance for young people who are willing to establish a UN Youth Association in their country."

Objectives of UNYANET  
In general, UNYANET aims to strengthen the network through the exchange of knowledge, resources and experiences, to develop a common identity among member associations and represent third parties. The network facilitates cooperation between its member associations, the United Nations and other international organisations, institutions and supporters by providing a common contact point. Furthermore, UNYANET provides advice and assistance for young people who are willing to establish a UN Youth Association in their country.

The network conducts regular online Board and Member’s Meetings as well as an annual General Assembly (GA). Young people from all around the world attend the UNYANET GA every year. It is a unique opportunity for young people and youth representatives to meet and promote the UN's values and principles across the world. UNYANET is run by youths for youth. It helps the participants become changemakers by proposing new projects to make a positive impact in the world.

UNYANET carries out projects through webinars, study trips, flash mobs and online campaigns on occasions such as the UN Day or the International Youth Day. The working groups and volunteers from all around the world work on tasks such as PR, IT and contribute to lively political debate through its blog.

Heading to UNYANET GA
I was invited to the September 2015 UNYANET GA in July. I was in a dilemma because I was not sure how I could fund the visit to Romania and whether I could make time to attend the meetings. After discussing with my parents in the middle of August, I decided to take on this rare opportunity. This sudden decision made my schedule very hectic. Not only did I have to complete my overseas internship, I also had to book my plane tickets, pay the registration fee and plan the itinerary.

My final year University of London examinations ended in Singapore on 29 May. Thereafter, I had to attend business training in Malaysia, a Bayesian Analysis course at the National University of Singapore and complete a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) internship with Cathay Financial Holdings in Taiwan. Having left Taiwan to return to Malaysia on 1 September, I had to rush my packing to head off to Europe on 4 September. I was exhausted!  It was one event after another. 

Amanda Yeo and friends in the NetherlandsAs a Malaysian who studied in Singapore, I felt fortunate to be involved in UNYANET GA this year. It pays to have friends around the world. I travelled to the Netherlands and from there made plans to head out to Bucharest, Romania, to attend the UNYANET GA. I stayed in the Netherlands for three nights and I really like the country! People there are very friendly. 

Amanda Yeo and friendI had to stay at a hostel during the last night in the Netherlands as my friend’s home is a distance from the airport. There, I met two new Taiwanese friends who brought back happy memories of my internship in Taiwan. I also met a new friend over coffee while waiting at Amsterdam airport. It was interesting that we had so many talking points in common.

Overview for UNYANET GA
This is the proof: young people are interested in politics and global affairs. The UNYANET General Assembly 2015 took place in Bucharest, Romania from 10-12 September 2015. Delegates from nine countries were welcomed by UN Youth Romania, who generously hosted the event and introduced the vibrant Romanian culture. The programme alternated between workshops, project development, formal and social events.

Here is an overview of the outcomes:

  • UNYANET welcomed UNYA Kenya as a new member, and appreciated the new partnerships that were established with youth organisations, e.g. from the Gambia.
  • Tjalke Weber (Germany) and Aleksandr Bolotnov (Russia) were elected as Presidency of UNYANET together with several board members.
  • Amanda Yeo (that's me), UNYANET volunteer from Malaysia, held a workshop on the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, during which I gave on overview of the formulation of the Agenda 2030, highlighting youth engagement.
  • Pau Petit, UNYANET representative from Spain, encouraged the delegates to rethink Global Governance. In his workshop, the participants discussed the main challenges of good governance, including child labour, corruption and gender inequality. As a result, the participants launched a campaign to advocate for a youth candidate for the next UN Secretary General.
  • Yasmine Mesloub, PR Officer, led a workshop outlining the Social Media strategy for 2015-2016, focusing on online campaigns for global days.
  • During the project development phase, participants also planned study trips for the next term. Possible destinations include Geneva, Vienna, Brussels and the Balkans.

amanda-yeo-at-unyanetUNYANET welcomed several guest speakers. Anca Agachi, Romanian UN Youth Delegate, joined the UNYANET members as well as a representative from ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

Carlo Gallier from the Centre of Economic Research presented a study on international negotiation behaviour that UNYANET members will contribute to.

The formal part of the GA included an overview of the UNYANET activities in 2014-2015, which had been the most active UNYANET year ever with more than 50 Model United Nations conferences organised by members, two study trips, four webinars, several successful online campaigns and training sessions. UNYANET Presidency and Officers Tjalke Weber, Aleksandr Bolotnov, Marusa Rus, and Tim Wiegmann joined the GA live from New York, Moscow, Paris and Germany.

Besides the workshops, participants of the General Assembly enjoyed a rich social programme, including a Global Village, a visit to the Romanian Parliament, a typical Romanian dinner and dance.

General campaign and action plan after the GA
The mission of this general campaign is to raise awareness about global youth issues, giving the UN a new face and energy. The priorities of the youth candidates are selected after examining the World Programme of Action for Youth, My World 2015 survey and the Global Governance and Youth Workshop organised by the UN Youth Network. The target audience for the campaign are young people from around the world who wish to get involved in the promotion of the Sustainable Development Goals, raising awareness among youth for global action.

There will be a number of high profile guests attending the different events in 15 countries from December 2015 to September 2016.  Promotional materials will be in the six official languages of the UN. The main method of funding will come from sponsorship.

The campaign is run by student leaders, most of whom are from the universities located in the 18 countries where UNYANET is present. The organising committee, together with the advisory board, facilitate the cooperation between Ministries of Foreign Affairs, National Youth Councils, UN Associations and UN Youth and Student Associations for a campaign to support a youth candidate to run for Secretary General for the next UN elections.

There will be an exhibition with students and youth running stalls at universities around the world where UNYANET is present promoting different Sustainable Development Goals and focusing on a different priority areas for global youth awareness each month, e.g. environmental and health stalls. There will also be a conference programme of speakers from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, National Youth Council and UN Youth Association in each of the 15 countries present in the UN Security Council to give insights about the challenges of today’s global governance and discuss solutions. In addition, there will be networking and Q&A sessions where the public can interact with the youth candidate for UN Secretary General.

Amanda Yeo in Romania

UNYANET aims to promote the UN principles and values among youths by facilitating the creation of new spaces of dialogue to bridge the youth with the UN, in view of making a positive impact to today’s society.

My impression during and after UNYANET GA 
Prior to my arrival, I did not know what to expect of Romania. Thankfully, I met other delegates at the student hostel who are now good friends. Although all of them are Europeans, they took good care of me and were always concerned about my stay in Europe. 

The “Global Village” gave me the opportunity to understand the cultures in Romania, Germany, Finland and Spain better.

The project manager and other representatives from United Nations Youth Association (UNYA) Romania were very friendly. I experienced nice Romanian food, night life and culture. 

I was asked by the UNYANET president to conduct the “Post-2015 agenda” workshop. I included the transformation from Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the UN Sustainable Development Summit from 25 to 27 September 2015 on the presentation slides.

"To achieve “Global Goals” I advocated youth involvement and showed them the possible ways to achieve this through a crowdsourcing platform, conference, youth forum and survey."

Amanda Yeo and UNYA represenatives

On the first day of the summit, “Global Goals” which act as the new sustainable development agenda was discussed. To achieve “Global Goals” I advocated youth involvement and showed them the possible ways to achieve this through a crowdsourcing platform, conference, youth forum and survey. I also mentioned the case studies from Germany and Finland in implementing the “Post-2015 agenda”.

I was really nervous before the workshop. The feedback I garnered gave me a great sense of accomplishment as delegates felt that my workshop was interesting. I used videos and slides, enabling them to understand the content of the “Post-2015 agenda” better. The delegate from Spain appreciated my hard work a lot as it formed the foundation for his “Global Governance” workshop the following day. 

His workshop was well-conducted as delegates could identify with the challenges, solutions and how we should communicate the main global issues to the UN-Secretary General. 

Amanda Yeo's workshop presentationHe has asked me to be part of the organising team due to my experience in project management and training. I am quite enthusiastic and will work on a proposal for possible funding options to allow the youth candidates to visit the UN headquarters and possible marketing strategies to increase youth awareness. I am working with delegates from Spain and Germany. This project will last till 1 September 2016 as the campaign includes monthly sessions to address different global issues.

I really enjoyed my time at the UNYANET. Now, I have the ability to work with UNYANET in terms of:

  • facilitation of information among member organisations.
  • sharing best practises.
  • development of common projects and programmes.
  • development and management of contacts towards international partners such as e.g. the United Nations.

Having attended the GA, I now understand Singapore and Malaysia can apply for UNYANET membership. As neither Singapore nor Malaysia are members, I could not vote nor become part of the UNYANET officers. This does not matter at the moment as I can still remain active in working groups like in Public Relations and the current project on getting a “Youth Candidate to the next UN-Secretary General”. I will write articles related to the UN goals and I will involve more Asian youths to take action and develop a better and more sustainable future.

"I am really glad I chose SIM Global Education (SIM GE) to pursue the University of London degree." 

Amanda Yeo and UNYANET colleaguesI am really glad I chose SIM Global Education (SIM GE) to pursue the University of London degree. Without SIM GE, I would not take an active role in the Malaysian Community in SIM (MCSIM) and be a SIM Student Representative. Through the SIM Global Learning department, I have also participated in corporate trips around Asia, a summer school at the University of Cambridge in UK and an overseas internship in Taiwan. Sharing such intercultural experience is an invaluable asset for my future career as I would like to work in an international environment.