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Present generation is becoming globally interconnected.

Present generation is becoming globally interconnected.

Photographer:Fotograaf: Archief Observant

Message from the UN

It is the end result of having been Dutch youth representative for the United Nations: addressing the entire UN. UCM student Dirk Janssen was able to do this on 4 October, exactly one year after he was chosen as youth representative.

“I was not really nervous. I liked it very much and I wanted to say what I had to say. My aim was to present a new argument as to why youths are important and politicians should start acting. All the young people with whom I spoke in the past year and recent events such as the Arab Spring led me to do so.”
Janssen referred to the present generation of youths as the first generation “that is globally interconnected. As a result of study, exchanges and social media. This makes them feel more personally connected with what is going on in for example Ghana or Thailand, when they have friends there.” He also feels that because of this they will take their responsibility with regard to each other and the world and mobilize each other better. “They for example become aware of the fact that the jumper they buy here was made by another person in Asia, not just a machine, and that this implies responsibility.” His message for the UN is to make sure not to miss the boat. “Most importantly: youth wants to participate. The UN and similar organisations are sluggish systems. For youth, and stakeholders generally, they should be more open for participation in decision making and implementation.”

Janssen himself feels that positive change lies more in what he refers to as movements. Initiatives from the people, but well organised. “Citizens, NGOs and social entrepreneurs force politicians to make changes. A kind of combination between Amnesty International, a social business such as the Grameen Bank (known for microcredit) and the Arab Spring.” Something that he might even do himself in the future. “I will follow my gut feeling, I do not want to commit to anything yet, but I think it will be something along those lines.”
Back to New York, where the speech was well received. “I had learned it off by heart, which people noticed. They sat up and looked more alert. I exceeded the allocated time by 1 minute and 40 seconds. Normally a speaker is cut short immediately, but the chairman allowed me to continue. That was a huge compliment. Afterwards I was given calling cards from various countries, that I later especially used to speak about more participation from youth in developing countries.”

Back in the Netherlands, after four weeks of lobbying for the UN youth resolution in New York, he is back studying again. His second year as youth representative consists mainly of advising and supervising the new representative. “It takes some getting used to. I have been very much hands-on and now I find myself back in a tutorial group talking about the theory.”

Janssen looks back on an extraordinary year. “It was very turbulent, I was able to do quite a lot for youth, set up various initiatives and share youth’s concerns and ideas with influential people as Ban Ki Moon and the Foreign Affairs minister.” He emphasises how very grateful he is to the people who voted for him last year. “I experienced so many wonderful things, I think it is only now starting to sink in.”

 

Cleo Freriks

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