A Conference With Mexico City’s Youth

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UN delegates, NGO workers, and policy
makers from around the world who
descended on Mexico City to attend the
62nd annual UN Department of Public
Information/Non-Governmental Organizations
(DPI/NGO) Conference. The title
of this year’s conference, “Disarm Now!” aptly illustrated
the sense of urgency that members of the UN associations
feel in promoting peace and development around the
world in pursuit of their Millennium Development Goals.
The three-day conference consisted of various workshops
and roundtable discussions, each with a different focus related
to disarmament and global security. With such a diverse
range of actors working toward a similar goal, a lot of time
was devoted to finding ways to increase dialogue between the
many actors in hopes of creating a more coordinated effort.
The Department of Public Information for the UN stressed
the importance of a mobilized and informed civil society, citing
the ways in which nongovernmental organizations can
form a bridge between the UN and the global community.
In recent years, Mexico’s negative image has been largely
reinforced by international media coverage. From organized
drug cartels to the recent H1N1 outbreak, the common
perception of Mexico is that it is dirty, drug-ridden,
and spiraling out of control. However, the capital is a symbol
of its development, and it is not the same metropolis
that it was ten years ago. Now, with the flu under cobtrol
and the drug cartels kept outside the city, the Conference
gave Mexico City a chance to dispel false perceptions.
This is only the second time that the DPI/NGO Conference
has been held outside UN headquarters in New York
City. The Selection of Mexico is even more suitable given
that Maria Luisa Chavez, director of NGO Relations for the
DPI and chief organizer for the Conference, is a native Mexican.
With a turbulent history of violence and political instability,
Mexico City was given the opportunity to highlight
the progress it has made in the last decade, as well as showcasing
its rich history and culture to the rest of the world.
The youth participants in the Conference were some of the
strongest activists of Mexico City, expressing their support for
their home and shining a bright light on the future of the city.
In addition to youth volunteers, student journalists from various
Mexican Universities and a
group of international student
journalists, worked together to
write a Conference newsletter
at the end of each day. This
highlighted the proceedings
and the lectures, as well as conducting
interviews with important
panelists. The newsletter
was accompanied by social
media coverage on Facebook,
Twitter, and Flickr, all run by
the student journalists.
The Mexican student journalists
were without a doubt
some of the most informed
and motivated students I have
ever met. In working and
conversing with them I got the profound sense that their
unwavering dedication to their home city and international
affairs was going to place them in future leadership positions
in global development. Given Mexico’s history of political
strife, they have grown up in an environment which
constantly forces them to remain aware of the struggles, and
hazards, that await them. Having seen first hand the problems
that face their generation in the new century, it appears
they are unflinchingly dedicated to solving them.
The UN officials present made a point to emphasize the
importance of the students’ role at the Conference, and Secretary
General Ban Ki-Moon made a particularly powerful
gesture. As a gift, the Mexican volunteers prepared for the
Secretary General a sculpture of the Conference logo, a green
plant sprouting from a grenade in shambles. The sculpture
was then presented at the Museo de Arte Moderno, where
the Secretary General, along with the students, applied the
final piece to the structure. Spectators applauded and
snapped pictures as they
raised the last missing leaf
and fastened it to the plant,
which Mr. Ban Ki-Moon then
marked with his signature.
He concluded by offering his
own gratitude for their participation,
while stressing the
importance of civic engagement
both on campuses and
in the community.
”Global development”, the
phrase frequently used during
the Conference workshops,
is such a broadly
encompassing concept that
when said out of context it
bears little value. However, as
the panelists and UN delegates described, development is
about the limitless work towards progress. An educated and
motivated youth is the strongest arm the global community
has in building a more stable, secure world. The Conference
in Mexico City exemplified this, channeling the voices of students,
diplomats, and leaders of civil society into one forum
for discussion. The result was a declaration that seeks to build
a more solid foundation for the future, and makes a gesture
that a united network of youth activism is the best way to
achieve this.

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