14 December 2020, New York, USA (Virtual) – The United Nations Institute for Training and Research New York Office successfully launched the first day of a three-day virtual seminar with its event partners, the Permanent Mission of the State of Qatar to the United Nations and Generation Amazing. Generation Amazing is an organization geared toward youth that uses football to encourage sustainable development, specifically through the principles of gender equality, inclusivity, teamwork and leadership, ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Doha. This seminar was designed by UNITAR for Generation Amazing’s Youth Advocates, who are a group of young Qataris and non-Qatari residents living and studying in Doha. The first day of the three sessions of the seminar was attended by 15 Young Leaders and will continue through 16 December 2020.
The session began with welcome remarks and introductions. Mr. Marco Suazo, Head of Office of UNITAR NYO, opened the session by welcoming the Youth Advocates. He provided a brief overview of the seminar’s three days and illuminated the importance of the topics to be covered. Mr. Suazo then introduced the next speaker, H.E. Ms. Alya Ahmed bin Saif Al-Thani, Permanent Representative of Qatar to the UN and Co-Chair of the UN Group of Friends of Sport for Development and Peace. Amb. Al-Thani spoke about the importance of a FIFA World Cup in the Arab World for inclusivity, as well as how Qatar is harnessing the power of football for development. She further explained her role in the UN Group of Friends of Sport and the adopted resolutions that consider sports an enabler of development.
Ambassador Al-Thani thanked the Youth Advocates and introduced her fellow Co-Chair of the UN Group, H.E. Ms. Isabelle Picco, Permanent Representative of the Principality of Monaco to the UN. Amb. Picco echoed Ambassador Al-Thani’s sentiments on the progress made on sustainable development thanks to sports. She explained that sports serve to unite people from around the world, and further that young people have a particular responsibility to broadcast messages of sustainable development to youth everywhere.
Remarks via video message were then given by H.E. Mr. Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Leadership, which is charged with preparing implementation of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Amb. Al Thawadi emphasized the role that young people will play in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. He ensured that this seminar would provide the Youth Advocates with tools to make a difference in their own communities, which will eventually translate to making a difference in the world.
The final introductory remarks were given by Mr. John Barnes, football legend and one of Generation Amazing’s Football Ambassadors. Mr. Barnes played for Liverpool FC and Newcastle United FC in England. He highlighted the passion and integrity with which Qatar is preparing for the World Cup, and further explained the work that Qatar has done in ensuring the sustainable legacy of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Mr. Barnes believes the legacy will have worldwide impacts and encourage increased opportunities for sustainable development.
Mr. Marco Suazo thanked the speakers for their introductory remarks, and then introduced the next speaker for a dialogue on strengthening youth engagement with SDGs. Ms. Daniela Bas, Director at UNDESA’s Division for Inclusive Social Development, began by explaining the climate crisis that necessitated the development of the 17 SDGs. Ms. Bas touched on the pandemic effect, which she believes further calls for the building of a sustainable world. She appreciated sports for their impact on all SDGs, but specifically how they can help alleviate poverty, promote gender equality, provide employment opportunities and lessen inequality. Ms. Bas explained how sports raise awareness of values in children and acknowledged the opportunity this creates to educate youth on the importance of sustainability, inclusivity and multilateralism. In conclusion, Ms. Bas stressed that achievement of the SDGs will not occur without the full participation of youth.
The next speaker, Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake, appeared via video message. Ms. Wickramanayake is the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth. She works to bring the UN closer to young people so as to ensure they have the opportunity to achieve their potential. Ms. Wickramanayake spoke about young people as agents of change, as they are among the most resilient and adaptive individuals in the world. On COVID-19, she highlighted the display of young people coming together for a larger goal (in this case, public health), further demonstrating the value young people provide in improving society for all. Ms. Wickramanayake concluded by urging the Youth Advocates to engage with youth around the world on these issues.
The following segment of the seminar included a Q&A discussion with Young Leaders on Sustainable Development Goals. Ms. Tania Rosas founded El Origen Foundation, which is an indigenous-first model that provides at-risk youth with a second chance at education and works to close the illiteracy gap. She also launched O-Lab, a learning app adapted for indigenous students who have the lowest education levels worldwide.
Mr. Udit Singhal founded Glass2Sand, an environment-friendly zero waste ecosystem that addresses the growing menace of glass waste. During the Q&A discussion, the Youth Advocates inquired about many things, including the power of technology in achieving the SDGs, as well as challenges the young leaders have faced in implementation of their projects. Following the Q&A, Mr. Marco Suazo closed the seminar by thanking the speakers and the Youth Advocates for their participation. The seminar will continue its three sessions on 15 December with a more extensive session on sports and SDGs and conclude on 16 December with an interactive workshop on leadership and negotiation skills.