• Guiane Paul Pena is a 17-year-old student at Regional Science High School in Zamboanga City, Philippines, who excels in academics, sports and music.
  • Guiane serves as a Youth City Councilor in Zamboanga City, representing youth and proposing solutions to address challenges faced by his community.
  • Guiane joined the 2023 UNITAR Youth Ambassador Asia Pacific Programme, which aims to empower high school students in Asian-Pacific countries.
  • In the UNITAR programme, he won the grand prize for his “Youth Emergency Task Force” initiative to mobilize youth as first responders in disasters.

22 May 2024, Hiroshima, Japan – Witnessing the devastating effects of disasters in his hometown of Zamboanga City, the Philippines, Guiane Paul Pena, a 17-year-old student at Regional Science High School, became determined to help youth respond effectively to such crises. With his country’s vulnerability to a wide range of disasters, including floods, cyclones, droughts, earthquakes, tsunamis and landslides, exacerbated by climate change, Guiane’s efforts to strengthen local resilience, emergency response and preparedness are both timely and crucial.

Guiane represents the voices of youth as a Youth City Councillor of Zamboanga City. In 2023, he joined the UNITAR Youth Ambassador Asia Pacific Programme, where he won the grand prize for his initiative “Youth Emergency Task Force”.


As a shy high school student, Guiane never imagined he would take on a leadership role in helping his community. However, in August 2023, a classmate encouraged him to step outside his comfort zone and apply for the local government’s City Youth Programme. The programme aims to empower youth and give them a voice in municipal planning and development initiatives.

Guiane chose to rise to the challenge. As Youth City Councillor, he proposes resolutions that reflect the perspectives of local youth and advocates for practical measures to address challenges in his city.

An opportunity came to me, so I never hesitated to grab and take advantage of that opportunity. And that gave way for me to do all of the things that I wanted to do.” — Guiane Paul Pena, high school student and UNITAR Youth Ambassador Asia Pacific 2023

After witnessing a classmate’s bicycle accident caused by heavy traffic as well as two fire outbreaks that devastated Zamboanga’s residents and businesses, Guiane proposed two resolutions to the local government: to establish safe bike lanes across the city and to initiate fire safety training with mandatory drills and seminars for local businesses. Both resolutions were approved by the city board and are now set to be implemented.



Guiane’s leadership journey continued as he joined the UNITAR Youth Ambassador Asia Pacific Programme, which aims to empower Asian youth to address global challenges through mentorship and capacity-building.

Through hands-on activities, Guiane gained new skills and knowledge to enhance his initiatives in his community. Overcoming his shyness, he led discussions and collaborated with a diverse group of 32 students from across Asia and the Pacific, who worked together to solve challenges and translate complex global issues into actionable proposals aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Guiane says he learned a lot from mentors and facilitators and was inspired by their stories of overcoming obstacles in pursuit of their dreams.



Guiane started to look for gaps in the local emergency response and came up with the “Youth Emergency Task Force” initiative, which looks to mobilize youth as first responders, equipping them with the skills to assist during calamities. He says his initiative struck a chord with the pitch contest’s judges due to its practicality and cost-effectiveness, making it easy to implement and replicate not only in his hometown but in any city vulnerable to disasters.

I started to think about what is lacking, and what needs to be done in emergency response. And I realized that the youth are usually the ones present when disasters occur, but oftentimes they can’t do anything except record videos.” — Guiane Paul Pena, high school student and UNITAR Youth Ambassador Asia Pacific 2023

He believes that youth can play a more constructive role when disasters strike, rather than just sharing photos or videos. The initiative would run hands-on emergency response training workshops for youth, teaching them vital skills such as first aid, search and rescue, and fire safety. This training would let the youth not only get themselves to safety in a disaster but also help evacuate those around them, particularly people who are less capable of doing so, such as the elderly, injured or very young.

Guiane wants to engage the mayor of his city and other decision-makers from across the Philippines to explore how his initiative can be supported, implemented and sustained. If successful, he hopes the model can be replicated further, first in cities that are most vulnerable to calamities in the Philippines and then extended to other cities across the region. He also dreams of expanding it on a global stage.

Winning the pitch contest was an emotional high point for Guiane, his family and friends, filling him with tears, pride and motivation. It reinforced his belief that youth initiatives can effect real change, fuelling his passion for developing further life-saving projects.

Don’t keep your ideas in your head and wait for someone else to act on them. Be the change, or be the reason for it. Never say ‘I’m only a kid’ because you are the future of the world.” — Guiane Paul Pena, high school student and UNITAR Youth Ambassador Asia Pacific 2023


The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) is a dedicated training arm of the United Nations. In 2022, UNITAR trained over 395,000 learners around the world to support their actions for a better future. In addition to our headquarters in Geneva, we have offices in Hiroshima, New York and Bonn and networks around the world.

The Division for Prosperity is based in the Hiroshima Office and Geneva. We seek to shape an inclusive, sustainable and prosperous world through world-class learning and knowledge-sharing services on entrepreneurship, leadership, finance and trade, digital technologies, and nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. We empower individuals from least-developed countries, countries emerging from conflict and small-island developing states – especially women and young people – to bring about positive change.

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