Why AIESEC and The United Nations Are Working Together

As young people, we have the incredible opportunity to shape the future and influence a world we want this year. To get there, we must understand what’s already happening that will shape our future. 2015 is an important year. Why? 2015 is a year where the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) will be adopted by the United Nations, governments of the world, and act as a set of commitments that will define the next 15 years of global development.

Youth is a major priority for the United Nations. We need to realize that unless we take it in our hands nothing will change. It is on us to push leaders across governments to businesses to include young people in the decision-making process and to participate in creating a society that meets the needs of young people — 1.8 billion of us.

UN Youth Envoy

The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon said recently, “My Youth Envoy, Ahmad Alhendawi, says that young people drive change, but they are not in the driver’s seat. I agree – and I call for giving them the “licence” to steer our future.”

The history behind young people as a priority is guided by the World Program for Action for Youth (WPAY), a landmark agreement that was adopted by the United nations General Assembly in 1995 to provide a policy framework and practical guidelines for national actions and international support to improve the situation of young people worldwide. It covers fifteen youth priority areas and contains proposals for action in each of these areas.

To make this a success and push for further investments in youth and the implementation of WPAY, requires young people to actively participate in the decision-making and advocacy to help make the goals a reality.

This is where you, I, AIESEC and young people come into the picture.

In May, AIESEC is partnering with the Office of the United Nations Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth to bring your voices into the conversation for the #YouthNow campaign month of advocacy. #YouthNow is a global digital and in-person campaign launched by the Secretary-General of the United Nations to elevate conversations around investment in youth development. We firmly believe that young people need to be at the center of the global development process. That means including your opinions in the discussion through initiatives like the global YouthSpeak Survey that seek to understand what the challenges young people face across the education to employment journey, raising awareness on the youth opinion, and how the SDG’s fit into your everyday life and shape the world around you. Every voice and every opinion counts.

YouthSpeak Selfies

Engaging young people with world issues is at the core of what we do, and at the beginning of the year 2014 we wanted to ensure that young people are informed and aware of what happens in decision-making spaces like the United Nations — aligning  what we do with what the world needs.

We believe that it is our role as young people to take some of these issues and lead the change we want to see — that’s why we want to hear from you and engage with you for the #YouthNow campaign.

It’s been 20 years since the WPAY was launched. The #YouthNow Campaign aims to leverage social engagement coinciding with the High-Level Event of the President of the General Assembly marking the 20th Anniversary of the World Programme of Action for Youth on May 29, 2015 to reinforce and raise awareness of the importance of youth engagement in these issues, and to advocate for additional investments made by Member States for youth development.

YouthSpeak aims to enable young people to speak their opinions directly on issues that are affecting young people today. We are proud to partner with the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth to take your voices and those of youth around the world to the United Nations and to Member States for #YouthNow.

We see a very clear link between both movements–therefore we decided to use the YouthSpeak platform to make #YouthNow be heard.

 

Previously published on AIESEC international’s blog in May 2015 as “Why AIESEC and The United Nations Are Working Together”.  Fill the survey and let your voice be heard on youthspeak.aiesec.org.

Malala ’s Nobel Peace Prize

More or less seventeen years ago, in Mingora, the largest city in the Pakistani district of Swat, a baby girl was born. The date was precisely July 12th and she was welcomed by her family with great love and joy. It is interesting to imagine, so many years afterwards, that the whole world would hold the same sentiments towards this girl, perhaps also with an additional touch of hope and pride.

Malala Yousafzai has earned the admiration of many people around the globe as a result of her actions and the way she has conducted her life towards one objective, and one objective only, since she was born: “my mission is to help people”, she said once during an interview with BBC. This goal–her life goal–has remained steadfast and the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize she received on October 10th proves this better than anything else.

Get to know Malala

Malala may be a schoolgirl, but she was never little. Or at least, not in the childish sense of the word. Growing up in a family where education has always been praised, Malala values the importance of learning, and this has not changed even with the political instability in her country. In particular, the Taliban is known for its violent activity in the Middle East and also for their extreme interpretation of Islam, which they use to validate their own operations. As a matter of fact, a number of the group’s arbitrarily cruel actions are related to the oppression of women.

When Malala first heard that she was not allowed to attend school because she was a girl, she could have just looked down and obeyed, as so many other girls did. At first glance, her calm face and peaceful eyes may demonstrate that she is more likely to remain quiet than express her own ideas out loud. However, for Malala (and, to be honest, to me and a good deal of other people I know as well), the idea of keeping women in the shadows simply did not make sense.  How could girls not be allowed to go to school? Unfortunately  for the Taliban, school was exactly where Malala wanted to be, and she decided to spread her will to the world.

I am Malala

At the age of eleven, Malala wrote a blog for the BBC about her day-to-day life under the Taliban occupation and her subsequent desire for things to change. As she spoke for herself, Malala was also speaking up for a generation of young girls and women who are prevented every day from entering into an education institution due to the simple fact that they are female. “All I want is education”, she cried, and thousands around the world stepped forward to support this statement.

Sadly, in October 9th of 2012, Malala’s voice was almost shut down. After hearing someone call her name, she became the victim of a murder attempt. One of three bullets hit Malala and for some time the world wondered, concerned, if this little girl of big actions would become just another addition to the sad statistics.  Meanwhile, while Malala was fighting for her life, different people and organizations everywhere used the tragedy as a turning point to further the fight for women’s rights and increase opportunities for equal education.

One of the most significant instances of this was the UN petition signed by Gordon Brown, United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, which urged that every child in the world should be in school by the end of 2015. The petition used the slogan “I am Malala”, which reached all corners of the globe, and had a huge influence in the ratification of the first Right to Education Bill in Pakistan.

Malala’s legacy

Perhaps all of these positive reactions had something to do with Malala’s recovery. In 2013, she celebrated her birthday, perfectly well, by giving a speech at the UN Headquarters. Her words requested universal access to education and demonstrated that bullets will never be able to stop the struggle for a better world.

“I am very thankful that people in Pakistan and people around the world on the next day [of the shooting] raised up their voices; they spoke for their rights. Malala was only hurt in Pakistan, but now she was hurt in every corner of the world”, she said in an interview for BBC, only one year after the attempt on her life.

Some time later, the Nobel Prize committee announced that the recipient of the Peace Award of this year had a familiar name. Together with Kailash Satyarthi, an Indian activist who works for children’s rights, Malala is sharing the $1.1 million prize and the honour and prestige of the world’s most famous distinction. The nomination states that both deserve the recognition “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education”.

These fancy words do justice to the beautiful actions of this seventeen year old, who is the youngest Nobel prize winner in history. In the battle for equal education opportunity, Malala is clearly unafraid of being in the vanguard. Today, AIESEC congratulates Malala and wonders about the future: what else she will do, and for the first time? Personally, I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Entrepreneurial leadership

“Since its inception, IE Business School has embraced the entrepreneurial spirit as a core value, and is now an international reference in the field of entrepreneurship” (entrepreneurship.ie.edu). What AIESEC and IE Business School have in common is the commitment towards developing young leaders and entrepreneurs who are not afraid of change and challenging the status quo. And why entrepreneurial  leadership?

Ownership, pro-activeness and taking responsibility

Entrepreneurship goes hand in hand with concepts such as ownership and leadership.
Ownership implies knowing who you are, taking responsibility and owning up to your own actions. Mr. Balvinder Singh Powar, an Associate Professor at IE Business School, believes in the power of self empowerment and pro-activeness in achieving your goals. He invites people to start from themselves and “Be the change you want to see in the world.” (Gandhi)

Taking responsibility for your decisions and actions is hard enough, but taking responsibility for something more than yourself – for other people, a project, vision or a dream is a true challenge. “Pressure makes diamonds” and great leaders often emerge when success or failure depends on what they (don’t) do. Entrepreneurial leaders focus on putting their personal and professional experience, leadership skills and values to practice.

Team management and motivation

People are those who drive change and leaders are those who inspire people to take action. That is why it’s important for entrepreneurs and leaders to be people-oriented and possess communication, motivation and mediation skills. When the growth of each team member is your responsibility, knowing how to listen, support and show empathy makes a difference.

Also, recognizing people’s interests and abilities and being able to develop them, sometimes distinguishes a good leader from a great one. When you “listen” to people’s affinities and allow them to fully participate, they feel included; they step up wishing to meet the expectations and exceed them; they put in effort and make a statement. The project you are working on is no longer yours, his or hers.

It is shared achievement.

Team management and motivation are crucial for entrepreneurial leaders because the cornerstone of a successful enterprise is building strong and effective teams.

Innovation and change management

The answer to this is simple – “…to meet the challenges of each new age means discarding old, sometimes well-loved methods” (Kazuo Ishiguro). In order to keep up with the swift pace of changes in the world, we need forward, creative thinking and innovative ideas. The man would have never landed on the moon had he not taken risks and fostered innovative thinking. Investopedia.com says that “The entrepreneur is commonly seen as a business leader and innovator of new ideas and business processes.” Entrepreneurs don’t chase opportunities, they create them.

Since we have answered the question: Why entrepreneurial leadership, let us wonder for a moment – Why do we need entrepreneurial leaders?

Because the sky is no longer the limit. Boundaries are being pushed every day, breakthroughs are more common than ever and still, challenges emerge with each day. We need innovation and forward thinking, embodied in entrepreneurial leadership, in order to keep moving forward.

At Youth to Business Forum Top Leaders Edition Mr. Balvinder Singh Powar, an Associate Professor at IE Business School held a workshop Leadership Journeys: Be the Change, Dream Big – From Moon Landing To Commercial Space. Stay tuned for the output of the Forum!