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Diplomacy in Action

2011 UNESCO Youth Forum Finalist -- Courtney Ivins

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Bureau of International Organization Affairs
Washington, DC
June 27, 2011



Courtney Ivins

"What is the greatest global challenge facing youth, and how can American youth help to address it?"

The Greatest Challenge Facing Today’s Youth: Building Communities of Consensus

We often hear and use the word “community” without reflecting on its meaning. It is applied to everything from neighborhoods, to interest groups, to online networks, links based on religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, and to nations, nationalities, and the “international community.” But in a world of constant and rapid change, what are the responsibilities these communities demand from our generation?

As historian Eric Hobsbawm observes, we increasingly look for an old ideal of community in the modern world, where we find it increasingly less. We discover communities are no longer tacit or unconscious. They must be built and fostered to grow strong, using tools that are constantly changing.

Yet, while today’s communities look, feel, and form differently than those of our parents and predecessors, their origins remain the same. They are founded on mutual understanding, on shared norms and values. That is the mission behind UNESCO and the Millennium Development Goals, a mission towards which our generation must continue to strive to face the unprecedented challenges we have inherited.

I am committed to studying and pursuing that challenge as a leader in youth issues and international development, with a focus on women, Africa, and Latin America. While at Georgetown, I worked as a public health intern in Lusaka, Zambia, organizing trainings for over 150 HIV/AIDS caregivers on vital signs recognition for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC), while launching Peer Mediation Programs in three community schools, adapting methods from the U.S. public school system. As a student leader, I led a university coalition to promote student awareness and support for the Millennium Development Goals, while serving as a student representative and Committee Chair for Georgetown’s International Development Certificate.

As a U.S. Fulbright Scholar in Brazil, I am now researching the new institutional roles of women in community organizations in favelas, launching workshops for women and girls on English and Information Literacy, and pursuing a Master’s in Cultural Studies, Socio-Environmental Issues, and Sustainable Development at a PUC-University in Rio de Janeiro.

Through these opportunities, as a minority seeking to build and contribute to development projects, I have learned that our generation’s greatest challenge will be to build communities of consensus to support collective action, thriving on diversity without seeking to subordinate, ignore, or absorb it.  I have learned how the politics of identity can sew the seeds of both hatred and understanding. As Americans, we have achieved global leadership in education, science, and communication, yet we continue to struggle to overcome present inequity, and our generation’s greatest challenge: to build international communities of consensus, to articulate our generation’s response to alleviate poverty and wealth disparities, protect human rights, and promote sustainable development.  In my firm commitment to diversity, and these commonly shared values, I wish to represent the United States, as a future public servant, and as a youth delegate at the 2011 Fall UNESCO Youth Forum.

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