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Diplomacy in Action

2011 UNESCO Youth Forum Finalist -- Noelle Little

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



Noelle Little

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

The social media revolution has been a prominently used phrase among many journalists and news sources these past few months. Today, the world’s youth is a generation of bloggers, tweeters and Facebook users; they are intelligent navigators of the Internet world. Recently in the Middle East, the educated youth have harnessed the powers of social media to organize revolutions against corrupt regimes. In efforts to maintain power and manipulate the media, many of these Middle Eastern governments have blocked access to the Internet and specific social media websites. Even certain nations which are not yet experiencing protests and demonstrations, such as China and Saudi Arabia, have begun to limit Internet access out of fear.  Internet freedom is one of the greatest global challenges facing the youth today. Many young people use the Internet to create unity among their peers, advocate democratic reform and organize demonstrations. Unfortunately, in particular nations the youth faces the loss of Internet access and government persecution as they struggle to advocate reform.

Internet freedom is one of the foremost issues in which the U.S. Department of State works towards securing globally. Alec Ross, Senior Advisor for Innovation under Hillary Clinton, recently stated in an NPR broadcast that although there are difficulties in defining Internet access as a human right, the Internet does provide a place in which fundamental human values, such as Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Association and Freedom of Assembly, manifest themselves.  In the recent Middle East, specifically Tunisia and Egypt, the people-based revolutions succeeded because of the power of the Internet. It was through social media websites that the youth expressed their unhappiness with the government and came together to organize protests and demonstrations at rapid speeds. Even as the revolutions were underway and the governments struggled to block Internet access, they were no match for the youth who found ways to navigate around blocked sites. Videos and photos taken of the protests and the brutality of the government spread like wildfire and were picked up by news sources such as the BBC.  Because of the power of the internet, news of the movement spread rapidly and the youth became the journalists.

From these current examples, it is apparent the role the Internet can play in fighting against injustice. The Internet provided the momentum the youth needed to organize a revolution and advocate for democratic change. While the youth of American can not control whether or not these authoritarian governments block access to the internet, they can still demonstrate the power of the social media. They can to exhibit it’s power by continuing to reach out globally, post and repost videos, tweets and status updates of those individuals whose voice has been silenced. Social media allows our voices to be louder then ever.

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