Skip to main content

By January 29, 2013Blog

As I’ve gone through university, and later worked in the UN, for NGOs and for government, I have realized that too often the institutions responsible for promoting human progression seem to create an artificial and worrying chasm between intellect and feeling. Yet humans cannot create real change if we do not let things touch us personally. As Winston Churchill put it, “Before you can inspire with emotion, you must be swamped with it yourself. Before you can move their tears, your own must flow. To convince them, you must yourself believe.”

I wanted to ensure that when I was at the UN I would remember to let myself feel and to believe, and would inspire others to do the same. I think this is the main role of a youth delegate – to tug at the red tape and remind everyone what they came here to do in the first place.

The main reason I am writing is to share a story that came from the conference.

At the conference, you may remember a young woman named Aja-Monet Bacquie, who performed a very moving poem. I was very affected by her performance and afterwards got to know her a bit and discovered recordings on the internet of more of her work.

Each year, the UN Youth Delegates host an event at the UN. This year I was the coordinator. Typically there are ambassadorial statements, then a discussion between people from various NGOs and UN agencies about youth participation. We had something along these lines this year, though tried to make it bolder and more interactive.

Then I introduced Aja. She spoke better than any of the VIPs we had along in my opinion. She noted the fact that poverty and Millenium Development Goals aren’t just about the economy, they aren’t just about finding more funding, they’re also about communication – poverty is more than a lack of resources, it is a lack of control, of dignity. She painted a picture of the reality that had become abstracted in discussions of ‘platforms’ and ‘targets’ and ‘lobbying’. Then she performed a very courageous, powerful poem she had written about youth At UN side-events, this kind of speaker and performance is very rare. I wasn’t sure how people would respond, but I wanted Aja there to shake things up, to make our event different.

The event was yesterday and Aja was amazing. All afternoon I was flooded with emails from UN Missions – from ambassadors, national politicians, diplomats, directors of various agencies and others, and they all mentioned Aja. Perhaps more importantly, many of the young people in attendance have written to me telling me they feel re-energized. One UN intern wrote that this was the most memorable thing that had happened in an entire year interning at the UN.

I feel like something important happened, something that will hopefully influence the thinking of some key policymakers and negotiators. It feels great to be a part of that. Your conference sowed these seeds. It is something I will never forget.

A letter from Melanie Poole (Australian Youth Delegate to the United Nations) to the coordinators of Omega Institute’s Annual Woman & Courage conference, 2008.