The United Nations Youth Association
It is commonly thought that the future of society rests in the hands of young people. With many issues facing countries around the globe, ranging from global warming to improving aged care facilities, it is increasingly important for young people to be aware of current affairs and social justice issues.
Youth for youth
The United Nations Youth Association (UNYA) aims to inform young people about issues relating to human rights and international affairs while giving them an understanding of the United Nations (UN) and its structure, functions and future.
UNYA Australia, a not-for-profit organisation, involves people between the ages of 15 and 25 from a variety of backgrounds. UNYA provides its members with opportunities to improve public speaking and debating skills and to participate in regional, state, national and global conferences.
UNYA Australia operates on a "youth- for-youth" philosophy which involves young people becoming leaders and role models in the community.
The Thant Trophy competition
One of the programs that UNYA runs is the Thant Trophy competition. This involves teams of two students being placed in the shoes of UN Ambassadors and participating in mock UN Security Council debates.
The debates follow the rules employed by the Security Council in New York. It is more than just a debating competition, though - competitors can engage in secret negotiations. In these negotiations the teams talk to each other in a separate negotiation chamber in order to gain insights about the other teams, to form alliances and to generally act to better serve the country that they represent.
The competition is held annually in Victoria. The top two Victorian teams progress to the national finals to compete for the national prize: The Evatt Trophy.
In 2010 Thant Trophy rounds will be held throughout Victoria. Regional locations will include Ballarat, Mildura and Sale. For more information on the Thant Trophy and how you can get involved, check out the Victorian UNYA website (new window)
Spreading the word
In a further attempt to attract members from around Victoria and educate many young Victorians, in early 2010 UNYA members took a day trip to Sale where they ran a day forum with some of the local schools.
The day forum involved discussion groups on Indigenous wellbeing and a model UN debate which involved a mock general assembly. The initiative was created by Robbie Nyaguy, UNYA Victoria's Education Director, who wanted to target schools across Victoria in the lead-up to the Thant Trophy and UNYA conferences so there would be a wider range of participants.
UNYA also offer a variety of other activities for its members. These include annual state and national conferences and policy nights. Policy nights in the past have included discussions on asylum seeker issues, climate change and Indigenous wellbeing.
"UNYA policy nights are a really good way to be better informed about international relations. Especially for younger members, they are a really useful tool to extend your horizons, your knowledge. They also help you to form better opinions and arguments for your debates," says UNYA member Anna Carrig.
To find out more about some of the policies that have been discussed at UNYA policy nights, check out www.unya.org.au/policy (new window).
Through these different initiatives, UNYA provides an environment that encourages a worldly, multi-lateral view. It also tries to empower young people by giving them positions of responsibility while fostering the belief that everyone can make a difference.
What's it like being a member of UNYA?
Anna Carrig says that one of the best things about being a member of UNYA is the friendships that you form.
One of the great qualities of UNYA is its ability to connect young people around the world. In early 2010 Anna participated in an international UN conference at The Hague, in the Netherlands. Because of her involvement with UNYA, Anna was able to source financial support from her local politicians to help fund her trip.
Anna also plans to meet with Jenny Macklin, the Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Housing, Families and Community Service. In their upcoming meeting, Anna intends to discuss the policies UNYA has been developing in addition to extending the friendship between UNYA and Ms. Macklin.
Many past UNYA members now work for other not-for-profit and youth-based organisations. Bernadette Cho, the current Victorian president of the Oaktree Foundation, was a member of UNYA. UNYA also has a large representation from people working in areas such as the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the political service.
If you hope to one day be working for the UN or if you simply want to learn how to make a difference, then UNYA is the organisation for you. It provides you with the necessary education about how the UN functions and the particular structures in place. The best way to become involved with UNYA is to join online (new window).
And then, once you're a member, the most important thing is to get active and make the most of all the activities UNYA offers.
For more articles about Community and activism, check out our Articles archive.
Reviews written by Yolanda
The content of these stories and articles are provided for information and entertainment purposes only. The views expressed are those of our roving reporters/editorial team members and do not necessarily reflect those of the Victorian Government. While every endeavour is made to ensure the currency, accuracy and authenticity of content, it can not be guaranteed. The Victorian Government does not accept any liabilities for any loss, damage, cost or expense you or others might incur as a result of the information or advice (or the use of it) on this website or in the articles. People using the site should undertake responsibility for assessing the relevance and accuracy of its content.