Empowering Young People to Engage With Global Challenges

2017

How can large global development goals respond to the voices of young people all around the world? And how can youth have a meaningful role in shaping those goals through creative, interactive means? These are the questions that Carlota Corzo Álvarez, a graduate of the Universidad Europea de Madrid (UEM), has sought to answer in the past year by starting a United Nations Student Association (UNSA) chapter in Spain. As a member of the International Relations Club (IREC) at UEM, she was able to see firsthand how global organizations like the U.N. and European Union both succeed, and fail, at including youth.

“I saw how there was a gap between large organizations that want to communicate with young people and the actual groups of young people who want to contribute to this process but don’t quite know how,” Álvarez said. When she founded the UNSA chapter in mid-2016 with a group of peers, their goal was to engage young people in partnerships that would lead to support, sharing, and collaboration that would create meaningful progress and social impact. They endeavored to make this connection through engaging events and initiatives that help to increase young people’s civic participation and, ultimately, lead to a feeling that youth can be key actors in a global conversation about development and social causes.

Álvarez also brought a unique perspective to this work; she received her undergraduate degree in fine arts and came to UEM to pursue her master’s degree for impact through innovation. For her, the program was a unique mix of creative and business principles, and she saw an opportunity to learn how to create impact and do good using her passions for the two areas.

The UNSA group has convened multiple congress-style and debate events for youth to engage on specific topics, like the plight of refugees or the role volunteering can play in the formal education of young people. There are many subcommittees within the organization, and they take on specific projects of their own. For example, they recently initiated a partnership to showcase artwork from international artists that helps to “connect cultures.” Other subgroups are holding debates and fundraising events to benefit refugee communities in the region.

“We want to be an example to institutions and organizations of all sizes of how you can collaborate with youth,” Álvarez said. She hopes that in the coming year, many more young people in Spain will be empowered through UNSA to begin their own initiatives that increase civic participation, just as she has committed to doing herself.