I hope this finds you well. I’m pleased to share with you some updates on what we’ve been up to, as well as a glimpse into what’s next at the Friendship Ambassadors. I will soon be celebrating my one-year anniversary at FAF, and as I look back, it has been an eventful year.
The 24th Youth Assembly in Washington D.C.
We recently finished our 24th Youth Assembly and once again it was a great success. Held in Washington D.C., it was the first YA that took place outside of New York, setting a major milestone for us as we try to bring the YA to different locations around the world. Many of you know my desire to hold a YA outside the US, and I like to think of this as the first step toward that goal. At George Washington University, we brought together youth ages 16-28 from over 90 countries. We conducted over 40 sessions and from approximately 70 organizations participating. In addition, we had keynotes from Idealist, Search for Common Ground, and the US State Department, and I’m pleased to say that one of our keynotes was a 14-year-old Climate Activist. There are so many youths making such a positive impact, so I hope to have more youth speaker involvement at our YA’s.
In my keynote, I took the opportunity to speak about Friendship. Since joining FAF, I have wanted to bring this to the forefront of who we are and what we do. As the world becomes increasingly smaller and more connected, relationships will be critical to a sustainable and thriving world. These relationships need to go beyond simply “friending” someone on social media or being a friend to those closest to us. I am referring to being a friend to humanity and living in a world where we care about and for each other. I know many of you are not able to attend a YA, so a copy of my keynote can be found on our website. I believe that Friendship must be the cornerstone of our mission, and I hope to speak more about how we will infuse this into all we do.
At the Youth Assembly, we invite all delegates to propose ideas and solutions to some of our world’s greatest challenges through our Impact Challenge. This year, we have awarded three innovative projects that aim to solve issues ranging from gender equality and health to clean water and the environment. We also recognized one Outstanding Youth Delegate who aims to support refugees’ human rights as a lawyer. In our ongoing effort to provide more opportunities for delegates to showcase their work, we also opened our first Action and Impact Hub at this year’s YA. We had 30 outstanding projects presented by delegates. Such wonderful work is being done within the FA Community, and we feel it is important to help in getting the word out so that many others can be inspired to take action and make a positive impact. We hope that the AI Hub will be a regular part of future YA’s.
Global Development Leadership Series
In addition to conducting the YA in a new location, we also introduced our new Global Development Leadership program which introduces aspiring leaders into the world of international development and affairs through an exploration of key principles and practices across a wide range of global issues, as well as high-level exchange with important players in the field. As part of this program, delegates attended briefings at the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, United States Institute of Peace, Search for Common Ground, the United Nations, and the World Trade Center. They also partook in a Model Diplomacy seminar conducted by the Council of Foreign Relations. I’m looking forward to expanding on this program and provide more opportunities like this for our youth community.
International Youth Day at the United Nations
One of the highlights of this year’s YA program was the event held at the UN to celebrate International Youth Day. In collaboration with the UN Department of Global Communications brought together young people to discuss “Engaging Youth to Advance Sustainable Cities and Communities”. The event was a full house with a diverse youth audience from around the world. embers of our GDL series were given the opportunity to speak in this event that was broadcast around the world via UN Web TV. I had the honor of providing the opening remarks and was so proud to represent FAF and the FA Community.
The 25th Youth Assembly
We are already in the process of planning our 25th Youth Assembly. The 25th session will be a truly special YA, and we are thinking of ways to celebrate the thousands of youth that have participated in the Youth Assembly since 2004. We are also planning to make this YA more interactive and geared toward action and impact. We always go back to the three pillars of our Theory of Change: Connect/Engage, Educate/Develop, Action/Impact and it’s important that each YA strikes a balance in addressing each of these. We will be opening registrations soon, so be sure to subscribe to our mailing list.
Global Action and Impact Network
We launched our Global Action and Impact Network (GAIN), which is our newest initiative. It is our plan to expand beyond the YA’s and provide year-round opportunities for our FA Youth to engage in a meaningful way with others around the world. We now have 10 Regional Impact Coordinators that are helping to connect, engage, educate and provide opportunities for action and positive impact. GAIN is just the beginning of what we hope will be a new way of working and interacting with the FA Community around the world.
These are just a few of the exciting things happening at the Friendship Ambassadors. I continue to be inspired by the work being done in the FA Community, and I hope we can do our part in helping you create a better world for all. Our driving purpose to bring people together to make a difference in the world is as strong as ever, and as mentioned we will always lead through “friendship.”
by Andrew Macdonald
Friendship Ambassadors Foundation