LAU: instilling global leadership skills in an increasingly isolating world
The 2017 GOLD conference focuses on youth engagement in support of sustainable development goals to tackle the global youth employment crisis.
In an era that is witnessing gravitation toward isolationism, the Global Outreach and Leadership Development Conference (GOLD), hosted by LAU, seeks to instill in its delegates international cooperation and development skills by encouraging them to broaden their horizons. Around 35 students hailing from Lebanon, China, and the U.S., including high school students, as well as LAU undergraduates, graduates, and school advisors, arrived in New York City for the annual five-day conference on August 7.
The theme of this year’s conference was “#YesforSDGs: Youth Engagement in Support of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).” A UN-engineered initiative, SDGs or Global Goals are a set of 17 goals with 169 targets that aim to end poverty, preserve the environment, and achieve peace and prosperity. The objective of the 2017 conference was to raise awareness of the various possible channels for youth engagement in support of these goals, since tackling the global youth employment crisis through investment in education and skills development forms an important component of SDGs.
“This year’s GOLD links student leadership to productive employment, as it has proven that the correlation between civic engagement and potential employment is clear, concrete, and backed up by empirical evidence,” said Elie Samia, assistant vice president of LAU’s Outreach and Civic Engagement Office, which organizes the event.
GOLD expands the training and educational development of participating delegates in the rules of procedure in a United Nations conference. During the five-day event (August 7-11) held at LAU’s New York Headquarters and Academic Center―a stone’s throw away from the United Nations Headquarters―the aspiring diplomats practiced their state-crafting skills in a series of Model United Nations simulation sessions. They learned the art of debate, negotiation, public speaking and conflict resolution, all while engaging in a meaningful cultural exchange.
They also had the opportunity to meet with key figures in the fields of diplomacy, international relations and youth leadership, among whom Danny Kadishson, director of Economic Development at NYC Mayor’s Office for International Affairs; Jorge Martinez Navarrete from the UN Office of Information and Communications Technology; and Paula Boland, executive director of the UN Association of the United States of America.
Navarrete spoke to the delegates about the importance of innovation to reach the SDGs. “The new generation needs to create new ventures, companies, and organizations that use technology in creative ways and transforms society so that we are able to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030,” he said. “We need new ideas that will change the market and the way society works.”
Participant Alexander Khawaja, 22, an LAU undergraduate in Hospitality and Tourism Management currently pursuing a Master’s in Air Transport Management at Cranfield University in the U.K., spoke about his experience with LAU and the Gold conference. “A lot of what I am today is thanks to what I learned from LAU. During the first few years at the university, I was shy and reserved, but after my first experience with the Lebanese NGO, MMKN, and the Model UN program, I became more engaged in the social and educational work that LAU does in Lebanon, and that drove me to push myself forward,” he said.
Had it not been for his involvement in LAU’s leadership programs such as Model UN, Model Arab League, and the GOLD conference, Khawaja added, he would not have gained insight into the UN, the EU and the Arab League. “The experience helped me enhance my leadership, organizational, communication and PR skills and to grow on all levels―academically, socially and psychologically.”
During the closing session, Samia remarked that the GOLD conference had been “a golden opportunity for student leaders to be exposed to real practitioners in the realms of international diplomacy and civic society, with presentations centering on the SDGs and with interactive discussions about the value of social service and civic engagement.”