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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

BC Student Selected as First Ever UN Youth Observer

Published: October 12, 2012
Section: News

Brooke Loughrin, a junior at Boston College in the Presidential Scholars Program has been selected as the first ever United States Youth Observer at the United Nations. Loughrin is originally from Seattle, Wash. and has spent extensive time abroad in India, Senegal, Iran, Turkey, Nicaragua and Tajikistan.

According to the UNA-USA, the youth observer position is sponsored by the United Nations Association of the USA (UNA-USA), and was highly sought after, with over 730 applications received before Loughrin was selected. Loughrin will serve as the U.S. Youth Observer at the U.N. for one year and will be representing the voices of U.S. “youth” between the ages of 18 and 25 by attending meetings, traveling and speaking to UNA-USA Chapters around the country, and by blogging and tweeting about her experiences at the UN.

“I have only been at it for two weeks,” Loughrin began. “On Sept. 21 they called me and said, Can you leave for New York City in three hours? We have selected you as the first ever U.N. Youth Delegate.”

“I spent that first week in New York City, which is the most important week of the year. There were a lot of interesting events at the U.N., and it was very overwhelming,” Loughrin said.

He met with the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, and with all the Assistant Secretaries, too, advising them on how youth can be more involved in the decision making process of the U.S. and the U.N.

“Strangely enough, I found out about the position on Facebook,” Loughrin explained. “I applied on a whim that day. It was a simple application, I wrote an essay on an issue area that mattered to me and how I thought the U.N. should address it. I wrote about living in southern India during high school, and how I found the biggest barrier for girls not going to school was that they had to spend four to five hours a day looking for clean drinking water. Water issues impact so many development issues, like education.”

Loughrin continued to say that this past week, she was in Washington, D.C. with the other U.N. Youth Delegates from around the world. While the U.N. Youth Delegate position is a pilot program in the U.S., the position has existed in Norway for 30 years, whereas the youth of Kenya have been lobbying the Kenyan government for a U.N. Youth Delegate program and only this year were successful at achieving their goal. “Thirty other countries have youth delegates,” Loughrin added. “Most of them speak three or four languages, and have been selected over a year ago for the position, so they have already done a lot of work.”

According to Loughrin, a large part of the U.N. Youth Delegate position entails working closely with the 30 other Youth Delegates. During Loughrin’s first week in New York City, she and the other Youth Delegates got to know one another, and tried to learn about each other’s interests regarding U.N. issue areas. The U.N. Youth Delegates currently have a Google group, a Facebook group and a Twitter feed. They are required to make speeches, work for resolutions and often like Loughrin, be full-time students as well.

As a full-time student at Boston College, Loughrin majors in Political Science and Islamic Civilizations and Societies. “I’m back at school now, but I’m going back to the U.N. next weekend for a few days,” Loughrin said. “There is a lot of travel back and forth to New York City. I am also going to Washington, D.C. for a week in December, to go to the State Department, and I will travel around the country to talk to Model United Nation groups and school groups.”

Since starting her position, the U.N. event that stood out most dramatically to Loughrin was a Sept. 27 event with the presidents of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria and the Secretary General of the U.N. to discuss a united end to polio. Loughrin explained how fascinating it was to watch a conversation between the presidents of these countries discuss how to end polio and the ways polio could spread beyond the borders of these countries if the U.N. doesn’t focus on them. “One of the biggest problems to polio eradication has been extremist groups. They say that people who come to give polio vaccines are Western agents, and try to stop it. It’s awful that they’re trying to prevent kids from having access to polio vaccines, but it shows how hard it is to work in militarized environments when you can’t operate an anti-polio campaign. It was nice to see everyone so committed to the issue,” Loughrin said.

As a U.N. Youth Delegate, Loughrin says that her faith in the U.N. is reinvigorated, and that she is a huge advocate for the U.N. “This made the U.N. seem real to me,” Loughrin said. “When we think about the U.N. we think about the most controversial issues. But there are so many other parts of the U.N. that work on issues like education and global health.”

“Sometimes the U.N. isn’t very transparent. Youth should know the U.N. is for us, too. Half of the world’s population is under 30. They need their voices heard,” she added.