I have been fortunate to be present in the United Nations General Assembly Hall these past few weeks to observe a roll call of some of the most influential leaders of our time.
From Pope Francis to Vladimir Putin, Barack Obama and President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping, I have been fortunate to be present when these individuals took to the UN Security Council or the General Assembly lectern and delivered statements that would fill the newspapers of the coming days and indicate the future direction of international war and diplomacy.
Despite this, I have to report that the most moving and insightful glimpse into our global future that I have heard during my time at the United Nations to date was delivered by the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize winner – 17 year old Malala Yousafzai.
Malala was the young fifteen year old Pakistani girl who, you might remember, was shot three times on a bus on her way home from school.
The Taliban accepted responsibility for the shooting stating it was in response to Malala’s campaigning for educational rights for young woman in her home nation.
The event captured the attention of the world, propelling this young woman to the status of the most powerful voice for education rights for young people across the globe.
Her address at the opening of the UN General Assembly was given from a lectern positioned in the upper chamber of the auditorium where Malala was flanked by 193 young men and women (including our Australian Youth Delegate to the UN Shea Spierings).
In opening, she said in a firm and powerful voice to all of the international representatives seated below “Dear sisters and brothers, world leaders, look up because the future generation is raising their voice!”
This young woman’s statement took the attention of the room.
In a truly heartfelt plea, she called on world leaders to keep their promises to world youth in providing an accessible and quality education to all – especially the millions of young people who are damaged or displaced by the events in North Africa and the Middle East.
We all can be so easily distracted in our everyday lives in Australia that we take something like our access to education for granted. The stark reality is that for so many others in the world it is an impossible dream.
I know it emotionally impacted all those present in the hall that evening. It was a call from the weak to the strong to keep their word about working towards equal rights for all.