Fiona Dinollari 22 and Henri Fero 25 are the second generation of Albanian Youth Delegates to the United Nations. Sworn in amidst a global pandemic and during transformational times, they are now 77 days in the mandate of youth delegates. Both pursuing their university degrees, they decided to share their unique experience with us.
[UNA]: Describe your experience so far as a youth delegate in three short sentences.
[Fiona]: “Although there are strict restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I believe that the program has still been a unique experience. Meeting young people from different cities of Albania and youth workers from NGOs has transformed my perspective on the reality we live in. The situation ahead might be unpredictable, but this is a challenge, I am willing to take over!”,
[Henri]: “It has been a great experience so far. I am learning new things every day and also the most captivating part of it is listening to youth, their views, and perspectives. I have also made some good friends during the time.”.
[UNA]: How has the UNYD Programme been impacted by the outbreak of the pandemic? What, do you believe, is different from the first year? How has your perception of the role changed?
[Fiona]: “Going online has its pros and cons: Although it is easy to access young people all over Albania, going to the core of the problem is difficult. Even so, I am positive about our mission, and not only the achievements but also the messages that should be conveyed. Although we are living at an unusual time, we ought to be role models, and show other young people that activism should not be overlooked.“.
[Henri]: “It has been hard for us to connect with youngsters during the pandemics. However, we have made use of technology, organizing meetings online, especially with youth-focused NGOs. I believe that this year we are going to focus on the problems that have arisen due to COVID-19, as well as creating ways to help youth in building resilience. We believe that youth play a crucial role in tackling the crisis. My perception of the role has not altered much from the time I was applying to the program as I have followed the journey of the previous delegates.”.
[UNA]: How have you adjusted to the virtual setting? Do you see online communication as a powerful tool for the purpose of engaging young people in meaningful conversations?
[Fiona]: “It is indeed a way to reach everyone! Online communication has eased the job of a delegate in terms of accessing young people and also events all around the world. I have never been very keen on technology, but I have understood that they are essential to our lives. Therefore, we have to find creative ways to use them, and young people are already doing this. Online activism is developing at a rapid pace. I believe that this stands as an open invitation for all young people to engage more in matters that concern them.“.
[Henri]: “It has not been easy at the beginning, because for me close contact is really important. However, like in many aspects of life, online communication has been a powerful tool for us to continue our mission despite the difficulties. Now, I believe we both are adjusted to online communication. It has given us the chance to engage more young people into meaningful conversations.”.
[UNA]: How has the #UN75 initiative aided your work? Or does your work fall into the framework of the #UN75 initiative?
[Fiona]: “This year marks the 75th anniversary of the creation of the United Nations and this makes the job of a youth delegate even more exciting. Yes, the workload has doubled, but the ideas shared in UN75 related activities are crucial if we wish to move towards sustainability. This is a key motivator to continue the work, and suggest everyone fill out the UN75 survey. To me, this is an exciting initiative: I will say what I always say when I talk about this; It takes only a minute for your voice to be heard!”.
[Henri]: “As I previously mentioned, our focus has shifted towards the impact that COVID-19 has had on youth and their lives. In this case, the #UN75 initiative has also shifted towards COVID-19 so our work does fall into the framework of the #UN75 initiative, but given the importance of this anniversary, it would have fallen into this ambit either way. It has also helped us by serving as a point of orientation during our consultations with young people across the country. Attending “UN75 Coffee Talks” has further fueled us with ideas and perspectives.
[UNA]: What has changed for youth activism and representation during this global health crisis?
[Fiona]: “This crisis has brought confusion, indeed. However, from another perspective, I would say that all the different problems we are facing are connected. What worries me the most is the fact that although online activism is being encouraged and youth from all around the world are contributing, there are a lot of young people that do not have access to devices and the internet. Therefore, they are excluded from the process. We have to find a way to combine online and on-site contributions, to also learn how to adjust to our new reality.”.
[Henri]: “Right now, the challenges that young people face have become more prominent and more evident. Thus, it is of outermost importance that we focus on minimizing all the impact that the global health crisis has brought in the lives of young people, including education, working conditions, security, etc. We need to engage more and more young people in solving these problems as well as raise awareness on the importance of engaging youth in decision-making processes.“.
[UNA]: Do you feel your role as youth delegates is even more essential in times like this when we need to promote solidarity and cooperation?
[Fiona]: “The crisis caused by the pandemic has indeed exposed the weakest chains of different systems, and it has also damaged relations between people, communities, and even countries. I am a strong believer in the philosophy that building friendship heals even the deepest wounds. We are youth delegates, and we might not have the experience of older diplomats, but I do think that we can contribute to enhancing relationships between different actors. During our work, we try to cooperate as much as possible and set an example that shows that exchanging ideas, supporting others, and accepting differences is the way to build a healthy society in which we contribute and benefit altogether.“.
[Henri]: “Indeed. During our consultations, we have witnessed the potential of young people in our country. We have tried our best to serve as a motivation to them, to show them that their opinion matters, to make them feel included. Youth is an asset in solving the crisis. A broader sense of cooperation and solidarity among young individuals will definitely counterpart the negative effects of the global health crisis.“.
[UNA]: What would you like to share with your peers today? What is next on your busy agendas?
[Fiona]: “What we have already done as youth delegates is only the ‘tip of the iceberg’. We are giving our best to be as effective as possible, and we have already planned a lot of activities and initiatives that will take place after the General Assembly. Another thing I am really looking forward to is Simulation Game 2020, in which I and Henri are going to be part of a roundtable discussion focused on global challenges and how youth can contribute. Until then, I motivate everyone to fill the UN75 survey and also try and find new and creative solutions for a sustainable future!“.
[Henri]: “The greatest help we can give our planet today is following the rules of personal hygiene and social distancing. This way we can avoid spreading the virus and why not, save many lives. August 12th, also known as “International Youth Day” is going to be really interesting since we are attending 2 national and 1 international event during that day. But most importantly, we are now getting ready for what awaits us in September: Simulation Game; at least 4 consultation meetings; TV & Radio appearances; constant coordination with the Albanian MFA; and of course – the highlight of our mandate – the UN General Assembly, that unfortunately this year will be held online.“.