Hello Ilda and Stiven! How is the evening of these two youth delegates going? It is a pleasure to interview you once again, after 243 days from our last talk. You have come a long way since then. I remember that at the time, you were on the first tour of consultations meeting with Albanian youngsters, discussing the most prevalent issues.
[Q1]: Can you try and briefly put the experience into words? What do you consider as highlights and what are some of the major obstacles you have encountered during your mandate?
Stiven: Being the youth delegate of your country is a great privilege for sure. However, it is also a great responsibility, especially during the high-level week in New York and the General Assembly. You become part of a delegation composed of senior diplomats. Meanwhile, you are a young person – passionate and creative – but you may lack some diplomatic skills or the experience, for that matter. Furthermore, you are there to represent all the young people in your country. That is why the consultation tour across the country is of great importance. You gather insight from young people and during the GA you can address all their needs and concerns.
Ilda: Being a Youth Delegate has been the highlight of my experience as a youth activist thus far. Looking back in hindsight, it has been an intense and dynamic year. We have engaged in discussions with more than 300 youngsters all over Albania; have participated in the General Assembly of the United Nations and other diplomatic events.
This experience has required both our commitment and responsibility. I must say that our biggest obstacle apart from being the first generation of delegates has been time pressure: We were running on a tight schedule while having to meet our requirements as youth delegates.
[Q2]: Your mandate as Youth Delegates to the United Nations ends next month, right? How are you feeling?
Stiven: Our mandate ends at the beginning of May, and we had planned several activities. We were invited as speakers at a Peace Conference in Vermont, U.S. but due to the current situation with COVID-19, it was canceled. All our local activities have been postponed, also. Therefore I cannot say this is the finale I had imagined. *laughs*.
However, I am both happy and grateful that I had the opportunity to be the first Youth Delegate of Albania to the UN. I am saddened that this experience is now coming to an end, but I am also looking forward to meeting the new youth delegates, who will have our full support, for sure.
Ilda: Two weeks ago, we participated in the launching event of the call for the second year of youth delegates. We prepared a presentation covering our mandate. That was a trip down memory lane: We recalled the 243 days that you mentioned and they have been quite a lot! Of course, I cannot deny that it is sad but at the same time, I’m excited to know the next two delegates. It is a pleasure to witness more people joining in on the mission.
[Q3]: What are the most important lessons you have learned from the experience? Looking back in hindsight, would you have changed anything?
Stiven: As first-year delegates, everything was new. We were not familiar with how everything worked and we had to start everything from scratch. Luckily, the support from UNA Albania was immense.
I would not change anything in all honesty. We tried our best and have challenged ourselves throughout the experience. My main take-away would be the fact that the young people of Albania have great potential and are willing to change the country. Therefore we must support and encourage them.
Ilda: There are so many things that you learn from such a complex experience on a personal and professional level. The most important is having the chance to see how things work locally and globally and come to understand that the real solution to challenging issues can be different from what you would think. You can go all the way to New York to realize that the problems of our youth can be solved back home, in our communities. The real potential lies within each and everyone but what is needed to be able to unlock such potential to contribute to such changes is the access to opportunity, education and “social frameworks”.
[Q4]: If the next youth delegates are reading this, what would be something you would like to share with them (secrets, tricks, advice, warnings)?
Stiven: We will share all the secrets, tricks and advice with the second generation of the YDs. But, since the application process is still ongoing, my best advice would be – Be passionate, be content and be ready for one of those once in a lifetime experience.
Ilda: DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT YOU ARE GETTING YOURSELF INTO? *laughs*.
There are so many things to talk about but most importantly at this phase of applications I would like to invite them to ask themselves if they truly have the time and inner passion to commit to this experience from day one until the end of the mandate (and maybe even more). It is not an experience that should be seen only as a personal development but it is also a great responsibility to represent the youth of our country. Make sure you want this for the right reasons in order not to take this opportunity from someone else who can be more suitable for the role and the commitment that it requires.
[Q5]: What do you think would be the biggest challenges for the next generation of youth delegates?
Stiven: I believe that it is up to the next generation to bring the program to a new level. Both me and Ilda have invested so much in it and it is the turn of the next generation to bring innovative ideas and practices so we can have a better, more effective representation.
Ilda: From the local perspective I believe that we as the first generation have succeeded to build solid foundations that will make it easier for the next generation to come. Fortunately, they will have our support in taking the program to the next level. From a global perspective, everything is changing fast, the deadlines of global agendas are approaching and this puts pressure and responsibility on everyone. It is also the role and the responsibility of the next generation of delegates to be mobilized to work and contribute towards these challenges.
[Q6]: What are your plans for the future?
Steven: One of my main challenges during the mandate was how to handle my studies and the program at the same time. I feel like I need to concentrate more on my studies right now since it is my third year and it is the most difficult one. Despite this, I will continue to be involved in projects on youth empowerment and I will try to be a strong advocate for youth participation.
Ilda: Based on recent events it is hard to talk about plans. However, I will be focusing on my diploma thesis, my job and finishing my internship program. On the other hand, I will continue being engaged in youth empowerment initiatives and projects that I am working on.
[Q7]: Share a parting note
Ilda and Stiven:
Since this will probably be our last interview as Youth Delegates, then we must share with you that it has truly been an honor and a privilege to serve as the first UN Youth Delegates. We are confident in the potential of the Albanian youth and we will continue to work on empowering the fantastic young people of Albania. Even though we live in a very small country we have to become aware that we belong to an emerging world community and recognize this as a responsibility as much as it is a privilege. Each one needs to embrace his/her role in the global community and understand how our actions help shape our world. We need to help raise awareness that sometimes it is the things that we do locally that most people take for granted are the ones that have the biggest impact on a global scale.
*This interview was prepared by Linda Kelmendi, board member of UNYA Albania.