2016 Highlights from the U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations

If you had told me at the beginning of 2016 that I’d be taking on the role as the new U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations (UN), I probably would’ve laughed and continued to sip my iced coffee while frantically contemplating the meaning of life (as I often do when I start to feel restless about my current situation).

Since becoming the U.S. Youth Observer, I have had the opportunity to learn, observe, and participate in many amazing events in and out of the United Nations. I’m grateful for every experience, but here are the few that stand out:

Meeting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Enough said. He came to San Francisco and I had the opportunity to meet with him at the Fairmont Hotel in the same room where the United Nations Charter was drafted. He relayed a message of hope to young people: We must have faith in humanity and in our ability to build a peaceful world. It was a privilege and an honor to get to meet him before the end of his term. January 1, 2017 marked the first day of Antonio Gutterres’ term as the new Secretary General of the United Nations. Check out his message here.

U.S. Youth Observer Nicol Perez poses for a photo with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. [Photo courtesy of Nicol Perez]

Attending the UN General Assembly. This was a week filled with interviews, side events and loads of networking. I had the opportunity of listening to the president of Ghana talk about social innovation in his country, speaking with the Crown Princess of Denmark, and doing my first live television interview with Alhurra TV! Here is what I learned.

Participating in the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Reimagined event. I learned about UN Security Council Resolution 2250 and the roles young people play in countering violent extremism and peace building. This resolution was a historic win for young people all of the world because it recognized and legitimized youth’s efforts in peace building.

At the CVE reimagined with other youth leaders: Ziad Ahmed, Zainab zaheer, Carine Umu, and Andrew Rabens. [Photo courtesy of Nicol Perez]

Speaking in a Panel at the Social Good Summit Masterclass. This is where I accidentally walked out into the panel with a Starbucks iced coffee in hand and urged young people to pull their own chair in decision-making tables. See the video below:

Attending the Youth Economic Opportunities Summit. The youth unemployment rate around the world is double, and sometimes triple, that of the regular unemployment rate. In this conference I learned about the importance of allowing young people to embrace failure!  In a blog after the event, I encouraged other young people not to be ashamed of their failures, because behind every success there are failures. We should always use our failures as an opportunity to reflect and learn, and then keep going. See what I mean here.

Meeting Ambassador Samantha Power, the U.S. Permenent Representative to the United Nations to talk about my plans as Youth Observer and the projects she’s working on. I laid out my ideas to help young Americans, specifically, my plan to continue to collect the voices of young people through the US Youth Voices survey and my desire to encourage the active participation of the private sector with the Sustainable Development Goals.  Check out what else we discussed here.

U.S. Youth Observer, Nicol Perez, and Ambassador Samantha Power pose for a photo after their meeting. [State Department photo]


Hosting a podcast with Sheba Crocker, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Organization Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, which leads the United States’ efforts to engage with the United Nations.

Participating in a live web chat with students from around the world to talk about the role of young people in international development.Check it out below!

Presenting Katia Levorante, CEO of Rovio Entertainment, with an award alongside Red for her incredible work on the Angry Birds Happy Planet campaign at the UN Foundation Leadership Dinner.

Traveling to Rome and visiting the World Food Program, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and a Refugee Center! I wrote a couple of blog posts describing my experiences to give you guys an inside look into both of those organizations. Check out videos from my trip below.

My favorite part about being the U.S. Youth Observer is getting a chance to work with other young people. Especially those that reach out to me with a hunger and the willingness to work to solve the problems in their communities.

The United Nations has never been more relevant than it is now and young people are at the heart of it all. During the second half of my term, I hope to continue to be a window into the United Nations and to highlight opportunities for young people to be catalysts of change in their communities .

About the Author: Nicol Perez is the fifth U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations, representing an American youth voice at the United Nations General Assembly and other UN events throughout the next year.

Editor's Note: This story is adapted from an end-of-year message U.S. Youth Observer Nicol Perez shared on Facebook and in the Department's Foggy Bottom publication on Medium.com.

For more information:

U.S. Youth Observer Nicol Perez. [Photo courtesy of U.S. Youth Observer Nicol Perez]
Posted by Nicol Perez
January 4, 2017


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