Youth: A Driving Force for Social Change

Courtesy of Michael Chiribau

Name: Michael Chiribau
Title:
Student, BA in Political Science and Human Rights
Country: Canada
Training: The Young Leaders Training Programme

The first thing one probably notices when meeting Michael Chiribau for the first time is how empathetic, friendly and optimistic he is — reinforcing the ‘positive stereotype’ of nice Canadians. No wonder he loves to get to know people from different backgrounds and find common ground with them, or as he puts it himself “I like discovering new perspectives of living, and most of all, trying to find a solution that connects everybody together”.

A student of Political Science and Human Rights at Concordia University, Michael was constantly searching for information that would keep him up to date with the most recent developments on issues close to his heart. “I followed many social media pages related to International Affairs and Human Rights”, he says. It was through one of these pages that one day Michael came across The Young Leaders Training Programme offered by UNITAR. Taking place in Geneva, the training programme is designed to assist youth in further developing key competencies to unleash their potential as global leaders. “For years, I have been fascinated by the works and the principles of international organizations such as the United Nations. When I saw the social media post and read more about it, I knew this was precisely the kind of experience I was looking for. One that would refine important skills and expand my knowledge of the UN System, while also directly being in contact with UN Staff throughout the programme”, Michael explains.

After being accepted into The Young Leaders Training Programme, Michael gathered all the questions he had about the UN and boarded on his plane to Geneva ready and excited to find the answers and insights he was looking for. The training ended up exceeding Michael’s expectations. “As a student, it is not common to come across professionals who work in the UN System. This was an opportunity to interact with many of them!”, says Michael adding that he was indeed amazed by the entire experience. From the workshops on negotiation and cosmopolitan communication to things such as visiting the Human Rights Council chamber at the Palais des Nations, “It turned out to be the best investment I ever made”, he affirms.

Michael returned to Montreal and a few months later he had the opportunity to put everything he learnt to good use. “Before applying to UNITAR’s training programme I had given my CV to the pool of sources of the Federal Student Work Experience Programme. After I got back to Canada, they contacted me asking if I would like to be interviewed for the position of programme assistant at the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. I used everything I learnt in Geneva during the interview and got the job”, he recalls adding that the knowledge and skills he gained are still useful to him on many occasions at work.

“Whenever I work in teams or negotiate with my supervisor about anything, I apply what I learnt. Also, in my office we inter-switch a lot between French and English, so the cosmopolitan communication approach they taught us during the training programme is very much at play.”

Having a new job is not the only change in Michael’s life since the training. After learning more about the SDGs and the importance that educational institutions can have in helping mainstream them, Michael was wondering why universities were not more involved in it. “It was shocking to me that many universities are unaware of all the resources available to everybody”. A true problem solver, Michael decided to take matters into his own hands and created an agency with the goal of connecting a network of Canadian universities to UNITAR’s services. “I want to help accelerate the implementation of the SDGs within the proximity of each partnered campus and to inspire youth to become global leaders taking action upon the SDGs that speak to them the most.”

Michael is certainly an example of how young people drive social progress and inspire political initiatives, being genuinely agents of change! We cannot wait to see what he is up to next!

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Official Medium account of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). We empower our beneficiaries through knowledge and learning.

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