UNAOC and Education First End Summer School 2015 in New York

“Opportunity comes but once”, usually say many writers and speakers. But I don’t think this is true. I think opportunity can come in many forms and shapes, but what we shouldn’t do however, is misusing it and then turn to God and ask for more.  


Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, United Nations High Representative for the Aliance of Civilizations

 Throughout my professional life as a development volunteer and youth activist, I don’t think there is any other opportunity that has ever reoccurred so often in my life like the chance to participate in the intercultural and peacebuilding programmes organized by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC). Each programme comes with multiple opportunities that no young activist like myself would like to miss: meeting with professional educationalists whose interactions always widen my horizon of understating about global development, ambitious comrades who give me the courage and confidence that I’m not alone in the war against social problems, and seeing new places that makes me feel like a development researcher. Yes, this piece marks the ending of another wonderful opportunity that was granted me again this year by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and EF Education First.

Just like the past years, this year’s programme enabled me to join a batch of professional facilitators who came to underpin UNAOC and EF throughout the summer school in New York. The programme targeted 75 ambitious youth from 75 organizations across the globe and it gave both the participants and we the facilitators the opportunity to explore and benefit from the extraordinary happiness and joy that comes from interreligious and intercultural understandings around the world.

This year’s programme began with the usual mesmerizing opening ceremony which was graced by many high level executives including the United Nations High Representative for the Alliance of Civilization,   Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, the United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, EF President for Asian Languages, Iris Hormann and EF Executive Director, Philip Johnson.  

Iris Hormann, EF Asian Language President
Iris Hormann, EF Asian Language President

The ceremony was followed by a special session on “Building Youth Alliances in Fragile Communities” led by some experienced young leaders including myself, from the UNAOC Intercultural Leaders Network and alumni association. The programme went further on several days with diverse educative sessions including cultural showcase, advocacy, multimedia campaign, theatre, design thinking, just to name but few.

On Sunday, 14th June was a colourful picnic in the New York Central Park, followed by a boat trip down to the Statue of Liberty.

On Wednesday, 17th June was a special tour to discover many important parts of New York which ended with a lunch hour at the United Nations Headquarters. This visit enabled both the participants and facilitators to visit many important chambers within the UN premises including the General Assembly, Security Council, World Economic and Development Chamber etc.

The visit ended with a question and answer session in the UN general assembly hall with many important speakers including His Excellency the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon.

 Adama Dieng, United Nations Special Adviser on the-Prevention of Genocide

Adama Dieng, United Nations Special Adviser on the-Prevention of Genocide

In his brief remarks, the Secretary General outrightly denounced the outdated saying that “youth are the future leaders”, referring to the summer school participants as the “current” leaders of the world. “My leadership as the Secretary General of United Nations has recognized the fact that you are the catalysts of peace and development on this planet which is why, for the first time in the history of United Nations, I have appointed Ahmad Alhendawi as my special envoy for the youth”, Ban Ki-Moon proudly stated.

The summer school ended with a certification ceremony for all participants followed by a night long celebration at the EF campus in Tarrytown.

A brief background of the summer school

The summer school is collaboratively organized yearly by UNAOC and EF Education First. The organizers share the conviction that young people are drivers of positive social change in the world. This weeklong educative, experience sharing, intercultural and interreligious exchange programme brings together 75 individuals aged 18-35 from across the globe, to address pressing global challenges in the context of cultural and religious diversity. The programme started in the year 2013 and it has already benefited more than 250 youth and youth organizations from more than 100 countries across the globe.

Special Question and Answer Session at UN General Assembly
Special Question and Answer Session at UN General Assembly


The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) was established in 2005, at the political initiative of Kofi Anan, former UN Secretary General with co-sponsorship from the Governments of Spain and Turkey.

UNAOC is one of the numerous offshoots of the global United Nations and it’s based in New York. UNAOC maintains a global network of partners including States, International and regional organizations, civil society groups, foundations, and the private sector to improve cross-cultural relations between diverse nations and communities.

To know more about UNAOC, please follow this link

About EF Education First

Participants at New York Centra Park
Participants at New York Centra Park

EF Education First (abbreviated as EF) is an international educational institution that specializes in language training, educational travel, academic degree and cultural exchange programs.

Founded in 1965 by Bertil Hult in the Swedish university town of Lund and headquartered in Lucerne, Switzerland, EF is one of the world largest multicultural, multilingual and socially diversified institutions with approximately 40,000 staff and 500 offices and schools located in more than 50 countries across the world. To know more about EF, please visit the homepage

About Othman Sheriff 347 Articles
Born and raised in Kenema district, eastern Sierra Leone, Othman Sheriff began practicing journalism during his school days as a youthhood hobby. With a bachelor's degree in mass-media and communication, and a Master’s degree in development and peacebuilding, Sheriff is the Editor-in-Chief and CEO of Critique Echo Newspaper. While tirelessly using journalism as a tool to place his country’s socioeconomic and political landscape under a magnifying glass, Sheriff is deeply involved in community development projects. Over the years, Sheriff has formulated and implemented billions of Leones worth of development projects with funds from Europe and USA. He is chiefly focused on community infrastructural development and economic resuscitation projects, fostering interethnic, interreligious and sociocultural cohesion among the young population in Kenema district. Sheriff is a member of many international peacebuilding initiatives including the United Religious Initiative (URI), International Association of Educators for World Peace (IAEWP), Intercultural Leaders Network and Youth Solidary Fund program of the United Nations Alliance of Civilization (UNAOC)

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