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Representing Lund University at the UN General Assembly

Likki Lee speaking in front of the General Assembly, at the UN headquarters in NYC
Likki-Lee speaking in the General Assembly Hall, UN headquarters, NYC

Her interest in language took her all the way to the UN headquarters in New York City to take part in the Many Languages, One World Essay Contest. For Likki-Lee Pitzen it was a jaw-dropping experience and now she calls for other students to do the same.

Likki-Lee Pitzen had just finished her Master's programme in Asian Studies at Lund University when she decided to enter the Many Languages, One World Essay Contest, an annual essay contest organised by United Nations.

The purpose of Many Languages, One World is to promote multilingualism and the continued study of the six official languages of the United Nations: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. The 2015 contest and forum in New York was a special occurrence as it celebrated the 70th anniversary of the UN and also marked the year of the new 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

"Last year, participants were asked to contribute to the post-2015 global development agenda around the Sustainable Development Goals."

Inspired by observations she made while writing her Master’s thesis about Japan’s foreign aid system, Likki-Lee wrote about how bi- and multilingualism can catalyse the achievement of sustainable development goals.

"On a general level, that starts with the advantages of having more accessible debates and communicating outcomes to broader audiences. On a more in-depth level I went on to describe how more and better knowledge of foreign languages can improve cooperation on environmental and human development goals as well as inclusive economic growth."

Out of 1,250 submissions, 70 students representing 42 countries were chosen through a 2-stage selection process. One of those was Likki-Lee’s submission with her essay To cooperate is to speak each other’s language. She was invited to a Global Youth Forum and preparatory conference in New York City.

In July 2015, the moment came that Likki-Lee seized her chance to climb the famous green marble podium of the General Assembly.

"It was great, not only addressing the UN delegates, but also viewers everywhere who followed the live-stream. After seeing the UN headquarters in so many movies and going through Model UN events, I of course had to put some effort into not dropping my jaw instantly at the entrance. And it surprised me to see that our high profile audience listened very attentively throughout the 3.5-hour-long session."

Why should students enter in the 2016 competition?

"Winning or not, writing a 2,000 word essay about global priorities like peace and security, human rights or sustainable development with respect to the value of cultural and linguistic diversity makes for an extraordinary learning process. Knowing how much Lundians bring to the table when debating with EU Commissioners, UN Secretaries, Nobel laureates or just each other, I simply think they have a lot to contribute and to gain from the experience."

The Many Languages, One World Essay Contest 2016 

60 Students will be selected as delegates to the 2016 United Nations Academic Impact Global Youth Forum, 25-31 July, 2016, where they will create action plans related to the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The students will present these action plans at United Nations Headquarters in New York City. The deadline for essay submission is 31 March 2016. More information is available at the Many Languages, One World website.