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Exploring Global Waters: Perspectives from UNICEF Youth Foresight Senior Fellow, ljun Kim.

In a world where borders blur and global cooperation is essential, the experiences of those who live and work internationally offer invaluable insights into navigating diverse cultures, fostering peace, and driving positive change. Meet Ljun Kim, a UNICEF Youth Foresight Senior Fellow deeply entrenched in the realm of UN political and peace-building affairs, whose journey embodies the essence of the expat life. From bridging cultural divides to championing youth empowerment on a global scale, Ljun’s story sheds light on the challenges and triumphs of international work and the profound impact it has on shaping our collective future.

1. Ijun, tell us about your journey so far…

While I always had an interest in global affairs and the desire to give back to the

world, I was never quite sure how to do that. Then I came across a youth

organisation called AIESEC. The fact that it was entirely youth-run and dedicated to

advancing peace appealed to me because it felt like a challenge, and I wanted to be

part of a group of young people working to take on an ambitious goal. It was indeed

challenging, and I found myself having to navigate many obstacles throughout my

journey. However, those experiences reinforced my commitment to peace and

empowering others, and I like to think I have continued on that trajectory ever since.

2. Could you share some insights into your role as a UNICEF Youth Foresight Senior

Fellow (and Research Consultant) and how it contributes to empowering young


My primary role is to support the current cohort of Youth Foresight Fellows in

building their capacity in foresight and leveraging those skills to lead national

research projects. I believe my team and I contribute to empowering young people

because it provides all the knowledge, skills, and tools necessary for our fellows to

design their own projects while simultaneously pushing them out of their comfort

zones to lead their own initiatives. Subsequently, by our fellows engaging other

young people from their communities through their research, it trains and empowers

other groups of youth even though I may never meet them in person. I also advocate

for meaningful youth engagement by demonstrating the impact of our work, striving

to transform existing organisations to become enabling environments for young

people to make substantive contributions and be recognised as equal partners.

3. As a member of the Youth Advisory Group (and recently a Project Coordinator) at

the UN Department of Political and Peace building Affairs, what are some key

challenges in promoting youth, peace, and security in the Asia-Pacific region?

One obstacle in promoting the YPS agenda is the tendency of key stakeholders to

think and act based on the past. While I recognise the value of history and past

experiences, and do not deny the impact they have on the present, they often hinder

transformative processes that require key actors to break out of pre-determined

parameters. As such, historical grievances and clashing political ideologies have

been particularly challenging to overcome when promoting regional cohesion.

Additionally, ageism is another obstacle I actively work to overcome, both within and

out with the region. It is challenging to encourage intergenerational solidarity when

deep-rooted cultural values sometimes dictate otherwise, but I have experienced

first-hand the willingness of relevant stakeholders to recognise young people as key

drivers and equal partners.

4. Can you tell us about your experience exploring the intersection of international

law and sustainable development during your master’s degree at the University of

Washington School of Law?

It was fascinating to learn about the legal mechanisms that support multilateralism,

and more specifically, how such systems affected the development of the Global

Goals and continue to affect ongoing progress. It was critical that I gained a deeper

understanding of the legal (and political) landscape as my work often involves

influencing and recommending policy changes. Now that I am familiar with some of

the legal mechanisms and practices that dictate how multilateral agreements are

developed, negotiated, and eventually either tabled or passed, I feel more confident

in navigating the rules and nuances while advocating for the changes I believe in.

6. What advice do you have for young people aspiring to pursue careers in

international relations, peace building, and sustainable development?

It is important to focus on your pocket of influence. Working in an international

environment can sometimes be overwhelming, with too many stakeholders, events,

opinions, and more influencing your work. You might feel invigorated one day, only

to feel completely helpless the next. By defining your goals and establishing a clear

idea of who and what you can influence, it allows you to compartmentalise the tasks

ahead of you into manageable bits and pieces, until you can connect them to create

a larger, more holistic picture. There are also many ways to begin your careers in

these fields, so put yourself out there and explore!

7. How do you balance your various roles and commitments, including your work

with UNICEF, the UN Department of Political and Peace building Affairs, and other


Every week, I adjust my priorities depending on the task at hand. For example, I may

choose to dedicate more time and effort to my role with UNICEF because I need to

submit the final draft of a report by the end of the week. Whenever I know there will

be significant changes to my priorities, I try my best to communicate this to all

relevant teams and colleagues so I can set clear expectations and they can make

necessary arrangements as well.

8. What are some recent projects or initiatives you’ve been involved in that you’re

particularly proud of?

Working with UN DPPA and UNDP Samoa, I designed and facilitated a strategic

foresight workshop. Recognising the unique perspectives of Pacific youth on climate

change, the objective of the workshop was to encourage them to consider alternative

future visions, cultivate a sense of agency, and develop a set of recommendations to

effectively address the climate crisis. Acutely aware of my limited understanding of

the regional context, I did my best to remind myself of the primary role of a facilitator:

to create a safe space for participants to share, build, and imagine. I was very proud

to see how engaged the participants were, the way foresight reshaped some of the

conversations, and the recommendations put forth by the Pacific youth.

9. In your opinion, what are some of the most pressing issues facing youth globally

today, and how can young people contribute to addressing them?

I believe the most pressing issue is the impact of short-termism. This is prevalent in

many contexts, including governments, private enterprises, personal development,

and more. Our habit of seeking immediate gratification, whether in pursuit of financial

profit or stimulating online content, hinders us to consider the long-term and often

less conspicuous impacts of our decisions. However, I believe young people are in a

unique position to address the lack of long-term thinking. Youth (and children) are

better equipped to understand and advocate on behalf of the future as they will be

the ones living in the future. This personal connection allows them to create more

vivid visions of the future as well as develop a stronger sense of responsibility. While

young people are just as prone to seek immediate gratification as others, I believe

the above characteristics can support youth in overcoming short-termism. I have

seen how powerful advocacy and activism by young people can be when rooted in a

sense of ownership and hope to create an enabling environment where more can

join and lead such initiatives.

10. What do you envision for the future of youth engagement and participation in

global cooperation efforts?

In the future, having young people at the table is no longer something to celebrate. It

is the norm. Global cooperation is rooted in intergenerational solidarity with the

recognition that each decision is made for future generations.

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