First-year law student broadens horizons at influential international gathering of youth

Prabhjot Punnia attended conference on global leadership and international human rights in early spring

Sarah Kent - 15 April 2020

For UAlberta Law student Prabhjot Punnia, understanding Canadian law in a global context is vital to protecting Canadians' rights and freedoms.

The first-year student joined international representatives from more than 100 countries at the Youth Assembly Global Development Leadership Series, held earlier this year in New York, prior to COVID-19 shutting down all travel.

"Hearing stories from my peers from around the world made me want to work towards ensuring the rights we have in Canada move forward for future generations," said Punnia.

The international gathering was hosted by the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation, a not-for-profit non-governmental organization invested in empowering youth to build a better global community. With a focus on international human rights, the conference helps youth leaders share knowledge, connect and take action in their communities.

Punnia was invited to apply and was one of only a handful of representatives from Canada who participated.

She attended seminars on human development, refugees and global displacement, and gender equality led by UN leadership and not-for-profit organizations. The discussions gave her new perspectives on international human rights and Canada's leadership on the global stage.

"For me, being a good global citizen means thinking outside of yourself-on an individual level and as a Canadian citizen," said Punnia. "We are humanitarian in nature."

A highlight of Punnia's time was role-playing as the United Nations Security Council, where she represented China as one of the permanent members. The goal of the session was to pass a motion that would determine the UN response to a civil war in South Sudan. The group needed to build consensus, and Punnia's diplomacy and advocacy skills were tested during deliberations.

Returning from the conference, Punnia was quick to put the knowledge she gained to good use. She shared how Canada can work toward building a more equitable global community with her fellow board members of Canadians for a Civil Society, an organization dedicated to human rights.

The conference experience also changed Punnia's personal worldview.

"My actions impact other individuals," she said. "Now that I know how interconnected we are, there are another set of stakeholders in my life who I am responsible for."

Now an ambassador for the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation, Punnia encourages anyone interested in global citizenship to consider applying.

"It was a privilege to attend," said Punnia.