Intelligence, artificial and human, on display at the 6th United Nations Youth Assembly in Kosovo

6 Jun 2024

Intelligence, artificial and human, on display at the 6th United Nations Youth Assembly in Kosovo

With the dawn of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) era, the call to shape it – and our collective future – was issued to a room full of young leaders from across the Western Balkans, at the 6th United Nations Youth Assembly in Kosovo.

Much has changed on the technological landscape since the last youth assembly in June 2023. Accordingly with these changes, this year’s assembly, which took place on May 22 and 23, was titled “Youth, Peace and Security in the AI era”.

The assembly delved into the transformative potential of AI in advancing peacebuilding efforts, conflict resolution, community-building, and social justice. “Artificial intelligence is becoming more and more available. It provides tools that can help build social cohesion throughout the region and beyond. It should, thus, be utilised as a catalyst that propels trust-building efforts and initiatives across communities,” said Ivan Perković, a youth delegate from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Over the course of two days, delegates engaged in dynamic discussions and workshops aimed at harnessing the power of AI for the greater good.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMIK Caroline Ziadeh urged the 100 participants from Kosovo and 25 regional participants to exchange ideas and commit to raising their voices for transformative – and positive – strides forward.

“As we navigate through various complexities, we need to remember that you may use AI to stay online, but don't let it offline your creativity and spirit. Use this time and this forum for innovation and for creative exchange of ideas. Your voices, and initiatives are the force behind the transformative change we collectively seek,” the SRSG said.

The youth participants debated topics such as mental health and cybersecurity in AI, heard from keynote speakers, shared coffee with Kosovo champions from multiple disciplines, and competed in a small grant competition to undertake projects over the next few months.

Recognizing the essential role of young people in shaping the AI landscape, delegates reaffirmed their commitment to raise their collective voices and to promote digital literacy in their own communities. The participants called for greater investment in youth-led initiatives, ethical AI practices, and inclusive decision-making processes.

Drita Dibrani from Vushtrri/Vučitrn in Kosovo, a first-time participant in the Youth Assembly, said it was both a pleasure to attend an event that brought together youth from across Kosovo and the region as well as to learn from role models. "The most important takeaway was that we had the chance to talk to mentors from different fields, especially about the use of social media and AI, and how we can apply these tools in our daily professional and academic lives," she said.

AI also brings challenges including ethical concerns regarding privacy, surveillance, and bias, as well as digital gaps and security risks.  “While the AI has great potential in bringing people together and enhancing communication, it also poses a great challenge. It can be misused to spread misinformation and incite hate, and when overly relied on, it limits critical thinking,” said Marsona Thaqi, civil society activist from Kosovo.

Kosovo Deputy Prime Minister Emilija Redžepi demonstrated her commitment to engaging and empowering youth from Kosovo and beyond.   In her opening remarks, she spoke about the value of their cooperation and collaboration, in all spheres.  "Only through economic cooperation and social cohesion across the region can we all truly benefit."

UNICEF Kosovo deputy director Benjamin Samuel Fisher told the youngsters it was essential for them to have experiences that would enable them to ensure they were part of discussions, and their voices were heard. “I hope and believe this youth assembly has been such a beginning of a journey for many of you and that you continue that journey,” he said.

SRSG Ziadeh similarly reflected on the journey ahead into the unknown, concluding her remarks. "As we embark on this journey together, let us heed the call to shape a future where young leaders of today become successful leaders of tomorrow, and where AI serves not as a master, but as a servant to humanity. With a collective commitment to collaboration, innovation, and inclusivity, we can navigate the challenges and opportunities of the AI era, paving the way for a brighter and more equitable future for all.”