Student participates in UN commission

Sam Bird at the United Nations Commission
on Sustainable Development.

The United Nations headquarters may be unfamiliar territory for an Iowa State student. And how many have the opportunity to use an identification card to pass through security while at the UN?

For one Iowa State student, this unlikelihood is a reality.

Sam Bird, a sophomore majoring in global resource systems in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, recently traveled to New York City for the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. This two-week meeting in May was convened to develop a document for policy-making related to sustainable development.

Bird, a native of Ames, is the president of Iowa State University’s chapter of the International Association of Students in Agricultural and Related Sciences (IAAS). During an IAAS World meeting in Serbia, the group decided it needed more involvement in the United States.

And that’s where Bird stepped in.

“This opportunity was available two-fold through the IAAS Partnership Board and through Iowa State University,” Bird said. “IAAS was able to help in preparation for the meeting. I also had a lot of support from my professors who were helpful in letting me move my finals around, since the commission took place during finals week.”

While in New York, Bird participated in policy sessions, Youth Caucus meetings and lectures. The predominant themes for this year’s commission were agriculture, rural development, drought and desertification, Africa and land.

“The dialogue and interaction between major groups and people interested in sustainable development is important. You take away a lot of ideas and meet many experts,” Bird said. “If agriculture isn’t sustainable, then humankind isn’t sustainable because people need to eat.”

Personally, Bird was most involved in the agriculture-themed meetings, as well as some discussions on rural development.

“It wasn’t just observation,” Bird said. “The conference has major groups involved, and there is a strong emphasis on youth participation. The Youth Caucus was really active in lobbying the governments and was relatively successful in making changes to the document on behalf of youth all over the world.”

Bird’s role as an IAAS representative came into play. Because the theme was focused on agriculture, he was able to make a connection with many experts and help promote the organization. The goal was to create closer ties with the United Nations.

“IAAS is a great opportunity for students to network with people interested in agriculture, social justice and global issues. It’s interesting to see how each country has a different perspective,” said Bird.

This summer Bird continues his adventure into global agriculture and development by participating in a service-learning project in Uganda that will create school gardens in a poor rural region of the country. The program, offered June 2 through July 12, is made possible by ISU’s horticulture and agronomy Departments, the Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Study Abroad Office.

The global resource systems major is an interdisciplinary program that equips students with technical, cultural and leadership and integration skills. Students choose an international region, language and an area of expertise to focus on. Together, these areas create a well-rounded student who is able to pursue a career in addressing global issues, especially in developing nations. For more information, visit: