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"With over 200 representatives from 56 countries, plus about 200 Nepali participants, it was billed as the 'meeting of minds on the roof of the world.'"
- Julie Birnbaum

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Nepal

Planting the seed for the next millenium
by Julie Birnbaum, Nepal
Jan 23, 2000

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And there it was. The millenium sun was appearing slowly over the craggy Himalayan peaks, first catching the snowy tops of the Langtangs, then lighting the sky from the Everest range in the east, all the way to the Annapurnas. It was the sunrise we had been waiting for, and it was absolutely gorgeous - a fiery crimson ball signaling the start of the year 2000. The Japanese rose from the site where they had been meditating for hours to get out their cameras; Europeans spoke in hushed tones and gazed in awe; my American and Canadian friends nudged each other and grinned. Even the hundreds of Nepalese and Tibetans, who live daily among the majestic Himalayas, couldn't help but stare in wonder at the beauty of the scene.

It was Nepal's first event of this scale: a five-day Global Youth Meet, organized by an NGO(non-government organization) called National Youth Forum Nepal, and endorsed by the King of Nepal, the Prime Minister, and Kofi Annan of the United Nations, among others. With over 200 representatives from 56 countries, plus about 200 Nepali participants, it was billed as the "meeting of minds on the roof of the world."

The goal of the conference was to discuss issues of importance for the next millenium and strengthen friendships between nations. Participants also had the daunting task of creating a Kathmandu Resolution, which would be presented to the United Nations.

I looked around for Hari Man Lama, the man who first conceived the idea of the Global Youth Meet, and wondered how he felt at that moment as we gathered above Kathmandu, on the ridge of Nagarkot. For me, it was truly the climax of the entire conference. I thought of the words spoken by Kiyo Sasaki Monro at the opening ceremony held a few days earlier: "My mother tongue is Japanese," she said, "and the word for creation and imagination is the same: so-zo. Mr. Hari Man Lama is a good example, where his imagination made resonance with many people all over the world, and made this event a reality."

Looking around at the people gathered the morning of January 1, 2000, I saw the sweet results of the creation and imagination which had gone into the making of the Global Youth Meet. I exchanged new year's greetings with friends from South Africa, Indonesia, Thailand, Cyprus, and Mauritius, and realized the depth and meaning of what the conference had achieved. Then I returned to my tent to find that my sleeping bag had been seized by misled staff reclaiming rental bags, and thrown into a huge pile. The pile was being circled by dozens of disgruntled delegates, cursing in their respective tongues.

I shook my head and came back to reality.

Anyone who has spent any time in Nepal learns to deal with both the typical problems of management found in many developing countries, and the unique inconveniences found only here, in the world's only Hindu kingdom. Holding the millenium Global Youth Meet in Nepal created an incredible energy, to be sure - here we all were, talking about issues of peace in the land of Buddha, discussing culture and development in a nation with more than 75 distinct ethnic groups and 50 languages. It also created problems, both organizational and cultural, which meant that some participants were not entirely happy with the outcome of the event.

What's the objective of the conference?

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