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A 22-year-old Filipino working in Dubai was one of the three winners of the United Nations’ (UN) challenge to pitch a world-changing idea to “Mr. Secretary-General” Ban Ki-moon in only half a minute.

According to the UN, Jonathan Eric Defante (photo above), 22, was one of this year’s “Citizen Ambassadors” for suggesting that plastic bottles can be reused to build communities around the world.

Defante’s entry, “One Bottle, One Life,” was picked by a panel of experts from the UN among 600 videos, along with:

“In Our Way, In Our Time” by Sigin Rënwa Ojulu, 20, from South Sudan / USA; and “Let’s Empower Youth” by Sergio (Mario) Valdez, 19, from Guatemala.

This year, citizens had to begin with “Excuse me, Mr. Secretary-General” before giving their short statement on what they think “needs to be done to make this world a better and safer place.”

The three winners will meet with the secretary-general in their trip to the UN Headquarters later this year.

Aside from meeting the secretary-general, the winners will also:

• be taken on a special VIP tour of the headquarters;

• receive a personal certificate for a two-year designation as a Citizen Ambassador; and

• attend briefings on humanitarian issues.

Their videos will also be screened “at high-level UN meetings.”

‘Bottle’ idea

In his 30-second video pitch, Defante, an engineering graduate, urged Ban Ki-moon to “create a model community in every nation made out of used plastic bottles or ‘Eco Bricks,’” which can be built by the people themselves as a source of income.

“The communities can be organized into cooperatives to enable them to sustain their livelihood for years to come, changing lives one bottle at a time,” he said.

Defante began his pitch by stating that 2.7 million tons of plastic bottles, or more than 75 percent, end up in landfills — a reflection, he said, that “the message across the globe about recycling is not strong enough.”

The eldest child of an overseas Filipino worker and a special education teacher, Defante is currently based in Dubai, where he works as a sales associate.

He earned a degree in electronics and communication engineering (ECE) from the Mapua Institute of Technology last year.

Defante was a member of the Mapua team that won in the Basic category of the 2009 Cisco Networking Academy Skills Competition.

‘Citizen Ambassadors’

The Citizen Ambassadors campaign was launched in 2009 by the UN Department of Public Information, inviting people “to directly engage with decision-makers” through YouTube.

Participants who are at least 18 years old are asked upload their video response — spoken or subtitled in either English or French — to an assigned topic or question.

The contest is part of Ban Ki-moon’s initiative to utilize the Internet and social networking to give citizens a voice in many diplomatic issues.

For the past two years, UN had citizens react to:

• the Millennium Development Goals (2010); and

• to the question “If you had the opportunity to speak to world leaders, what would you say?” (2009).

Five individuals were named honorary “Citizen Ambassadors” in 2009, while six were chosen last year.

(Source: Gmanews)