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I was lost for words when I received my invitation to participate in the Kofi Annan Dialogues. Forget about the long term implications of my participation, what I immediately thought of was how fortunate I was, to be provided with the opportunity of a lifetime. The excitement, the nerves, I experienced every emotion you can think of, then came the ‘am I sure I want to do this? After all it is Kofi Annan”. Ultimately I knew this was the opportunity I had been waited for, ever since I knew there was a Kofi Annan.
This would be first of a series of Dialogues between Mr. Annan and young people from around the world. The pressure was on, not only the Kofi Annan factor, but this Dialogue was to set the tone for subsequent ones. Six young people, six nations, a combined population in excess of millions represented, and one great world leader, no second take, unedited honest conversation between young people and Kofi Annan. We had to come prepared, bring our ‘A game’, the world would be watching. This was enormous and rightfully so. It’s not every day that young people are provided with a platform to engage with an extraordinary leader such as Mr. Annan. The theme of the first episode happened to be ‘young people and leadership’ an area of great interest to me; youth leadership development and advocacy.
I was allocated to speak on youth and politics as a subtheme, and this came at a crucial time, especially considering the upcoming elections in South Africa in 2014. I was forced to reassess the role that young people played in politics and how to leverage that. This was not going to be a question and answer session, but more about sharing ideas, and learning from Mr. Annan’s years of experience in leadership.
Mr. Annan has a remarkable understanding of young people, he was able to easily communicate with us and pitch his ideas at an appropriate level. He urged us not to be provoked, not to be angered and to continue in the direction of our aims. His emphasis was also on collaborative work, organising ourselves as young people in a uniform fashion, to give our ideas credibility and strength. He spoke about how important it is to think globally and act locally in our approach. We presented Mr. Annan with the different challenges we are faced with, and he helped us to pave a way forward so that we can take concrete steps to yield results.
At the end of the Dialogue, I was inspired and challenged, to work with new sense of urgency and determination, and not to back down in the face of adversity, to collaborate with other young people in the pursuit of an agenda that is beneficial to young people both in the long and short term. I am grateful to One Young World for providing us with such a platform and for Mr. Annan for availing himself for such Dialogues. They will go on to impact a new generation of leaders and breed new, creative ideas that will solve the world’s most pressing issues.
Taking part in the first episode of the Kofi Annan Dialogues: Live, was a dream come true. As a young boy growing up in the rural town of Wolmaransstad, South Africa, the name Kofi Annan was synonymous to United Nations and great leadership. The man embodied not only the ideals the world wanted to uphold, but also the prospects of a peaceful and prosperous global community.
There is a One Young World clip of Mr. Annan saying “my generation of leaders has failed us.” I frankly don’t agree. It’s because of the feats they have achieved that we are inspired to do better. Yes, they might have not done enough, but what they have achieved in enough to challenge us, this generation, to do better.
In the midst of reaching targets, attending conferences, designing new projects and so forth, we are just young people who have a dream of leaving this world a better place than we found it.