Why it matters: One Young World Summit

This article originally appeared on Qatar Today and was written by Neeshad Shafi * 

A diverse consortium of representatives from 194 countries was in Bogota, Colombia, recently to discuss, among other issues, the role of young people in propagating peace.

The world is currently home to the largest generation of young people in history. With half of the world’s population being under the age of 30, the ideas and talents of young people will drive the success of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. That’s the relevance of One Young World’s (OYW), which is on a mission to discover the world’s greatest young changemakers, activists and innovators every year.

The One Young World stages an annual summit where the most valuable young talent from global and national companies, NGOs, universities and other forward thinking organisations are joined by world leaders. Its past and present Counsellors include Canadian Prime Minster Justin Trudeau, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Bob Geldof, Kofi Annan, Sir Richard Branson, Professor Muhammad Yunus, Mary Robinson, Emma Watson, Arianna Huffington and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

When I received an invitation to take part in One Young World in Bogota, as a Peace Ambassador, by the European Commission, I knew that this summit was breaking the tradition. Unlike many forums before, this had a clear commitment to action. The importance of the role of the youth was equally mirrored by other honoured guests of the Summit, for instance the former UN General Secretary Kofi Annan, who urged providing our youth with the right skill set…will enable to create a future for all.

The One Young World Summit in Bogota saw a diverse consortium of representatives from 194 countries discuss the major challenges facing the world today – global peace, the high and protracted incidence of unemployment, the acute social and economic obstacles faced by women, the environmental impacts of climate change, and the road to climate action. It also outlined the struggle with disabilities and the burning desire for it to be taken more seriously by society. An overwhelming theme emerged while discussing viable actions for change: the role that entrepreneurship and technology access will play in circumventing these challenges. Not only will these mechanisms create economic and employment opportunities, but tech and startup ecosystems also represent mediums that youth can use as forms of expression.

The 8th OYW summit also brought together young people from the Arab countries. During the summit, youth from the Arab region valued and committed to intercultural and cohesive societies and discussed the realities, challenges and aspirations among young Arabs. The overarching theme of One Young World 2017 Bogotá was reconciliation and the role of young people in propagating peace. Giving substance to this theme, the youth from the Gulf Cooperation (GCC) countries came together in a show of solidarity and friendship to counter the unprecedented times of diplomatic crisis confronted by the region. Despite the differences among the GCC countries, the forum participants were driven by a common desire to overcome prejudice and barriers by committing to intercultural dialogue and exchange of peace.

Now as a One Young World ambassador, I believe more than ever before that as the youth of today, we have a critical role to play in creating opportunities for our communities and the world. We should harness and channel our passion and hunger for change by taking risks. With the support of the government and NGOs, we can work towards a more equitable and sustainable tomorrow. Empirical evidence shows this to be true. Unlike anyone before us, our generation has the tools to enact the change that will lead us to a prosperous future. Indeed, the world requires our energy, creativity, and our so-called young leaders in creating sustainable and innovative opportunities.

The One Young World Summit gave young people a chance to have their voices heard on the global issues they care about. Young people will be instrumental in delivering these goals and making sure the world keeps its promises to end poverty, injustice, inequality, and promote women empowerment and climate change for good.

Youth summits like One Young World matter more than ever before.

*Neeshad Shafi holds a master’s degree in Environmental Engineering and resides in Doha, Qatar. He is a youth environmental activist, educator, speaker and climate change advocate. He is currently serving as Co-Founder and National Coordinator for Arab Youth Climate Movement Qatar (AYCMQ), Middle East Officer for CliMates, and Founding member of Youth Climate Lab.