10 OYW Ambassadors co-create policies alongside former Heads of State

From 14 -16 May, 10 One Young World Ambassadors participated in the 36th Annual Plenary Meeting of the InterAction Council held in Cartagena, Colombia.

The InterAction Council was established in 1983 as an independent international organization to mobilize the experience, energy and international contacts of a group of statesmen who have held the highest office in their own countries. Council members jointly develop recommendations and practical solutions for the political, economic and social problems confronting humanity.

The Council is unique in bringing together on a regular basis, and in an informal setting, members from among more than forty former heads of state or government. Council Members include Bill Clinton, Gro Harlem Brundtland and P.J Patterson. Serving in their individual capacities, the Council aims at fostering international cooperation and action in three priority areas:

  • Peace and security
  • World economic revitalization
  • Universal ethical standards.

The InterAction Council selects specific issues and develops proposals for action from these areas and communicates these proposals directly to government leaders, other national decision-makers, heads of international organizations and influential individuals around the world. Over the years, the Council has received support from many governments both from industrialized and developing countries and from foundations, corporations and individuals.

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For its 36th Annual Plenary Meeting the Council convened to discuss:

  • The crisis in Venezuela
  • Durable and ethical solutions for migrants and refugees
  • Smart cities
  • Human development: the Arctic, climate change and indicators of sustainability.

To help foster intergenerational dialogue, 10 OYW Ambassadors (listed below) were invited to take part in the 36th Plenary. They were each given the opportunity to contribute their expertise during discussions, debates and other associated side events and to offer their recommendations to the Council. A number of the Ambassadors were also given additional moderation and speaking roles during the event.

Other notable participants included the Hon. Bertie Ahern (former Prime Minister), Ireland; H.E. Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo (former President), Nigeria; and H.E. Mr Andrés Pastrana (former President), Colombia.

Following the Plenary, the InterAction Council published a Final Communiqué, outlining the issues that were discussed as well as a laying out a set of recommendations to the international community.

“It was an enriching opportunity to share this space with world former leaders and discuss global pressing issues such as climate change, the development of smart cities or the migrant crisis. There are few spaces where elders leaders are able to dialogue with young emerging leaders. Intergenerational dialogue is now needed more than ever.”

Carolina García Arbelaez, Regional Sustainability Manager at AB InBev.

36th Plenary OYW Attendees*:

Carlos Eduardo Vargas, Venezuela

Co-host during the Opening Ceremony. Also offered inputs during the Venezuela and Migrants & Refugee sessions.

Carlos Eduardo Vargas Palencia is a senior law student at the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello (UCAB) in Caracas, Venezuela and participated in the Venezuela Student Movement for a number of years. He is founder and currently Chief Executive Officer of the social start-up 1001 Ideas For My Country. He was a Delegate Speaker in the Leadership & Governance Plenary Session at the One Young World Summit of 2015 in Bangkok. He has also participated in the World Debate Championship in Spanish.   

Juan Jose Pocaterra, Venezuela

Presented recommendations during the Smart Cities session.

Juan currently works for Vikua, a company which has already helped 6 of the top 10 municipalities in Caracas begin their course in achieving Sustainable Urban Development and becoming examples of Smart Cities in the region. Juan is also part of the Advisory Board of the Future of Urban Development Initiative of the World Bank and the World Economic Forum.  

Laura Palmese-Hernandez, Honduras

Laura is an Environmental Legal Consultant at the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW), an organisation which helps communities speak out for clean air, clean water and a healthy planet. Laura established Waste2Opportunity to support informal recyclers in Honduras, earning her the 2018 Mary Robinson Climate Justice Award which provided her with a grant to scale her work.  

Daniel Duque-Velasquez, Colombia

Offered suggestions for improving global sustainability

Daniel is a keen activist for air quality in Medellin, the most polluted city in Colombia. He has set up a number of lawsuits calling the local administration to find estructural solutions to the problem, as well as empowering hundreds of citizens to strike to demand action. Daniel was also part of the team that led a nationwide anti-corruption petition that achieved 4.3 million signatures, the largest citizen-driven petition in Colombian history. He currently works as an advisor to Congress, fighting to pass an air quality act which demands better technology for diesel vehicles.

Sebastian Arevalo Sanchez, Colombia

Presented during the Migrants & Refugees session.

Sebastian has extensive experience in the prevention of human trafficking and smuggling of migrants, having worked previously as the Regional Coordinator in the National Youth Network Against Human Trafficking. He is now the CEO of Pasos Libres, an organisation with the goal to reinvent and revolutionise the strategies and means to prevent human trafficking and smuggling of migrants in the young population.

Maria Rueda, Colombia

Contributed to the Migrant & Refugee session.

Maria is a Forensic Psychologist at Fiscalía General de la Nación de Colombia. She formerly worked as the National Supervisor for the Free Housing Projects for internally displaced refugees. She lead 5 departments, ensuring that all the the victims were given healthcare, education and job prospects. This role allowed her to reach over 400,000 refugees, helping them start afresh in their communities.

Sebastian Lanz, Colombia

Sebastian is the co-founder of Temblores NGO, a non-profit community-based organisation that works to promoting human rights for street-connected and marginalised communities. His work at the Strategic Litigation and Advocacy department is deeply rooted in promoting social and legal strategies to ensure the right to the city to the people who experience forced displacement practices within the margins of the city of Bogotá.

Carolina Garcia Arbelaez, Colombia

Co-host during the Opening Ceremony. Also presented during the Human Development session.

Carolina is a Sustainability Manager at AB InBev, focussing on helping the company achieve its sustainability goals. Her main project involves the High Andean Wetland of Santurban, the source of water that provides water to more than two million people which is currently under severe risk due to deforestation, mining, agriculture, and climate change. Earlier this year, Carolina was selected to participate in the Howard Bound project, a growing network of female leaders tackling climate change. She represented Colombia at the Homeward Bound 2019 leadership expedition to Antarctica along with 80 other female leaders from around the world.

Xiomara Acevedo, Colombia

Xiomara is a climate activist, founding many citizen led strategies such as Barranquilla+20, the latin-american parliament for water and the global youth biodiversity movement, among a number of others, with 30,000+ youth involved in their activities since 2012. She is now a professional of climate change in the subnational government in Nariño coordinating the climate change public policy, and 10 pilot projects in adaptation, education and capacity building in the 64 municipalities of the province.

*Some names have been omitted to preserve anonymity.