One Young World will achieve a global first by hosting at its annual Summit the team of Young Leaders chosen by the United Nations to champion the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
The landmark attendance of these outstanding change-makers at the One Young World Summit in Bogotá, Colombia, on 4-7 October, will be the first time that they have gathered at an event not convened by the UN.
The inaugural group of Young Leaders was selected last September, from 18,000 nominations, on the basis of contributions made to a more sustainable world and includes pioneers in sectors ranging from food to fashion to finance. They come from many different backgrounds and represent every region in the world.
Their role is to help activate young people in support of the Sustainable Development Goals and they report to the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, who will also be attending the One Young World Summit 2017.
Among the Young Leaders is the One Young World Ambassador Safaath Ahmed Zahir, a women’s rights activist from the Republic of Maldives. Safaath, 25, believes that equitable participation of women in politics and government is essential to building and sustaining democracy. She defines success as: “More women in parliament, more women in policy-making, more women as Ministers, and more women Presidents.”
After completing her studies abroad, she returned to the Maldives to lead Women on Boards, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting gender diversity in the workplace and inspiring Maldivian women to accelerate to the next level, no matter their position or economic standing. Through capacity development workshops, scholarship programs and advocacy campaigns, Women on Boards has pioneered efforts to raise the profile of women’s economic empowerment in the Maldives.
Building on this success, Safaath is establishing an NGO called Women and Democracy to increase female representation in policy and decision-making.
Also among the UN Young Leaders for the Sustainable Goals is Rainier Mallol, a 25-year-old from the Dominican Republic. Rainier is the co-founder and President of AIME, an epidemiology company that has developed a tool to predict major disease outbreaks by using artificial intelligence, epidemiological expertise and data analytics.
Every year, 400m catch Dengue fever and 2.5 billion people are at risk from the disease. “Growing up in the Dominican Republic, the number one health concern we think about is Dengue,” Rainier says. “My mother and my brother have both had it.”
A computer engineer by training, Rainier co-founded AIME (Artificial Intelligence in Medical Epidemics), which has developed a tool to predict the time and location of infectious disease outbreaks in real time. “We’re an epidemiology company first, and a technology company second,” he says.
The platform currently functions at 87% accuracy, and can be used to provide valuable information to public health officials, saving precious time and ultimately lives. Pilot projects have been undertaken in Malaysia, Brazil and the Philippines.
Rainier and his team are looking at how they can apply the model to the spread of HIV, Tuberculosis, Malaria, and other neglected tropical diseases, in support of Sustainable Development Goal 3 (Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages). “We’re trying to shift epidemiology to be more proactive, and with new technology that’s increasingly possible,” he says.
As a UN Young Leader for the Sustainable Goals, Carolina Medina will attend the One Young World Summit in her home country. The 28-year-old Colombian entrepreneur co-founded the start-up Agruppa in order to harness mobile phone technology in helping small businesses to buy healthy food at wholesale prices.
Agruppa organizes small businesses into clusters, creating collective buying power so that they can benefit from economies of scale when ordering food direct from farmers. This allows vendors to purchase fresher produce at better prices, saving money on transportation and other costs, which can be passed on to the customer.
“The ultimate objective is to make healthy food available to everyone, no matter where they live,” says Carolina. “Hunger in our country does not necessarily mean lack of access to food, but lack of access to affordable and nutritious food. And if kids aren’t properly fed, then they cannot go to school and they cannot learn. We feel that everything is connected, and that is my understanding of the Sustainable Development Goals.”