Rimla Akhtar CA reports from day one at One Young World
Before heading to Canada and the One Young World summit, delegates were told that the experience is often described as a life changing one.
After day one of the summit itself, I can certainly say that this event is going to have a significant impact on how my view of the world will develop, as well as my own ability to contribute to it.
Day one involved a variety of speeches and plenary sessions, which included short presentations from One Young World delegates from around the world. The themes varied greatly, with each topic vying for attention and action from the 1300 members of the audience.
The day began with an opportunity to hear from the editors-in-chief of major newspapers from across the globe about the importance of solutions and impact journalism. We were reminded of the fact that people, particularly young people, are hungry for stories that inspire and that we too are part of the movement of sharing stories that show how the world is better for us having lived in it.
Following this introductory session, the pressing issues of the day began to be discussed and debated.
It would be easy to lose hope and feel down about the various issues we hear and read about. However, what energised me was the fact that we have many young leaders across the globe who are determined to create resolutions.
The first theme for day one was extremism, where we heard from a number of young people from countries including Bosnia, Cameroon, Ireland and Myanmar, who had both suffered due to the actions of extremists or had been a part of extremist groups.
From far right to far left groups, the narrative has been the same: “Fear leads to hate. Hate leads to violence. Repeat," as was mentioned in one speaker’s video. The message was clear on the need for dialogue between communities, but also between communities and authorities such as the police.
There was also discussion around the need for a holistic approach to be taken to tackling these issues for young people because, it was recognised, extremism is often a result of other factors in the lives of individuals, such as poverty or bullying, which create a sense of not belonging and mental health issues. Kofi Annan also lent his backing to one group of young people who are working to provide a counter narrative.
It seemed to me from the discussions during the sessions on extremism, and the discussions I had with other delegates, that conflict is something that has taken over our planet. It would be easy to lose hope and feel down about the various issues we hear and read about. However, what energised me was the fact that we have many young leaders across the globe who are determined to create resolutions.
The next theme was justice and began with a discussion on climate change and climate justice led by the former Irish President, Mary Robinson, and a climate change activist from Sri Lanka. If I’m honest, I’ve not paid as much attention as this topic deserves over the years.
The fact is that we are all in this together, no matter our ethnicity, our gender, our faith or any other aspect of our being...
As a Muslim, my faith teaches me to “tread lightly” on the earth and I believe that this includes the physical legacy that we leave behind in terms of our impact on the environment. This session reminded me of this fact and that, whether we realise it or not, if we do not look to reduce our carbon footprint in one part of the world, the impact will be felt by countries such as Sri Lanka where the result has been a severe negative impact of the livelihoods of the poorest of people.
What we do now will impact our future and so the call was to ensure we work towards inter-generational equity when it comes to climate change.
A further discussion around justice came through a rousing speech from Professor Muhammad Yunus, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, who spoke about his desire to have the three zeros – zero poverty, zero unemployment and zero net carbon emissions. However, his overall message to the young people in the room was to harness the innate creativity within us as humans to create a better world that will enable those three zeros to be achieved.
Later in the afternoon, the One Young World community was treated to acting royalty in the form of Emma Watson, who spoke to delegates about her ‘He for She’ campaign to achieve gender equality.
After speaking of her own challenges of being someone who spoke out about gender inequality, she introduced us to nine delegates who had been given scholarships in her name due to their work in the gender equality arena. As someone who works within the sports industry to achieve more understanding between genders and equality of opportunity, this session particularly spoke to me about the fact that the challenges we face are universal and of the obvious importance of the male voice in calling to positive action on gender equality issues.
The fact is that we are all in this together, no matter our ethnicity, our gender, our faith or any other aspect of our being, and so the need to be united in eradicating all forms of discrimination and working towards an inclusive local and global community is very clear.
There were a number of sessions that followed, including initiatives to solve pressing world issues through the coming together of communities, looking at leadership in technology and LGBTQ+ from a human rights perspective. Whilst there were many deep discussions on serious issues, the main message was a call to action. And so, after a packed first day full of strong speeches and plenary sessions from a diverse range of people, young and old, I cannot wait to experience what day two has in store for us.
Rimla Akhtar CA is the 2016 ICAS One Young CA winner.