The inaugural One Young World is over, but the real work has just begun. Kofi Annan, Desmond Tutu, Bob Geldof and Muhammad Yunus, among others, joined my fellow co-founder of One Young World, Kate Robertson, and me last month both to inspire the nearly 1,000 delegates from more than 105 countries and to provide a platform for these young people (all mid-20s and younger) to address and implement change on the issues that they believe are important to the future of our planet.
The delegates to One Young World represent a unique generation in that the digital revolution has, in part, made today's young people completely different from any generation that came before. Thanks to technology, they have access to an unprecedented amount of knowledge and information. Education used to be about the quality of teachers and teaching establishments, but now anyone with an Internet connection and interest can learn whatever they want, whenever they want.
Technology has also given them an unparalleled ability to influence and effect change. Take Oscar Morales, one of our One Young World counselors, for example, and how he used social media to create a revolution. Oscar created a Facebook movement called One Million Voices Against FARC to oppose the Colombian terrorist organization, which lead to more than 15 million people marching across 200 cities in more than 40 countries around the world.
Today, there are a huge number of challenges facing the world -- from specific issues such as the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, to the issue of climate change and the massive threat that poses to our planet, to the financial and monetary system post-crisis, to the enormous issues around global health and poverty, to the numerous ongoing wars and conflicts, to the role of business in being more socially responsible. The last item, in fact, is one of the other reasons we created One Young World. It's our tangible way of being more socially responsible as a business.
Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, our world leaders often fail to make the right decisions. As we saw at the Copenhagen Climate Conference, politics and posturing get in the way. So we thought that if the world's leaders can't always make the right decisions or find the right solutions, then the brilliant young people of the world could help them. By creating One Young World, we gave youth a platform to do that.
At February's One Young World summit in London, delegates debated resolutions on six key issues. These resolutions are a result of global research with more than 15,000 young people across 42 countries on six continents, in partnership with opinion research agency YouGovStone. The debate was passionate at times and, in the end, delivered a very clear picture of how the world's youth expect our leaders to act in relation to climate, interfaith dialogue, global business, the future of politics, the role of media and, finally, global health.
The opening plenary session, "The Environment and Its Protection," resulted in an overwhelmingly positive vote on our resolution calling for the reduction of carbon emissions by 2020, demonstrating a huge sense of dissatisfaction with the result of the Copenhagen conference in December. As Fathimath Nuha, a 20-year-old delegate from the Maldives, said: "I want to make a difference at One Young World. I want to make my country proud ... but what if I don't have a country to make proud?"
Crown Prince Haakon of Norway joined Pekka Himanen, professor of creative economy at the University of Art & Design, Helsinki, and John Hope Bryant, chairman-CEO of Operation HOPE, to lead a session on Global Dignity, reaffirming the importance of dignity, tolerance and equality among all people, which resulted in several emotional speeches by delegates voicing their own struggles and triumphs in the face of persecution and adversity.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu led the interfaith dialogue session, reaffirming this new generation's belief in religion as a unifying, rather than dividing, force. Delegates passed this session's resolution, with 84% of them voting that they believe that war must never be carried out in the name of religion. Yama Mererzada, a 23-year-old delegate from Afghanistan, said: "No religion guides that we should kill, it's nowhere. Show me the script; I will show you that it is fake—that it's manmade, not god-made. God sent all of us here for one purpose, and that is to live."
The "Role of Global Business" session was facilitated by, among others, Ken Costa, chairman of Lazard International, and EMI Global CEO Elio Leoni-Sceti, and resulted in a very lively debate with delegates expressing a general feeling of dissatisfaction for businesses and their role in the economic crisis. That led to 81% of delegates voting to pass a resolution calling on multinational corporations to behave ethically, and additionally delegates added that global businesses must define and act on their role in the fight against poverty. Delegate Lauren Bush from the United States said: "The beauty of our world today is that we are so interconnected, there is no longer an excuse for ignorance or turning a blind eye. The importance of doing good in business will be just as important as doing well in business."
In a session called "The Changing Power of the Media" guided by Mr. Morales and Richard Sambrook, director of BBC Global News, the negative perception of Africa in the media was repeatedly cited as being immensely damaging. One African delegate said, "Images of African children with flies on their faces is not the true portrayal of Africa." The resolution that the media use their influence and power to help protect truth and personal freedom was passed by 82% of the delegates.
Multi-award-winning musician and activist Wyclef Jean joined a live, interactive address over a satellite link where he reaffirmed something that author Don Tapscott had said minutes earlier: "Get corporations and NGOs naked, because when they're naked, they've got to be buff."
And in the final session of the summit, the fundamental responsibility of governments to make basic health care available for everybody was highlighted as part of "The Global Health Agenda." The session also brought to light the apathy surrounding unfair regulation. Education was touted as the key tool in effectively combating the global health crisis. Said U.K. delegate Lucian Tarnowski, "Prevention starts with education. My message is really clear: Everything starts and ends with education. Education, education, education." With 89% of delegates voting to pass the resolution calling on businesses, governments and civil society to work together more effectively to prioritize spreading information about and providing access to good healthcare and nutrition, this session drew hot debate.
What became apparent was that this generation is more socially responsible than any other before it and more concerned with the major issues facing our world. These delegates have now become One Young World ambassadors and for a three-year term have been charged with driving positive change and carrying forward the resolutions passed at One Young World.
There is no doubt in my mind that these ambassadors will act. Already they have created an Impact Taskforce, which will be responsible for ensuring that results are delivered in each of the six plenary areas. Groups such as One Young World Africa and One Young World Asia have already been formed by these ambassadors to keep the conversation moving forward within their regions.
One group that has stood out in my mind is the One Young World Arab Group, which demonstrated the power that these delegates can have when the group members reached out to one of the Israeli delegates during the summit and said that if he wanted to join the group, they'd rename it One Young World Middle East. This move, which was accepted, is very indicative of the sea change that these young people represent.
So what does this all mean, and how we will measure the success of this first-ever One Young World?
First, by the impact that the resolutions passed have on influencing the world and effecting positive change. Each counselor and every single delegate is charged with bringing these resolutions to world leaders and organizations such as the United Nations and the G20.
And second, we are hoping that One Young World will provide a platform for delegates to learn, flourish, grow and impact the world, and that some of them will go on to be heads of countries, to run major companies, to run the NGOs and to be brilliant social entrepreneurs.
As Kofi Annan, one of our counselors, said, good leaders need to be good followers. And if they can't be good followers, then maybe the young people of the world can help them.
If people like Kofi Annan, Desmond Tutu, Muhammad Yunus and Bob Geldof are prepared to join One Young World as counselors and actually listen to the world's young people, then maybe the world's leaders should begin to listen, too.
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR|
David Jones is global CEO, Havas Worldwide (U.K.) In 2005, Mr. Jones was inducted into the American Advertising Federation's Hall of Achievement and the following year was named to the "40 Under 40" lists of both Advertising Age and Crain's New York Business. More recently, he was selected by the World Economic Forum as a 2008 Young Global Leader, joining 245 leading executives, public figures and intellectuals -- all age 40 or younger -- from around the world.