Space Travel, Drug Cartels, a North Korean escapee, the Northern Ireland Peace Process, Inspiration and more at One Young World 2014 in Dublin
Travel changes the way you perceive the world. It adds a new lens and causes you to question things you thought you knew about the world. When you travel, not only do you enrich your mind with culture, but you often see things you can’t un-see. If you’ve ever stepped foot in a developing country then you will have seen injustices of one kind or another and you will have started to reconsider the status quo and why the world is the way it is. While I often dream of emigrating from the UK again, I’m also aware that I am exceptionally lucky to come from such a civilised nation that affords me peace, security, protection from harm, an education, a democratic political system, and my human rights. I discussed this in my recent blog post about why my British passport is my most valuable possession. I am grateful for all these things, because I have visited countries where this is not the case and I have seen the world through a different lens. I am a traveller with a conscience.
Last year I travelled to South Africa to attend a summit for so-called ‘young leaders’ in Johannesburg, and that trip shocked me. But it wasn’t only my visit to the poverty-stricken township of Alexandra that shocked me. The 3-day summit itself had a profound effect on me. The summit was called One Young World and it gathered 1,300 young people from 180 countries worldwide to discuss and find solutions for many of the pressing problems the world faces. It was honestly life-changing (and no, that isn’t an exaggeration) and attended by so many inspirational leaders, speakers and fellow delegates.
Last year I was sponsored by my employer to attend, and I was lucky enough to be selected again this year to attend the subsequent summit held recently in Dublin from 15th-19th October 2014 as a Returning Ambassador. The day I arrived in Dublin I published this blog post on my preparations and my expectations.
So how did One Young World 2014 Dublin do? Did it live up to the previous year and meet my extraordinarily high expectations?
I tried my best not to compare the two summits. Instead, the best way to evaluate each summit is by measuring the action it inspires. One Young World is a call to action, and without subsequent action it would be merely a talking shop. So what action will I be taking? I’ll come back to that at the end of this post.
So what did I think of this year’s summit?
Mind-blowing. From talks on the Circular Economy from Dame Ellen MacArthur, to debates on corruption and the Venezuelan dilemma with four former Latin American Presidents, from space tourism (literally), to incredible solidarity for people with disabilities (or as Anthony Jenkins well-described it ‘diffabilities’, from the harrowing story of a North Korean escapee, to Kurdish delegates’ desperate tales of ISIS atrocities. It was almost a little too much to digest, the world is simply too screwed up to be comprehended all at once. On Day 2 I developed a horrible lump in my throat, the sort you get when you’re about to cry or are really really stressed, and it wouldn’t go away until the next day. I began to feel it was all a little overwhelming and I started despairing for the state of the world. One thing that One Young World will definitely cause you is a huge amount of guilt. Have you ever complained about the English weather or your boring commute to work? I feel ashamed to even talk about these ridiculous #firstworldproblems – at least I grew up in an environment safe from FGM, famine, civil war, violence, slave labour, and countless other wrongs. Just writing this brings back the strong emotions that One Young World evoked in me. As much as I love this beautiful and enchanting world that I dedicate so much time to exploring, it is a fundamentally cruel and unjust world that is just as despicable as it is stunning.
It was every bit as moving as last year’s summit and I relished the opportunity to be surrounded by so many passionate and committed young people, like-minded global citizens with a social conscious. We don’t have enough of these sort of people as role models in society.
So what did I learn and what am I going to do as a consequence of attending One Young World this year?
To start with, I am going to continue supporting efforts to promote intercultural skills, which I started doing last year through my project Worldly Minded.
Secondly, I am going to plant 8 trees per year. This environmental conscience came from a breakout session with Yann Arthus-Bertrand (my new hero), a famous French photographer involved in all manner of thought-provoking and significant projects, exhibitionists and films. He’s the ultimate traveller, and he brought up the issue of our carbon footprint. At the beginning of 2014, fellow blogger Jason of Travel on Inspiration wrote an interesting blog post measuring my carbon footprint throughout 2013. He calculated that I travelled a total of 64,818km in 2013, which equate to an astonishing 7,143kg of carbon dioxide, for which I needed to plant 8 trees to offset my carbon footprint. I find that shocking, and I’m only 1 person! There are 7 billion people in the world, although granted the vast majority in developing countries don’t travel at all. I donated through the UK charity The Woodland Trust.
Thirdly, I am going to maintain a network of ‘intrapreneurs’ (the term used for employees in large companies that innovate and act like a start-up) after I chaired a panel debate entitled ‘Intrapreneurship in Action’ at One Young World. Two colleagues and I managed to organise and pull off a panel debate with three influential and senior figures from Twitter, PepsiCo and Telefonica (read all about that breakout here, and the 70 attendees of the debate couldn’t have been more complimentary about it! Loads of them wanted to discuss it further with me, maintain contact, build a cross-industry network and arrange a follow-up session. While big businesses can often seem profit-driven, it’s true that they are the only organisations that have the capital available to invest in charities, NGOs and social enterprises and to fund campaigns and influence policy makers. They are a powerful force for good when they have the right socially-oriented and ‘intrapreneurial’ people at the helm.
And fourthly, I want to use this blog as a platform to publicise initiatives in need of support. Here’s my first example: keen linguists who have a professional translation qualification should sign up to Translators Without Borders, which I had never actually come across before Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, mentioned it on stage at One Young World.
I don’t feel like I’ve done the summit justice in these 1,000 words but to give you a better idea, take a look at the official OYW highlights video for 2014: