It has been a truly manic month since the summit and the experiences I had there are still sinking in. Mohammed and I saw, heard and tried things we never thought we would. This is my blog post on what I have taken from the summit, and how this has changed my outlook on the world since coming home.
To start with, the Opening ceremony was astounding. It took place on Parliament hill, outside, with a 360 degree view on Ottawa's 'best bits' of architecture. In the space of a couple of hours we had seen Prof. Muhammad Yunis, Kofi Annan, Emma Watson, Meghan Markle and been addressed directly by Justin Trudeau. Trudeau introduced himself as Canada's Youth minister, and took the opportunity to introduce his new Youth Council. His approach to his introduction forced you to accept that he is serious about young people, young leaders and the need for change. We then had the flag ceremony, which really showed the volume of countries we had represented at the summit. This was followed by a light parade through the city which ended at the Shaw centre, where most of the sessions took place. We were all treated to some Poutine* and had our first opportunity to network.
*Basically; cheese, chips and gravy. Canada's national dish, would definitely recommend!
Then we launched into it. It has taken me a month to get around to writing this post because the dust has only just settled around all that I saw. We began at 8am on the Wednesday morning, and didn't stop until 10pm on the Saturday night. We covered mental health, equality, technology, clean water access, terrorism, peace, education, disability rights, LBGTQ+ rights, health, the environment and human displacement. This is to name a few. I have picked three experiences to talk about, I cannot even say they are highlights because every talk, plenary session and discussion was as powerful and impactful as the last.
I will start with Yolanda Joab, a new mother who came from Micronesia to speak on a delegate panel about the effect global warming and rising sea levels is having on her community. A community which sits just one metre above sea level. I have put her address below, I really challenge you to not get goose bumps and feel fired up after watching this. The cheers which came up after this were huge, and it is magical to think that of the people in that room (from BMW, BP, Shell, Google, Facebook and Barclays to name a selection) really do have the chance within their networks to change global player's views on the importance of saving our planet.
Another experience I loved was my external breakout session. I chose to attend the 613 refugee talk, which was attended by around 50 other delegates. The session took place in a theatre underneath a church around 20 minutes outside the city centre. I learnt about how Canada are adapting and changing and welcoming those who need it most. They have a system in Canada where you can choose, as an individual, work place or group to sponsor a single or a family of refugees to come and live in your community. This is a huge responsibility for the people of Canada to take on but more and more people are doing it. I spoke to two separate couples who had had great outcomes from the scheme. As a sponsor you commit to funding for the first year of providing housing, healthcare, schooling and integration into the community. As a result, those who come feel thoroughly welcomed and part of the community.
The session closed with the sponsored refuges talking about their experience in coming into the country this way, and the gratitude radiated off them. The real difference I found with this scheme from others is that those moving to the country felt like active and valued members of the community. Each had a horror of a journey to make it to where they were and it was so touching to witness the real affection the sponsors and recipients had for each other. By putting the power to welcome into the hands of the people the Government has made it so much easier for those who need to access the country to be able to.
I will close with Emma Watson's session, because that is definitely the number one thing I have been asked about since coming home! In short; she was incredible. Not because she is Emma Watson, not because she has spoken at the UN (even though this is 100% noteworthy) but because of the way she used her platform. She used her position of incredible influence to allow those making change in their communities to have a voice. She is a delegate sponsor and chose a handful of representatives to join her on stage and share what they are doing. This is what I loved about her part, she sat down and ran a session on hugely topical issues such as domestic violence, LGBTQ+ rights and gender equality with young people who are on the frontline of fighting these issues everyday. Her introductory talk was powerful, graceful and (I have to use the word somewhere in her part!) magical. I have provided a link below to ELLE magazine's coverage of her talk, partly to show how great it was but also to show an example of the variety of coverage the summit gets around the world.
Since the summit, I have been up to the Google offices in London to reconnect with those I met in Canada and also individuals who have been to past summits. I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of this network and organisation now, and will do my best to make the most of the on-going opportunities I have. I would like to say a huge thank you to the University of Bath, Jenny Medland, Emily Richards, Bethany Derrick and all the rest of the supporting staff. Also a massive thank you to One Young World, for putting on such an amazing event.
I will keep updating the blog reflecting on different sessions, hopefully by next year's summit you'll know about the majority of them!
Thank you for reading,