A few weeks ago, I had the immense honor and privilege to represent the University of Bath at the 2021 annual global One Young World Summit held in the Bavarian city of Munich. Very few words can capture how inspiring and thought-provoking attending Munich 2021 has been - I am therefore extremely proud and grateful to have embarked on this journey thanks to the University of Bath.
On site, the event gathered 500+ delegates coming from all over the globe and counted 1.000+ delegates attending the conference online. If the summit was undeniably hybrid and that Covid-19 restrictions in Munich were highly respected, the OYW 2021 was therefore extraordinary by all means. The summit discussed some of the world’s most pressing issues - from climate change to the human rights crisis and the crucial role of the fourth industrial revolution and the responsibilities carried by the private sector - and therefore put forward global influential figures such as CEOs, activists, government members, NGOs and international organizations leaders.
One of the many reasons why the talks were so thorough is the good mix of speakers. For instance, whilst discussing the role of the fourth Industrial Revolution, much weight was given to the discussion when Dame Vivian Hunt (McKinsey & Company) spoke about the role of accessible technology to foster education for children from non-privileged backgrounds as well as Drillon Kastrati (Credit Suisse) explored the importance of technology (audiobooks especially) for visually disabled and blind people. Both testimonies revealed how such challenges concern everyone whether you are a global figure, a delegate speaker with a disability or anyone who needs technology - meaning all of us! I was personally struck by how we need to have those different testimonies interact with one another and how to achieve global solutions we need global cooperation.
Some of the talks which impressed and inspired me the most were given by +/- 25 year old students and entrepreneurs. Their speeches were extremely powerful, positively challenging and directly touched me. Listening to them reminded me how young people can act for positive change and are also a strong source of progress and inspiration. I was especially moved by the testimony of a 22-year old student from Andorra who was born with only one arm. His whole life he’s had to deal with disability and what other people might say, at this point, he says he wouldn’t change a thing about his disability and is proud of who he is. He explained how he was bullied in school, how he built an artificial arm made up of legos when he was 9, on top of it all, he shared with us how - to him - love is the single most important attribute to our lives. If this doesn’t fill your heart with admiration and love, then what does?
I was also very impressed by how many young people have started their own company or startup acting for climate change. They showed how education is so important to building a sustainable model and how we need to lead projects alongside our studies. Hearing about all of these initiatives reminded me of how passionate, engaged and committed our generation is to solving issues and making a positive a change. Sharing such stories is a unique kind of activism as it pushes you g leaders, people who are already devoted to change and it feels good to be part of something as such.
As One Young World maintains privileged relationships with major global companies, a large part of the Summit was dedicated to showing how the private sector is endorsing its core economic role and how it begins to actively contribute to achieve sustainable development. To highlight this shift, Munich 2021 hosted Paul Polman (former CEO @Unilever) who delivered a speech about how young people must continue to lead innovating projects. Therefore, two BMW Delegate speakers presented the new eco-conceived car seat they created. They explained how this new seat is fully fabricated with eco renewable materials thus not impacting the environment.
Attending the summit this summer was even more meaningful and powerful after going through the global Covid-19 pandemic. From the delegates to the speakers and the organizers, everyone in Munich was incredibly grateful and eager to be a part of this global discussion. Indeed, Covid has deeply changed the way we perceive the other, our interactions, life and death. I personally felt the dialogue reached another scale and it was incredible to connect, share and embrace this feeling with everyone over there.
Overall, OYW 2021 was a deeply unique and inspiring experience. I personally gained and benefited so much from this journey: the incredible young actors of change I met and had the chance to have passionate discussions with, the lessons I took from the heartfelt and thought-provoking talks I attended, the workshop I actively took part in on how to transform our urban ecosystems, and also plenary sessions during which opinions, ambitions, issues and solutions were challenged by the speakers
I was not only reminded of What the pressing issues we are faced with and Why we have a responsibility to act but How to implement concrete solutions for a fairer and more sustainable development. To top it all of, being reminded that these are not just words but that our generation passionately initiates a positive and beneficial change definitely confirmed and strengthened the fact that we can all be actors of change!
Passion, inspiration, cohesion, cooperation, action and solution are the words I want to highlight post-summit.
As for now, I am excited to maintain and fuel the dialogue with my fellow One Young World Ambassadors, I am looking forward to embracing my role as a young spokesperson and continue to represent and encourage young people be their own actor of change in spite of their conditions, fears and doubts.
Applications are now open for the One Young World Tokyo 2022 delegate places - for students in the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences and the School of Management: Apply for the One Young World Summit 2022 (bath.ac.uk) deadline Sunday 17 October 2021.