OYW Summit – Thoughts After the First Day

 

The first day of the One Young World Summit was an epic whirlwind of plenary sessions, a lovely ride on Lake Zurich, and some heart-warming celebrations of our common humanity. If that sounds like a lot for one day, it was! But it was also incredibly rewarding.

Day one was the One Young World Business Day, and featured speakers from the OPEC Fund for International Development, Barclays Retail, Shell, Hewlett Packard, Siemens, and a “Boot Camp for Entrepreneurs” courtesy of Doug Richard of School for Startups which coaches new entrepreneurs on how to succeed in business. By and large, the themes of the sessions were the need for enhanced corporate responsibility, sustainable business practices, and the need for young talent in the world of business. Energy was an important topic, with many discussing how both the developed and developing world can capitalize on new technologies as not only a way to fight climate change, but to produce jobs and economic growth.

Another theme that came out of the mornings plenary sessions was the role that new technologies, especially social media, are having upon the world. It is clear, said Doug Richard, that we live in a smaller, more connected world.

After the morning’s sessions, the delegates, all 1,500 of us from 170 different countries, were treated to a long boat ride across Lake Zurich. What would be a trip to Switzerland without the quintessential lake trip? The boat trip, while crowded, provided an excellent time to meet some of the other delegates from around the world. Up on the upper deck, looking out across the blue water at hills dotted with quaint Swiss churches and houses, I chatted excitedly with people from Ghana, Morocco, Australia, Jordan, Canada, Turkey, France, India, and many, many more nations.

It’s so rewarding to be in such an international atmosphere, talking freely with young people from around the world. So far, I’ve learned a lot from my fellow delegates, and I think the feeling is universal. Everyone seems eager to meet one another, to reach out to people from other countries, in the hopes of forging lasting connections.

The topper of the night was the opening ceremony. Back at Kongresshaus, there was an emotional laying of the flags ceremony before the introduction of the Summit’s Councilors. There’s quite a diverse and impressive mix of Councilors this year including Bob Geldoff, Desmond Tutu, Jamie Oliver, Oscar Morales, Wael Ghonim, and the Crown Prince and Princess of Norway.

After a welcome from Zurich’s mayor, Corine Mauch, Crown Prince Haakon of Norway was the first to speak. He gave a poignant talk in which he drew on the recent terrorist attacks in Norway. The most important lesson of such attacks is what we learn about ourselves, he said. We can’t undo the terrible things that happened, but we can choose how it affects us.

Next to speak was the “unreasonable” Bob Geldof. As an activist and musician, Geldof’s speech was more of a call to arms. The potential for destruction has never been more palpable, he said. He implored the delegates to seek political answers to the world’s problems and to take action to make the world a better place. You are the thinking present, he said to the delegation, not the future, he said.

And then, of course, was Desmond Tutu. The effable Archbishop gave a charismatic welcome that had the delegates at one point on their feat waving their hands.

It was a poignant and emotional night for all. At the end of the evening, as we wound down from the very long day, a lot of the Pittsburgh delegates were left with some important questions of our own. We wondered how we could be more engaged in the world, how we can pressure our own politicians to become more globally aware, and the importance of Pittsburgh stepping into the truly global present.

 -Caitlin, Program Officer at the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh

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