by Ruth Aine - 15 October 2013
The One Young World summit just came to a close in Johannesburg, South Africa, and I was honored to have been part of it. The summit was happening for the 4th time, having taken place in London, Zurich and Pittsburg before. The summit does one thing: inspire young leaders aged 18- 30 to lead and not just lead, but be responsible by leading for the better. The young leaders were given talks by many prominent world leaders that included Kofi Annan, Richard Branson, Prof Muhammad Yunus, Arianna Huffington and Emmanuel Jal to mention but a few.
The message was clear and simple: young people need to start leading. Sir Bob Gedolf, one of the counselors started by apologizing on behalf of his generation saying that his generation more than any others had failed us, the young people. He said that we are inheriting a world of disease, conflict, climate change war, famine and everything else that could go wrong. But what does this mean? That we should be able to create all the change we can and it will be visible.
Kofi Annan, the former secretary general of the United Nations, was very deliberate in his talks to the youth: ‘In situations where leaders fail to lead, people can make the leaders follow. The problems we are faced with cross national boarders and we are all responsible for them. Don’t let your initial problems turn you off - it is a part of the process. Make a difference. You have energy and creativity to make a difference. Young people can make this world a better place. I have such faith in your ability. You must organize and structure yourselves in a way that you are a force that political leaders have to listen to and consult you. Take on responsibility, ask questions, challenge leadership. You are prepared to build the world that you want to live in. Strong institutions are stronger than strong men.”
Most of the youth that got to share their stories are indeed a force to be reckoned with. From James Eder, founder of studentsbean.com, that helps students in the United Kingdom to find employment after their college education, to Monde Nkosi, the South African youth representative at the Youth G20 Summit. The young are already in positions of leadership.
Prof Yunus Muhammad said something profound as well: that the generation now may not allow for us to take over, but change is a factor of life and it will have to happen.
Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post talked about the third metric and how we have to start defining success differently. According to her the world is in dire shape because its leaders have failed to take responsibility and lead, all because they are not having enough sleep. ‘Burnt out leaders burn the universe’ she said, and this is what we are seeing going on today. There is a lot of talk about sustainability but none of it is about sustainability of the human work force, and yet without that the world is a different place.
The youth, more than ever, in Kofi Annan’s words need to take up the mantle of leadership. Question is, will the rest of the world allow youth to take on the responsibility?
Ruth Aine Tindyebwa
Read her personal blog; IN DEPTH which is at www.ruthaine.com
Read more about the author and her view on being a futurist.