Friday 26 April 2019

One Young World: Sky's the limit for leaders of tomorrow

Summit is not just a talking shop, it's youth thinking big

Lise Hand

BOB Geldof is not a chap who's easily impressed, and suffers fools not at all. But even he found himself reaching for suitable laudatory adjectives when he was introducing Mohammad Tareq Eqtedary from Afghanistan to the auditorium of delegates at the One Young World Summit in Dublin's Convention Centre.

"He is the exact sort of person that the Taliban hate, because they want to go back to the 2nd century while he wants to live in the middle of the 21st century," declared Bob. "He is a truly brave and extraordinary man".

And Bob wasn't wrong. Bespectacled Tareq looked more like an academic than a defender of human rights in the fierce face of murderous tyranny. And yet he's deeply involved in promoting democracy in his country - among a host of activities he has organised marathons, demonstrations to highlight violence against women, and he has set up Afghanistan's anti-corruption network.

"Now, after the dark era of the Taliban, young boys and girls are going to schools, then they can enjoy their time together in public.

Rasha Muhyeddan, left, from Saudi Arabia, and Jana Al Qahtani, from Palestine pictured at the One Young World 2014 at the Convention centre in Dublin. Picture credit; Damien Eagers 16/10/2014
Rasha Muhyeddan, left, from Saudi Arabia, and Jana Al Qahtani, from Palestine pictured at the One Young World 2014 at the Convention centre in Dublin. Picture credit; Damien Eagers 16/10/2014
Bob Geldof beside a model space shuttle that one day he hopes to fly into space on at the One Young World 2014 Summit in Dublin. Photo: Mark Condren
President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina hosted a lunch for former south American Presidents participating in the conference in Dublin, from left, Nicolas Ardito-Barletta, Andres Pastrana, Alejandro Toledo and Vicente Fox. Photo: Mark Condren

"Today the young talk about democracy, education, opportunity, sports, human rights and political participation. It seems like a miracle, a dream come true," said Tareq. "But it takes more than dreaming to achieve democracy."

However, the enormous energy crackling around the Convention Centre for the past two days has been created by discussions and debates which are the airing of mingled dreams, hopes, ideals, practical problem solving, bravery, determination, experience, know-how and ambition.

The breadth of topics and issues discussed during day two of this global forum for young leaders, aged 18 to 30, range from climate change to entrepreneurial skills, political leadership and violence against women, with contributions from former heads of government, survivors of rape, business leaders and political activists.

This summit isn't just a talking shop. It's a serious business, often with raw emotions on show from young people struggling to help others in dire straits. One young Kurdistan woman broke down in tears as she spoke from the floor and appealed for help for the desperate refugees from the advance of ISIS, which has left so many women destitute, homeless and pregnant as a result of rape. "Please guys, please. Myself and my friends are trying to help them, but we have so little to give them," she pleaded, and was clearly taken aback when the audience rose to applaud her sincerity.

The level of participation was intense. There was also a standing ovation when two of 'The Elders' - former Irish President Mary Robinson and former head of the UN, Kofi Annan - walked onto the stage to discuss climate change.

"You need to get involved now to be able to take over the leadership when the generational change takes place, but you don't have to wait for that day to act," Mr Annan told the packed auditorium.

Ms Robinson agreed. When it comes to highlighting this threat, "we need to put pressure on politicians to be more ambitious," she said. "We don't have a Plan B - we only have one world."

There were also contributions from a quartet of former presidents of four Latin American nations, Mexico, Colombia, Panama and Peru.

But it was the contributions given by the procession of young activists and entrepreneurs which really gripped the crowd and left everyone with food for thought.

The topics included the problems of integrating different cultures. Keren Jackson, of Dublin-based intercultural organisation BlueFire, pointed out: "Today, 17pc of Ireland's nation is foreign born, and 73pc report never engaging with people."

The enthusiasm must have been infectious. For during the afternoon, Bob (pictured inset) strolled outside for a photo shoot in front of a model of a space rocket.

He has done his training on F16s and the like, and will travel out of the Earth's atmosphere on XCOR Aerospace's Lynx rocket plane from Dutch-based Space Exploration Corp, once the shuttle completes 60 to 70 test flights over the next couple of years.

Bob's eyes sparkled at the thought. "Years ago, as a little boy, I was holding my dad's hand on the steps of our flat in Mount Merrion. We turned up the radio and tried to watch Sputnik through the clouds. I remember the guys saying it should be passing over Dublin now and you could hear 'beep beep' coming from the radio".

"In my lifetime to go from standing with my dad on the steps, staring at this little silver ball, and then being at space yourself. F**king hell man. Humans are mad but they're great."

He was just like a kid at Christmas at the thought of it. This thinking big lark might just catch on.

Irish Independent

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