I have been fortunate enough to attend various local and international summits in my life, but this is the first conference I have ever attended where young leaders (delegates) are taking the front seat, seasoned professionals (counselors) took the back seat, and introduced delegates to share their stories and insights!
Around 1,500 people from 194 countries attended One Young World (OYW) Summit 2017 in Bogota the first week of October. We all experienced the dynamic, energetic and inspiring conference in the heart of Bogota where, little over a year ago, the peace accord was signed between the government and the FARC (Spanish: Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia), ending a brutal civil conflict that lasted 52 years and claimed 8 million lives.
Mayor Enrique Peñalosa of Bogota welcomed OYW to the capital and addressed the anticipating crowd. “With your energy and imagination,” he said, “you can create a more environmentally sustainable and happier world.” Some of the outstanding global leaders that attended as counselors included Nobel Peace Laureate President Juan Manual Santos of Colombia, Nobel Peace Laureate Tawakkol Karman, former UN Secretary General and Nobel Peace Laureate Kofi Annan, and Unilever CEO Paul Poleman.
How did I get into an international event like this as sustainability practitioner based in Orange County? Well, I applied for a scholarship to attend the 2017 OYW. Two-time Olympic gold medalist and World Cup champion, Hope Solo, decided to sponsor me to attend the conference as a delegate representing my native country, Eritrea! The picture on the top was taken with a delegate from Georgia at Simon Bolivar square located in downtown Bogota where the opening ceremony was held.
The summit was full of inspiring moments, stories of young leaders making a difference despite their hard realities, limitations, cultural barriers and belief systems. I heard testimonies of people who have survived civil war, genocide, and being an illegal refugee, abused physically and mentally – tales of brave souls that fought to change their fate and that of their communities. I realized how insignificant my challenges sound compared to theirs….
KEY TAKEAWAYS FOR SUSTAINABILITY PROFESSIONALS, DISRUPTERS AND GLASS CEILING SMASHERS –
On Innovation And Entrepreneurship
On Sustainability And Partnership
Alleviating Global Poverty
On Social Media And Communication
At the end of the OYW summit, we were asked to commit to a goal we can execute when we go home. I committed to keep working hard to build resilient communities and empowering others to do the same. What will you commit to?
Salem Afeworki, LEED GA, ENV SP is the Founder of Value Sustainability, a consulting firm that provides sustainability, climate change, and community engagement advisory services headquartered in Orange County, CA. She is a United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Local Pathway Fellow, One Young World Ambassador, a member of the LA County Sustainability Council and serves on the City of Irvine’s Green Ribbon Committee. https://www.linkedin.com/in/sa279