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A Hopefully Peaceful Future

The One Young World (OYW) Summit 2019 was held in London from 22-25 October, where approximately 2000 young ‘change makers’ gathered together to learn new ways of contributing to a better, more equal, a more peaceful world.

The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs (NL MFA) supported 50 young social entrepreneurs and leaders from African and Middle-Eastern countries to spread their knowledge and ideas on how to make a difference and contribute to a better future. They were part of the Enterprise for Peace scholarship.

Part of their scholarship was also to attend a two-day visit to the Hague where they learnt more about the Dutch policy of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation by Secretariat-General Yoka Brandt and they engaged in lively discussions with various policy officers of the NL MFA and RVO. Before preparing for the Opening Ceremony in London this group was welcomed to London by the Dutch Ambassador H.E. Simon Smits and they engaged in a Q&A session with Ambassador Youth, Education and Work Tijmen Rooseboom on the match/mismatch between education and employment. Entrepreneur Lynn Malkawi from Jordan and policy officers Nathalie Gonçalves Aurélio, Eline Ruisendaal and Ida Rademaker share their One Young World experiences.

Impressions by Lynn Malkawi

My experience as an Enterprise for Peace scholar and Delegate for the NL MFA for the OYW Summit has been quite invaluable. We started our journey in a two day pre-programme at The Hague. My first impression of The Hague was its utopian feel; it was extremely clean and organized. One of the things that affected me the most was the effort the organizers (NL MFA and Orange Corners) put to reducing the carbon footprint through emphasizing the consumption of a vegetarian diet, reducing waste and the non-use of plastics. During the pre-programme we had the opportunity to speak to several Dutch policy makers in various issues that face our world today.

Meeting our fellow OYW ambassador from last year at the #youth4change event was wonderful because it truly showed us his journey of personal development since then. We were also able to have a Q&A session with the Ambassador on several topics that transcend borders: the importance of the development of our educational systems to match the needs of the 21st century and of increasing youth political participation in our countries.

Prior our London visit I had been most keen to meet Muhammad Yunis and learn from his model on poverty alleviation in Bangladesh: I did and it was amazing! In the opening ceremony I had the opportunity to wave the Jordanian flag while wearing my National dress. I felt such a sense of pride doing so while seeing over 190 flags being waved at the same time. I was so emotional and brought to tears. 'This is the world we want' I kept thinking; one with peace, where we can unite and focus on innovative ways to serve our planet. This summit at its core focused not only on diversity but inclusion; bring people from all walks of life to engage in learning together and from each other. During the summit I wanted to try to meet as many youth leaders as I could and learn from their experiences. I want to forge partnerships across borders with those who share my passion in economic and political development of youth. I want to thank the NL MFA for providing us with this opportunity and encourage all youth to apply for this in upcoming years.

Entrepreneurship by Nathalie Gonçalves Aurélio

Entrepreneurship is not the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of building peace. However, at the NL MFA we believe that stimulating private sector development in a sustainable manner can contribute to (socio-)economic resilience of countries. Various scholars showed that their initiatives and ventures are important building blocks towards more stable, equal and peaceful societies. Scholar Nelson Olanipekun inspired me and 1999 other attendees with his ‘Gavel’: the ‘Uber’ for justice as he called it. Through tech and a network of 100 lawyers, access to speedy justice is improved in Nigeria, especially for the poorest. Victims of police brutality or human rights abuses are connected to free legal aid support via this civic tech organisation. Access to justice is an important building block. Without justice there can be no peace, or better said without access to equal justice there can be no peace of mind nor sustainable peace on the ground.

As stated during the session: A peaceful future. “In a polarized world, how can we build peace?”, global citizens are not only essential for offering new and innovative solutions to the current worldwide challenges but for peacebuilding itself as well. Individual global citizens can have impact on peacebuilding and stability, even more so when they connect and unite. In sum, the conference showed me that there cannot be sustainable economic and social development without stability and peace. But for stability and peace the world needs people like Nelson that believe they can make a positive change and then actually use their entrepreneurial initiatives to lay new foundations, so the rest of us will believe as well and small steps of positive change can thrive. With a little hope and action by humans the future looks rather peaceful.

Climate change and our health by Ida Rademaker

Irresponsible business and consumer behavior have been significantly contributing to climate change, which is making our planet ill. Currently, the earth is on a 3-degrees pathway. Imagine, if our own body temperature would change: We could still cope with an increase of 1.5 degrees, but an increase of 3 degrees would make us feel very sick. A warmer climate has a similar effect on the planet’s health.

An unhealthy planet endangers human health. The ecosystem (planet) and human life (people) are undeniably interconnected. The consequences of climate change, such as heavy rainfall, drought, and higher temperatures, result in soil infertility and loss of yields, and increases food insecurity. Climate change, especially in combination with environmental pollution, also creates a favorable environment for diseases, affecting plants, animals and human beings, and threatens global health. And those who have contributed the least to climate change, are the ones who are affected by its consequences the most.  To ensure people and planet’s health, we as human beings need to recognize that we do not exist in isolation, but that we are part of nature. We need to recognize the value of living things, fight climate change and increase the resilience of people and planet.

That is why the NL MFA is building the resilience of the most vulnerable farmers in countries in the Sahel, the Horn of Africa and the Middle East and North Africa. The MFA invests in value chain development from a climate smart perspective, by making more and better information available on weather and climate risks for farmer’s decision making and planning; by stimulating innovations, such as the development of drought- or disease-resistant seeds; and by upscaling local adaptation practices, allowing farmers to build buffer capacity and resilience to shocks and stresses.

The future of education by Eline Ruisendaal

Does the future of education need to be reimagined? That was the question being addressed during the plenary session of the OYW summit, introduced by Lord Michael Hastings. Lord Hastings addressed the importance of ‘transferable skills’. He referred to the list of jobs that will disappear coming decades due to the rise of artificial intelligence, as produced by the World Economic Forum. Skills needed for the jobs that remain are, amongst others: creativity, emotional intelligence, smart decision making and judgement.

Also the young leaders in the panel emphasized the importance of transferable skills. “I believe no child should be able to leave school before being able to think rationally for themselves” was stated by Surya Karki, founder of ‘United world schools Nepal’, an organization providing quality education for the poorest and hardest to reach children in Nepal. Additionally, empathy, innovative thinking and technological skills should be learned in school voiced Kartik Sawhney, co-founder of I-Stem, an online platform offering technical training and mentorship to blind students.

The NL MFA policy marks transferable skills as important to have quality and relevant education. The policy focuses on three sets of interlinked skills: 

  1. foundational skills (basic skills such as literacy and numeracy),
  2. transferable skills (also known as soft-skills or life skills – needed to participate in changing societies ) and
  3. technical and vocational skills (necessary to get access to the labor market). All three types of skills are necessary to be able to enter the labor market and find a decent job or become self-employed, but also to have a decent life through personal development and empowerment.

Innovation and development

Schools need to educate for disruption. They need to teach students how to think beyond their immediate realities, create the future and have the competences to navigate in that reality and future. When asked if digitization would reduce employment opportunities, most of the delegates were not too worried. They felt that digital solutions could increase the productivity and thus the economic prosperity in their country. Samrawit Mebrahtu from Ethiopia states: 'People and machines are complementary to each other.' But they did feel that different skills are required. 'People need to learn how to live with technology', says Ibrahima Diop from Senegal. 'People need to be encouraged to keep up with the developments', says Nabila El Fazazi from Morocco. Sara Dsouki from Lebanon adds that working beyond one's own discipline is essential. 'I am schooled as an architect, and there limited work in that field today. But the skills that I have developed, such as 3D modelling, are very useful in other domains.' Alexander Tekola from Ethiopia adds that 'Governments are particularly reluctant to approve enterprises in sectors such as fintech, because of traditional financial legislation and the sensitivity of the data involved'.

The delegates call on institutions such as the NL MFA and RVO to use their position to promote rules and regulations that foster innovation. But also, they emphasized the importance of brokering access to a broader network. 'Startups are often too isolated in their incubator. They do not get into contact with larger companies that could help them with advice or services', says Alexander. 'Foreign agencies can make a big difference by making the right introductions'.

Text by Laila Bouallouch, The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Department of Sustainable Economic Development.