It’s been three long years in the making, but the 2016 One Young World Summit finally opened in Ottawa last night, sending another wave of positive change rolling across the world.
Set against the stunning backdrop of Parliament Hill’s Centre Block and the iconic Peace Tower, UK-based charity organisation One Young World along with Ottawa Tourism, the City of Ottawa and many other supporters, welcomed about 1,300 delegates from 196 countries to Canada’s Capital. Apart from the Olympic Games, no other youth event brings as many nationalities together under one roof.
Founded in 2009, One Young World (OYW) organises a yearly summit that brings talented youth leaders aged 18 to 30 together to share their stories and drive positive change across the globe. Previous summits have taken place in cities such as London, Pittsburgh, Johannesburg and Bangkok, to name a few.
At the 2015 summit in Bangkok, Kofi Annan, Former Secretary-General to the United Nations, counselled delegates to make their presence known in the world. “Make sure they know you are there. Make sure they are paying attention to you,” Annan said. “You are leaders and that’s a part of leadership.”
Annan is taking part in the Ottawa summit as well and at the Opening Ceremony on Wednesday night, he reiterated some of his previous messages to delegates. Annan told the audience that the 2016 summit will prepare them to become the next generation of leaders “that the world sorely needs.” He added: “As I have always said and I say tonight, you are never too young to lead.”
Another of the evening’s many highlights was a speech by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is also the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Youth.
Trudeau told the crowd that in his position as a government leader, he is constantly reminded of the immense potential of the world’s youth. He noted that the current generation is “politically engaged, educated, innovative, inclusive and progressive.” He noted that OYW delegates must harness that power and work to make the world a better place.
“As future [OYW] Ambassadors, you have access to an unparalleled network of forward-thinking, progressive leaders from every corner of the world,” Trudeau said. “So make good use of your new global community and do something great with it.”
Prime Minister Trudeau’s address to the OYW crowd followed on a OYW-related video that was posted to his Facebook page on Sept. 21, 2016, in which he said that young people are the leaders of today. “No matter your age or where you’re from, you have the power to affect change right now,” Trudeau said. Since being posted, the video has been viewed more than 480,000 times.
This year’s OYW Summit, from Sept. 28 to Oct. 1, will focus on global issues related to Education, Global Business, Health, Human Rights, Peace and Security, the Environment and Indigenous Reconciliation. Through plenary sessions, external and internal breakout sessions, moving delegate speakers and a line-up of seasoned counsellors, which includes Professor and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus, Kofi Annan, Oscar-Winning Producer of Avatar and Titanic Jon Landau, Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women and actor Emma Watson and many others, these promising youths will attempt to find solutions to help the world. This is THE premier global forum for young leaders.
Toronto-based mental health advocate Aliçia Raimundo attended the One Young World Summit in Bangkok last year and is returning to Ottawa as an ambassador and delegate speaker.
In a statement given to Ottawa Tourism, Raimundo said she is “really excited” that mental health is a topic at the 2016 summit. “I am excited to add mental health to the areas that ambassadors are working on and encourage them to remember to take care of their own minds while changing the world,” she said. Raimundo added that the summit is a “wonderful place” to connect with young leaders and learn about how seemingly unrelated issues are linked. “Like how mental health affects the environment, which can influence business,” she said.
In an interview with Ottawa Tourism, Australia’s OYW flag bearer Michael Boscoscuro, who is part of the Westpac bank delegation, said that he was most looking forward to hearing from all the great OYW speakers, particularly Kofi Annan and Justin Trudeau. Having arrived in Ottawa on Tuesday, Boscoscuro noted that Ottawa is “an amazing city with great architecture.” He said: “I’m just super excited to be here and for the week ahead.”
Boscoscuro added that Westpac sends about 10 delegates per year to the OYW Summit. He noted that the organisation recognises what the summit can do for young people, how it can affect their future and also, how it can help them implement positive change in the world. “So I’m very lucky in that respect,” he said.
Canadian OYW Ambassador Katie Dolan didn’t wait for the summit to officially start to cause her wave of positive change. Having attended the Bangkok summit as well, Dolan returned to Ottawa and was determined to make a difference.
On the evening of Sept. 27, Dolan along with Run Ottawa hosted ‘The Home Run’; a 5K to benefit Refugee 613 and raise awareness to the causes of refugees as well as those who are stateless. Dolan noted that it was a speech made by Bangkok delegate speaker Kamolnan Chearavanont from Thailand that moved her to action. Approximately 140 Ottawa delegates participated in the run along with various members of the local community.
Dolan said she promised herself that she would come back from Bangkok and do her part. “This is what I’ve done,” Dolan said. “Refugees and statelessness pull at my heart strings in a big way and it’s been overwhelming to see the Ottawa community and One Young World come together to care about these issues like I do.”
Delegate speaker Eric Mitchell participated in The Home Run, noting that as he’s representing the International Olympic Committee (IOC), he felt compelled to take part. Mitchell is an Olympic ski jumper, having represented Canada at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games. “I’ve trained my whole life,” he said. “So I decided that I couldn’t not participate in the run.”
As a delegate speaker for this year’s summit, Mitchell told Ottawa Tourism that he is excited to share his ideas on how sport can be used to further develop initiatives that are a part of the summit.
“I think that sport can have a role in making people more active, help with mental health, mental fitness and bring people together,” he said in an interview. “When there is no other commonality sometimes, sport can be a way to bring everyone together with the same goal in mind.” An openly gay athlete, Mitchell added that he will also address issues faced by LGBT athletes and how barriers can be broken down.
The Opening Ceremony ended with a parade of music and lights going from Parliament Hill’s front lawn to the Shaw Centre. One Young World delegates will be out and about in Ottawa throughout the week, until the official summit Closing Ceremony at the Shaw Centre on Oct. 1.
Danika Grenier is Ottawa Tourism’s Digital Content Manager. She has a background in journalism, having written for several local Ottawa publications over the past four years. An Ottawa native, Danika enjoys writing about places and experiences that make Canada’s Capital as well as its surrounding region unique.