By Kimihira Miyake
International Youth Day, celebrated every year on August 12 around the world, is designed to draw attention to the present challenges surrounding youth. They are also essential to providing the solutions, as David Kinder pointed out in his opening statement at the World Bank headquarters during the 2018 International Young Leaders Assembly, “Young people age 15 to 24 make up quarter of the work force worldwide. No society can develop succinctly without fully utilizing the potential of youth as an integral part going forward.”
Convened by the Global Peace Foundation and its partners, the 2018 International Young Leaders Assembly (IYLA) commemorated International Youth Day in partnership with the World Bank Group’s Youth to Youth Community, an organization that represents a network of young professionals who contribute their ideas and perspectives to support the work of the World Bank in achieving “a world free of poverty.”
“There is no doubt that our generation has a different way of looking at things in dealing with the current global social challenges.”
Holti Bank, Financial Sector Specialist for the World Bank Group and Secretary of the Youth to Youth Community, opened the proceedings by noting a unique attribute of the youth, “There is no doubt that our generation has a different way of looking at things in dealing with the current global social challenges.”
For the IYLA Global Ambassadors partaking in the event, it marked the halfway point of their 10-day journey before moving on to Philadelphia and New York City. Up to 200 additional university students and young professionals gathered at Preston Hall auditorium to explore their role as the next generation of leaders aspiring to build a more peaceful and prosperous world.
The day was filled with panels of successful young people who are working in the areas of peacebuilding and entrepreneurship. The peacebuilding panel explained the importance of civil society contributing to peace and development, sharing personal stories about how they got to where they are and the role that every day people have in advancing society. The inspirational speakers also provided their insights on how each young leader can find their personal contribution to the world.
“Find your passion and find a network of people who share the same passion with you. Your passion can snowball into something really exciting.”
Eric Clayton, Senior Program Officer at Catholic Relief Services, challenged the room saying, “Find your passion and find a network of people who share the same passion with you. Your passion can snowball into something really exciting.” Other speakers chimed in, “Be involved in debates. Get involved with a group in your school or community. Do not be afraid to engage your peers and learn from them," said Adam Wolf, Membership and Outreach Manager of the Alliance for Peacebuilding. Ohnsoon Kim, Training Specialist for Peace Corps Office of Staging and Pre-Departure, told the group to think of the potential of people not gathered at the event and “make efforts to make a place for them at the table.”
The entrepreneurship panel focused on how young people can channel their energy, ideas and innovation through social enterprises. CEO of Symba, Ahva Sadeghi, walked the audience through her journey from an academic and professional career in economics and human rights research toward building a for-profit social enterprise. There were similar sentiments from the panelists who shared about the challenges of being an entrepreneur and suggesting ways to be successful.
“As a society, we are at best when there is meaningful collaboration across generations, when there is mentorship from both sides, and when our generation is a part of important discussions in the decision making process.”
Ravi Kumar, co-founder of Code Nepal, started from humble beginnings at a school without proper water and sanitation. He hinted, “It is a better time to be a young person. You might fail 100 times but the next time might be a success. Do not give up. Just keep going.” Anthony Kim, Editor of the Index of Economic Freedom for the Heritage Foundation echoed that sentiment, saying, "As an entrepreneur, you need to exercise strategic patience. You need to care about the process the way you care about the product." Ravi reminded his peers to not neglect the needs of society while focusing on one’s passion.
The room was energized when the discussions were brought to the floor and the audience members broke into different groups to discuss a common issue and potential ideas toward its resolution. Such events remind youth of the role they play in relation to society as a whole. As Holti Banka noted, “As a society, we are at best when there is meaningful collaboration across generations, when there is mentorship from both sides, and when our generation is a part of important discussions in the decision making process.”
The 2018 International Young Leaders Assembly was made possible through the partnership with Senator John McCain of the US Congress, American Red Cross, U.S. Department of State, Korean Economic Institute, World Bank Youth to Youth Community, Heritage Foundation, National Constitution Center, Mayor Wilson Goode, EastWest Institute, United Nations Department of Public Information, International Business Machines Corporation, the United Nations permanent missions of Uganda, Ireland, Kenya, Mongolia, Nepal, Paraguay, Philippines, the Republic of Korea and United Kingdom.