Global Youth Summit at the World Bank Promotes United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Eric Olsen
August 19, 2016

2016 International Young Leaders Assembly Hosts Forums on Leadership, Service, and Entrepreneurship to Advance UN 2030 Agenda

Taimanda Shalhona, Coordinator of the Leadership Institute of Nigeria, addresses the Global Leadership Forum at the World Bank in Washington.

WASHINGTON, DC—Some 400 international university student leaders and young professionals joined distinguished current and former ambassadors, political leaders, entrepreneurs and development experts at a series of interactive forums at the Global Youth Summit at the World Bank in Washington, DC on August 12.

Youth Summit Global Forums on Leadership, Service, and Entrepreneurship highlighted the significant role of youth in advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The World Bank forums are part of the ten-day 2016 International Young Leaders Assembly (IYLA) that convened in New York, Philadelphia and Washington on August 8-17, 2016. The IYLA, “Moral and Innovative Leadership: Vision, Service, Entrepreneurship,” hosted some 1,800 participants from over 120 countries.

Costa Rica’s Ambassador to the United States Roman Macaya, a biochemist by training, told the young leaders that the global economy now meant that job seekers had to compete globally with qualified applicants in the jobs market.  Emphasizing flexibility and the “exponential” rather than linear pace of change in the contemporary world, he said old solutions won’t work. “Because of their complexity, we need interdisciplinary solutions. What happens at interface of physics and peace? Law and molecular biology? My message is, don’t be afraid of new disciplines. Realize that the innovation in today’s world is happening at the interface and don’t be afraid of following new directions.”

Two World Bank representatives—Rodrigo Rojo, a Senior Advisor of the World Bank Board of Directors, and Angela Elizir Assyr, representing World Bank Youth2Youth, described the importance of the World Bank’s support of the UN’s 2030 SDG agenda, noted how the three forums were closely aligned with the World Bank mission, and cited examples of how youth can be powerful agents of change.

Young leaders join breakout sessions to propose action steps to advance the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

“Leadership is not about position, Mr. Rojo said, “but about selflessness, heart, and humility.” Elizir Assyr added that Youth2Youth and IYLA were natural partners who shared the same values and mission to empower youth.

“What happens at interface of physics and peace? Law and molecular biology?  Realize that the innovation in today’s world is happening at the interface and don’t be afraid of following new directions.”

The World Bank has two established goals: to end extreme poverty globally within a generation by decreasing the percentage of people living with less than $1.90 a day to no more than 3 percent by 2030; and to promote shared prosperity by supporting income growth of the bottom 40 percent of the population in each country.

Global Forum on Leadership

The Global Forum on Leadership included panelists from Costa Rica, Chile, Paraguay, Malaysia and Nigeria who related their diverse leadership experience to the IYLA theme of “moral and innovative leadership” in advancing the SDG agenda.

Gloriana Sojo, a 24-year-old Costa Rican consultant at the Inter-American Development Bank and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, gave some spirited advice to young leaders whose ideals have been seemingly sidetracked into mundane jobs. “You followed the check list but instead of giving out food at a refugee camp you end up looking at spread sheets,” she remarked.  “But leadership is not just about giving actions, but about doing good in every interaction. Where are your failures of kindness, who are you forgetting? The question is, how do I do good and inspire others while working 8 to 5?”

Gloriana Sojo, a Costa Rican consultant at the Inter-American Development Bank and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, addresses the Global Leadership Forum.

Former Chilean diplomat and law professor Dr. Roberto Mayorga said the secret of leadership is to serve others, not self. “You can be leader in many different fields but never forget main goal, a better world, better society, better community, or even better choir.” He said calidad humana, compassion, concern for others, is the glue that binds people and society together.

Taimanda Shalhona Coordinator of the Leadership Institute of Nigeria, imparted some lessons about leadership through storytelling, such as knowing when it is our turn to follow, learning the importance of harmonizing and cooperation, and facing one’s self-doubts with firmness and confidence.

Global Forum on Service

Young parliamentarians from Uganda and the Philippines and development experts from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Brookings Institution offered insights into the role of volunteerism in meeting development needs at the Global Forum on Service.

Vicente Homer Revil, the former governor of the Province of Masbate in the Philippines, described how impoverished and remote regions of the province have benefitted through volunteer-driven community development projects at the Global Forum on Service.

Vicente Homer Revil, the former governor of the Province of Masbate in the Philippines, described the efforts of the government to uplift the rural province which is consistently rated among the poorest in the Philippines. He particularly gave credit to the Global Peace Foundation’s All-Lights Village project which has introduced solar lights to inaccessible communities without access to electricity as part of a comprehensive community-based effort including education and entrepreneurship training. He also appealed to the World Bank to provide support for a new airport and road to connect the coastal region of the province with other commercial centers.

David Caprara, a nonresident fellow at Brookings and vice president of Global Peace Foundation, said SDGs will never be reached without active engagement of youth, especially in rural areas. He reported on recent trips to Kenya, Mongolia, Philippines and Nepal, where he observed firsthand inspiring examples of service and social entrepreneurship. A community cooker project in Kenya, tree-planting to combat desertification in Mongolia, and volunteer mobilizations following the catastrophic typhoon in the Philippines and earthquake in Nepal all presented youth-driven initiatives that had immediate and lasting impact.

USAID Counselor Susan Reichle reminded the delegates that John F. Kennedy, at the time the youngest U.S. president, founded two institutions that tap power of youth, USAID and the Peace Corps. “We formerly looked at youth and asked, how can we help you?” she said. “Now the development community sees youth as essential, innovative, energetic, with a perspective we need. Now we need to integrate role of youth in community development, in violence prevention, in parliamentary representation. It takes time, leadership, and tenacity.”

Ms. Reichle was responsible for leading the Agency in evidence-based policy development and served in Haiti, Nicaragua and Russia, and she backed Mr. Caprara’s emphasis on evidence and program evaluation. She said we need to determine what programs really work, what “really moves the needle,” and that we learn as much from failure as success.

Anna Adeke Ebaju, a National Female Youth Member of the Parliament of Uganda, spoke passionately about the importance of gender equity and needs of girls for quality education and equal opportunity. “The human race is like a bird,” she said; “when flying it needs to spread both wings. Male and female need to be equally empowered.”

Anna Adeke Ebaju, a National Female Youth Member of the Parliament of Uganda, appealed for greater support for women and girls, particularly for quality education.

Noting that Uganda has the youngest population in the world, with 77 percent under the age of 30, Ms. Ebaju said “we need to turn that into something positive and helpful. More than two-thirds don’t have education that can provide employment. Young parliamentarians are working to create investment opportunities and this will create jobs.”

Presenting her experience to international young leaders at the World Bank she said is helping her country, its youth and girls especially by calling attention to the need for quality education and limitations faced by girls, including “mindset” issues. “When I go to sleep at night,” she concluded, “I just want to ask, did I make anyone’s life better?”

Global Forum on Entrepreneurship

The concluding World Bank forum highlighted a rapid fire series of risk takers and savvy entrepreneurs who turned unproven, seemingly unlikely dreams into positive, cutting edge social change.

Baseball in India? As an undergraduate, Gurmat Raunaq Sahni worked hard but was never that successful academically, tried out for all sports teams but only played as a substitute. So he went to India for a period of introspection and came to realize “as an underdog I wanted to help underdogs win.” So he took his first proposal to introduce baseball in India to a school district administrator who said it was crazy idea. “No one is interested in baseball.” Now Grand Slam Baseball India is fielding 90,000 ball players and has been has been featured in major publications such as NBC Sports, Times of India.

Saloua Lahlou, Founder of Crafting Love and Hope in Morocco was inspired by her mother’s use of crafts to support her family and enable her children to create a better life for themselves. Describing some of her challenges, she said “problems are what sculpt our soul. What saved me was love and hope. Only after reconnecting with my own experience I started organization to support single mothers and youth with marketable skills.”

The Global Forum on Entrepreneurship included successful entrepreneurs in India, Moracco and Mongolia.

Erdenebulgan Ochirbat left a career in business and the non-profit sector to launch Royal Ocean LLC, a Mongolian private company that designs and produces clean, energy-efficient heating and cooking stoves to eliminate air pollution in Ulaanbaatar, the most polluted capital city in the world. “A social entrepreneur is someone who defines certain problems,” he says. “A business entrepreneur measures by success by profit, a social entrepreneur by positive change in community.”

Other presenters have been instrumental in guiding and assisting young entrepreneurs with start-up ventures. Steven A. Rodriguez is the Startup Community Manager of the Global Entrepreneurship Network, a platform of programs and initiatives aimed at creating one global entrepreneurial ecosystem as an engine to create jobs, accelerate innovation and strengthen economic stability around the world. José F. Clautier is a Program Officer with Young Americas Business Trust, with a mission to foster entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment in Latin America and the Caribbean. And Robert Dowling, who served as moderator, is co-Founder, rePurpose, a tech platform that is doubling the income refugee camp and urban slum dwellers by better connecting trash pickers to the recycling companies that demand their product.

Presenters affirmed the importance and timeliness of the World Bank forums and key relevance of youth as drivers of change who possess unprecedented tools and technological capacity to make a positive and sustainable impact in the twenty-first century.

The International Young Leaders Assembly included programs at the U.S. Congress, State Department, Wilson Center, and participating foreign embassies in Washington; the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia; and the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

The IYLA is a co-convened by the Global Peace Foundation and the Global Young Leaders Academy. For more information on the International Young Leaders Assembly visit

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