One Young World Summit 2015 – A Student’s Perspective

In the first instalment of the series, Sadhbh writes about her trip to the One Young World Summit in November 2015, taking place in Bangkok.

It’s a dreary afternoon in November, rain sloshing down and the tail-ends of Storm Abigail mercilessly whipping any small bit of skin that has been left exposed to the elements. I should be at home, drinking tea and watching TV (or, you know, doing some study maybe), but instead, I’m dashing around town in search of sun lotion, travel miniatures and 50% Deet spray. Not your average weekend shopping list – but this Monday, instead of hopping on the Luas to St James’s Hospital, I will be boarding a flight bound for Bangkok, where the One Young World Summit 2015 is taking place.

One Young World is an organisation that brings together young leaders from around the globe to work on solutions to pressing issues facing today’s society. Each year, they hold a Summit, where delegates are joined by eminent speakers such as Kofi Annan, Mary Robinson, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and many other influential leaders. Throughout the four day programme, delegates debate and formulate ways to make change in areas such as climate change, global business and sustainable development. Last year, the summit was held in Dublin, where I had the opportunity to attend for one day as an observer. I was thoroughly inspired by what I heard there – from motivational speeches from the likes of Kofi Annan and Mark Pollack, to the incredible stories of some of the delegates themselves. This experience led to my application to attend the Summit this year as an actively participating delegate, and much to my delight, my application was successful.

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I am incredibly excited to attend the Summit – and not just for the copious amounts of Pad Thai that I intend to consume over there. As a delegate, I will once again be hearing from renowned speakers (this year’s line-up includes Yeonmi Park, Bob Geldof and Professor Muhummad Yunus), but I will also have the opportunity to participate in smaller breakout sessions and workshops on topical issues such as the migrant crisis and healthcare interventions. I am very much looking forward to putting my brain to work outside of the realms of my daily college life and working with others to come up with innovative ideas and attainable plans on how to tackle some of these issues. The Summit is an unparalleled platform to form connections with like-minded young people from all across the world. I’ve even joined LinkedIn in anticipation of all these connections, although my father and I had some disagreements on what I should include on my profile – why wouldn’t future employers want to know that I have a Bronze Gaisce and spent three months working in Forever Yogurt on my J1?!

I visited Bangkok before, almost five years ago now, when I set off on my first backpacking adventure. That was a very different trip, involving 3 months of volunteering followed by all the classic backpacker activities; jungle trekking in Chiang Mai, Full Moon partying in Ko Pha Ngan and scuba-diving on Ko Phi Phi. I’m glad that I had the chance to do this before, because I certainly won’t fit it into this trip! My flight leaves Dublin at 9.15am on Monday and arrives into Bangkok (via Paris) at 7am on Tuesday morning, the day before the Summit starts. There’ll be no time to sit around recovering from the 15 hour transit time or the jet lag – the schedule is packed, with breakfast served from 6.30am and sessions running until late evening each day. However, it’s not all work and no play – on Wednesday, the Summit begins with a boat procession along the Chao Phraya River, lined with ancient temples and modern architecture, before the opening ceremony at Sanam Luang in the historic centre of Bangkok. Here, we will get to enjoy Thai culture through music acts, entertainment and traditional markets, where I anticipate I will spend my entire budget for the week on jewellery and brightly coloured harem pants.

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Over the last week, hype has been steadily building on the OYW social media accounts, with pictures of Bangkok preparing for the Summit and delegates from around the world starting to make their journey there. It was recommended that we download a great app called Convene, on which one can easily connect with other delegates and peruse the event schedule. The sessions at One Young World will cover a wide range of topics, with Plenary Sessions on areas such as Human Rights and the Environment and Special Sessions with titles from “Engineering into a zero carbon future” to “Unlocking your unicorn”. There is a general focus over the four days in South East Asia and Thailand, with dedicated sessions such as Leading Thailand and ASEAN Leaders Forum. Although I have a general interest in everything that will be discussed at the Summit, I am especially interested in the issues surrounding climate change and global health. Thus, I am particularly looking forward to the Plenary Session on the Environment, as well as one of the breakout sessions I registered for – Innovative Solutions to Healthcare Challenges. Hosted by Johnson and Johnson, this workshop will look at the role of multinational healthcare companies in implementing Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives such as health crisis intervention and local community projects. I’m hoping to glean much from these sessions – and the Summit as a whole – that I can take home with me to develop and apply in my future career both at home in Ireland and abroad.

One Young World posted a video on their Instagram this week of an interview with a Trinidad and Tobago OYW ambassador, Melissa Pascal. She said, “Once you have gone to this conference, you are entirely changed. You are now a game changer”. I came back from my trip to Thailand in 2011 with a very different perspective of the world and its problems. Here’s hoping that upon my return in 2015, I will have gained the skills and knowledge necessary to become a game changer, to fight against inequalities and injustice and to be a part of the solution to these problems that the world continues to face every day.

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