Some 1,300 youngsters from around the world attending One Young World in Bogotá got an earful from a legend Thursday, the opening day of the summit. But, the earful wasn’t directed at them – instead, rock star Sir Bob Geldof lashed-out at Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi for her systematic ethnic cleansing of the majority-Muslim Rohingya population.
The former lead singer of Boomtown Rats, and founder of Live Aid concerts was hardly up-beat on Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump either, calling them “autocrats who insult us as human beings.” But, he especially singled out the 1991 Nobel Peace Laureate Suu Kyi as “one of the great ethnic cleansers of our planet.”
The condemnation of a Nobel Peace Prize winner at a global forum that brings together youth leaders, puts the Colombian capital at the heart of social issues, and the first time One Young World has come to Latin America. Bogotá has officially welcomed 1,300 youngsters from 196 countries to engage with world leaders on issues ranging from climate change to corruption, how to end poverty, and in a country that has ended a half-century internal conflict of its own.
Joining Sir Geldorf on the stage of this summit are former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan; Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate; Yemen’s Tawakool Karman, co-founder of Women Journalists Without Chains and the 2011 Nobel Peace laureate; Bangladeshi social entrepreneur Professor Muhammad Yunus and also a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.
“Over the next few days, will we connect with young leaders to discuss some of the most important issues of our time,” said Annan during the inaugural ceremony in the Simon Bolívar Plaza. The former U.N Secretary General also expressed hope that youngsters can “build a better and more peaceful world for all humanity.”
The first Arab woman to receive a Nobel Peace Prize, Karman, also sent a passionate message to the audience gathered in the historic square.”Youth can fight corruption, youth can fight dictatorships, racism and terrorism,” she said.
President Santos gave the keynote speech at the end of the ceremony, recounting the difficulties his country faced reaching a final peace deal with the world’s oldest guerilla insurgency – FARC. “We need connection rather than division,” said Santos. “Don’t take peace for granted. You have to fight for it even though you know how hard it is. Because you know it’s the right thing to do.”
The summit officially began its agenda in the Agora Convention Center, and during the next two days, world leaders will address issues ranging from poverty alleviation to fighting corruption. Each topic has a plenary session, moderated by counselors who have successfully launched projects to address these specific problems. The summit will also discuss the role of social media and democratic change, sustainable development, future of philanthropy, access to education, and peace building in post-conflict areas.
But, the focus of this summit are youngsters. “Young leaders are the centerpiece of this initiative,” said Professor Yunus during the first plenary.
For Julián Díaz Velosa, a delegate from Colombia, making social change in the future requires confronting the past. “I’ve traveled across Colombia and interviewed 172 victims of the 52-year-long conflict.To confront reality and the misery it has brought us was very difficult. But, I knew I had to do it,” he said. “I had to let children know what we’ve been through.”
Another humanitarian effort taking place was highlighted at the summit. Social entrepreneur Marciano discussed his effort to build schools on an island of Equatorial Guinea to ensure the right to education of children is protected. “The government of my country ignores the lack of schools and education opportunities,” claims Marciano, and adamant that his plan can change this. “I am teaming up with other social activists to build schools there so that kids can go to school, and that they have a future.”
Hosting 1,300 delegates means 1,300 fresh ideas for the world; and, Bogotá is offering youngsters an opportunity to dialogue, exchange ideas, and establish far-reaching bonds. On Saturday evening, the delegates will gather once again in the Plaza Simon Bolívar for a closing concert by American singer Cher, and words from the city’s mayor Enrique Peñalosa. But, most certainly, as Cher takes to the stage, Sir Geldorf’s words will still be ringing across the world.