Over 1,200 delegates from 196 nations represented at the Opening ceremony in Bangkok next to the royal palace. This was the first time that a non-royal family based event has ever been held at this prestigious location.
The summit and the opening ceremony is the largest OYW event in the organisation’s history and the second most internationally represented event after the Olympics.
A message from OYW co-founders
Co-founders David Jones and Kate Robinson addressed the delegates. Something that David said particularly resonated with me. He said that:
The OYW summit is not a place to just talk about challenges in society but, more importantly, to drive action and create lasting change. People talk about you all as future leaders but really you are leaders already, young leaders who have the capability to make positive change, you have to go out there and do it.
This really stuck with me as in the run-up to this event people had begun to refer to me as a 'future leader' but really I'm a young leader already. As a business adviser with EY, my work is impacting the private sector, Government and society, as a result, I have the responsibility to lead by example, to be courageous and daring so that younger generations can be inspired to change the world.
OYW counsellors, the Thai advisory board and the Governor of Bangkok jointly led the campaign for Thailand to host the first OYW Summit in Asia and all took to the stage to greet the delegates. Sir Bob Geldof, Kofi Annan and Muhammad Yunus all received standing ovations as they entered the venue for their long standing support of OYW as counsellors and more importantly for the amazing work they have done which has had a lasting impact all around the globe.
Mohammad Yunus, Sir Bob Geldof and Kofi Annan each addressed the delegates with humble stories, inspiring words of wisdom and some hard-hitting realities of society today. Some lines really stuck with me:
Inspiring words from Mohammad Yunus
Mohammad Yunus is a Bangladeshi social entrepreneur, banker, economist and civil society leader. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for founding the Grameen Bank and pioneering the concepts of microcredit and microfinance. He said: Think big but start small and make a difference where you can.
It really hit home as I realised a number of clients I work with as a Chartered Accountant all started from very humble beginnings often from family based entrepreneurship. What many of them had in common was acute commercial awareness and the business sense to thrive and grow. As a CA and trusted business adviser I have the skills not only to be entrepreneurial but also to support charitable and social causes and help them grow.
"Think big but start small and make a difference where you can."
Sir Bob Geldolf
Sir Bob Geldof also gave an engaging address to the delegates. He said that what is required in our world is tolerance, love and understanding for a better future.
For me, his words brought memories flooding back of when I worked at a refugee camp on the Croatia/Serbia border. Here, thousands of refugees often faced hostility from local forces and riot police. Because of the language barrier, sometimes police could not understand if people were pleading to receive medical attention after walking for miles. I saw a father was reduced to tears when he found out his wife and children were transported across the border without his knowledge and with no way for him to make contact with them. Geldof’s words made me think about how this difficult situation with the refugee crisis could somehow be made better.
"What is required in our world is tolerance, love and understanding for a better future."
Refugees who have fled their homes in search of a better life should be treated with basic humanity, love, understanding and above all, dignity.