The urgency of now: youth leadership

It is with great pleasure that in a few weeks I will be addressing the One Young World Conference in Zurich Switzerland, not only as the 2011 Australian Youth Ambassador to the United Nations but as a global citizen, as someone who believes that our future is not defined by borders and boundaries, race or religion but rather the fundamental belief that I am my brothers keeper,  that I am my sisters keeper.

The belief that our lives are as connected as the tops of the trees to the roots in the soil. In 1966 Robert Kennedy, addressing the youth of south Africa said:

“we can perhaps remember that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life, that they seek as we do nothing but the chance, to live out their lives in purpose and happiness.”

It is this sense of responsibility to our fellow man that brings together over 1000 delegates to the One Young World Conference. We seek this purpose and happiness, not for ourselves but for our family, our friends and future generations.

This is the social footprint we hope to leave behind as we continue to kick down the doors that remain closed to young people throughout the world. These impacts create vibrations that shake the foundations of institutions moored in time, not to break but to build. Build better structures supporting young people.

I often quote Pericles – a Greek General from 500 – 400BC who stated:

“What we leave behind is not what is carved into stone monuments but what is woven in the hearts of others.”

While this quote is over two thousand years old it still rings true today. It is this common thread that binds us at every interaction, it is a rich tapestry of hope, passion and the sense of urgency.

A motif that I have witnessed on my travels throughout Australia, traveling over 32,000kms, engaging over 10,000 people face-to-face and through social media.

It is the urgency that formed the words of the Honduras Minister for Youth at the recent United Nations High Level Meeting on Youth when he said “We must vanquish that age-old cliche that the future belongs to the youth, for it is the present that belongs to the youth.” It is the passion the Foreign Minister for Tunisia showed when, referring to us as the Dot-Com Generation, he stated “we are counting on their strength to fulfill the promises of the revolution”. It is the hope shared by a school principal in Remote Northern Australia when he told me no one had graduated grade 12 in seven years but pointing out 4 students said these 4 students have the potential to be the first in their family, in their community to graduate and break the cycle of disadvantage that has gripped their town.

The 12th August 2011 brought to a close the International Year of Youth, themed Dialogue and Mutual Understanding. A wonderful and thoughtful theme that I believe should not be limited to the 12 month International Year of Youth but rather something we should continue to strive for at a local, national and international level.

I call on political leaders in Australia and throughout the world at all levels of Government to empower, support and develop young people in the decision making process with transparent and strong framework accessible to young people.

Support and develop youth leadership, not as tokenistic, short term project but as a meaningful investment into youthful enthusiasm, into the inherent sense of a global community in which responsibility and accountability is supported through transparent and tangible governmental framework.

Strengthening relations, bridging generational divide, enabling young people to have a voice in the direction of the country through participation, this must serve as youth engagement policy.

Young people are the most valuable human resource in the world but this resource remains unrealised throughout the world. I call on Governments to support the next generation of leaders, not only at a local level but on the world stage with clear, accessible channels to voice their concerns and hopes with tangible outcomes.


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3 thoughts on “The urgency of now: youth leadership

  1. Hi Benson,
    Just had a look at your blog – I like it!
    For the Young Leaders Academy blog, I always look for great content. Would you like to publish a guest post on it? Could be a post you already wrote, or a new one with a specific topic. If you are interested, please let me know. Also if I can do anything else to support your blog.
    All the best

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