Memories of Gold
08 Nov 2017
By: Joel Ayim Darkwah, Assistant Programme Officer. UNDP Ghana
The future belongs to the young. Though many say it with little or no meaning, just to sound politically correct or trendy, Others do with the conviction that the current generation of young people have what it takes to lead the future; a conviction I strongly subscribe to. In October 2017, I got what I needed, a personal experience to solidify my viewpoint, that indeed the future belongs to the young and that young people of today are more than ready to lead the building of a strong today, for a better tomorrow. I got this rare and empowering experience at the just-ended World Festival for Youth and Students which took place in Sochi, Russia, of which I was privileged to have participated as a UN Volunteer. The Festival, fully organized and managed by youth, assembled young people from all corners of the globe to interact, establish friendships and agree on our desired future. It reminded us of how far we the youth have come, the challenges we have overcome together and the many opportunities that lie ahead of us in the future.
From an ‘awakening’ opening ceremony to the diverse discussion sessions and exhibitions organized for over 20,000 young people at the same place, I was privileged to have gone through many positive experiences in my short stay in Sochi. These are golden memories that have enriched my worldview to be prepared to lead today and tomorrow.
Walk with me as I share some key lessons I carried with me from Sochi. I hope it shapes your worldview too.
1. Friendship is key
At a festival represented by participants from over 140 countries, one beautiful thing was clear; that after all our cultural, political, religious or economic differences, we are friends after all. And we can only create something meaningful when we forge unity, friendship and peaceful co-existence. The festival created such unique platform for the youth to live and work together to create global solutions with ideas from diverse global perspectives. The world became smaller in Sochi, setting the tone for a world tomorrow made up and led by friends.
2. Our development challenges are diverse, but lasting solutions abound
Many often, narratives on development challenges have centered on the developing countries. As true as these narratives may be, I had a whole new perspective when I engaged with young people from other parts of the world who opened up to me about their fears, their difficulties and challenges that gives them chills about the future. I got to understand that, despite the differences in our development challenges, there are commonalities that bring us together to work towards common solutions. I was excited to have learnt about the many initiatives being led by young people in different parts of the world to bring sustainable solutions to people with challenges. Indeed, the relevance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) became more evident as I got to understand the different development needs of many countries and how the SDGs offers a wide range of sustainable solutions for every individual challenge.
3. Technology and Innovation; the present and the Future.
Never get it wrong, policies are essential in changing every society. Over the years, most societies have been changed under the umbrella of efficient policies designed to make society better and easier to live. This however do not compare to the increased pace development has gained across the world due to technology and innovation. Through many sessions and discussions at the Festival, I understood the essential role innovation plays in being the vehicle that drives policies to solve many of the world’s problems. From environmental pollution to education, transportation, healthcare to connecting societies, the Festival underlined the effectiveness of technological solutions using working examples, and also opened our minds to what more can be achieved when innovation and technology are at the center of our development policies. Imagine twins separated from birth being re-connected through Social Media after more than 25 years. This was the story of Grace Luu, a speaker from Singapore who through social media was able to re-connect with her twin sister for the first time since birth. Such is the power of technology, and we stand the chance of creating more tangible solutions if we prioritize it. Grace Luu succinctly reiterated the importance of technology with the statement that “If something like this can happen to us, then anything in this world is possible with technology.”
4. Resilience is the new beautiful; never give up!!
The Festival ended with one chorus in our minds: Resilience! It offered us an opportunity to listen and share in the experience of people who have been successful after being able to withstand extremely difficult moments in their life. Imagine how lifechanging and inspiring it was, when Nick Vujicic, the young man with no hands and legs shared his experience about how he had to keep trying for more than fifty times before getting his first slot as a Motivational Speaker in a basic school in the US. He encouraged us to never be discouraged by difficulties because “it is okay to fail”, as long as we keep trying.
This and many other experiences in Sochi has taught me and many young people never to give up on our dreams, to never let challenges put us down, because impossible is nothing.
To all young people across the world, we have a future to lead and this depends on our actions today. We must therefore embrace friendships, innovation and be resilient as we work towards the achievement of our common goals like the Sustainable Development Goals. We owe the future a prosperous and healthy world and we cannot afford to give up.
Thank you, Sochi.