They met the CEOs of Shell and Unilever and discussed our world’s future

Having lunch with former prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende, former European Commissioner Neelie Kroes, and head of Unilever Benelux Conny Braams, isn’t exactly daily business for most of us. Especially not when you get to talk to them about education, health, environment, human rights and poverty alleviations. Two young EUR-students, Hassam Bin Kamran, student at Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences and founder of Butterfly Initiative Pakistan and Shubhojit Ghose (third-year bachelor student Economics and Business Economics, and chair of Erasmus School of Economics’ Student Council), actually got that chance at the One Young World summit in The Hague. ‘It is truly a unique experience to be surrounded by 1800 enlightened and engaged young leaders from over 190 countries.’

The One Young World (OYW) summit is often termed as ‘Young Davos’ (World Economic Forum), and is attended by delegates from all over the world. 194 countries, to be precise, which make the OYW the biggest young-led movement after the Olympic Games. Delegates come from corporations, organisations, or the universities they represent. The summit’s goal: to inspire one another and engage in conversation with other delegates.

Helping minorities

Hassam and Shubhojit attended this summit on a scholarship as two delegates from Erasmus University. They both had their own admirable reasons to apply to attend the summit. Hassam: ‘I was inspired by the already-existing work of One Young World at various levels in working for sustainable development and protection of human rights all around the world. When I was in Pakistan, I saw minorities being humiliated and persecuted. As part of the LGBTQ community in Pakistan, it was the turning point in my life when I was beaten up myself and physically abused by the authorities in Pakistan because of my views. That was the moment when I decided to dedicate my life to help the minorities there to any extent possible. One Young World provided me with the opportunity to contribute and pursue my cause with like-minded people.’

 

Renewable energy in India

Shubhojit’s ambitions also reach far further than national borders. ‘I have the ambition of starting a company in the renewable-energy industry in India in the future,’ he tells us. He’s already working on some educational projects in India right now, and used the conference as a platform to learn from other leaders. ‘I wanted to learn firsthand from industry experts, and challenge leaders on relevant questions. For example, on the second day of the summit, I asked the CEO of Shell (Ben van Beurden) how one of the biggest oil companies was tackling climate change and moving towards new energies and renewable energy with their new $2 billion portfolio.’

‘It is truly a unique experience to be surrounded by 1800 enlightened and engaged young leaders from over 190 countries,’ Shubhojit says. ‘The week flew by while we were debating pressing global issues such as refugee crises and climate change, and discussing ideas of how to tackle these challenges. What made the experience even more remarkable was the fact that we could ask questions and have discussions not only with each other, but also with CEOs of large companies, political figures, economists, and other influencers. I had the chance to personally meet and have discussions with several of my role models, like Unilever Global CEO Paul Polman, and the global CEO of BP, Bob Dudley. I also got to meet prominent figures such as Muhammad Yunus (Nobel Peace Prize winner and economist), with whom I spoke of how his solutions can be replicated in other fields and in India.’

Heartbreaking stories

Hassam had a great time at the summit as well, but also mentions the emotional downside of it. ‘Sometimes it actually was a heart-wrenching experience. There were people from all over the world sharing their stories. Some of them were genocide survivors, others experienced rape. Hearing their stories gave me hope that no matter what breaks us down, we can still rise up and be an inspiration to others.’

Both students would highly encourage young students to participate in the OYW summit in London next year. Hassam: ‘If you wish to work for sustainability and to work for humanity, this is a great platform to network and learn from counsellors like Bill Clinton, Akon and Emma Watson.’ Shubhojit agrees: ‘It is important for leaders on our campus to experience environments like this, where they can develop a better world view and understand different perspectives.’