Western Europe and North America
The 12 countries of the region are the UK’s closest political and strategic partners. There has been a significant shift in our focus across the region towards developing partnerships and building networks of influential young people who will work together on shared issues facing Europe and North America. This region generates over 44 per cent of the British Council’s teaching revenue.
Young people are making a difference around the world. They are no longer passive consumers or learners – they engage in society and work for change. This year young people from 43 countries were given the opportunity to discuss global issues with world leaders at the World Economic Forum (WEF).
With The Road to Davos, a project led by our Swiss office, we identified passionate young people from across the world and helped them present their case to world leaders. In 2008 we brought 60 16- to 19-year-olds to Guildford in the UK for a week-long training session to prepare them for the WEF. They elected the following six representatives to present their conclusions at Davos: Rhadeena, who works with street children in Sri Lanka; Whitney, from the USA, who raised money to build schools in Sierra Leone; Juan, from Argentina, who helps rural schools with education and skills; Gillion, from South Africa, who explores youth identities through performing and visual arts; Yunan, from China, who speaks out and acts against CO2 emissions; and Nick, from Scotland, who works on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights for the disenfranchised. At their WEF panel session – Future Shifts: The Voice of the Next Generation – they presented their findings to 250 policy-makers, opinion-formers and panel members, including Sadako Ogata, the former UN High Commissioner for Refugees, actress Emma Thompson, and Becky Anderson of CNN. Among other messages, they said we needed to give children ‘the opportunity to be children, to go to school and not worry about having to go find work and support their family, but to enable them to get a good education, as it means access to a whole lot of opportunities’.
Since Davos some have launched a global fund for youth activism, some are working with us on climate change through our International Climate Champions projects, and others have spoken at the WEF Middle East Forum in Sharm El Sheikh. One of this year’s participants will share a stage with Kofi Annan at the first annual meeting of the Global Humanitarian Forum in Geneva, Switzerland.
In 2007, the issue chosen was education for all and participants shared a platform with Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan and Gordon Brown, who invited the six to Brussels to discuss issues of education with European Commissioner Louis Michel, the former World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, and a wider conference of donors. They also went on to meet George Soros and members of the Clinton Global Initiative.
The Road to Davos is about developing young people’s skills and ensuring that world leaders fully listen to the next generation. It is good to see this network of young people growing and continuing to actively engage in world challenges.
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