If not you, then who? If not now, then when?

Oct 26, 2018

This was the call to action at this year’s One Young World conference held at The Hague from 17 to 20 October.  In attendance were 1,828 young leaders, under the age of 35, from 192 countries, where the theme was ‘Building a Better World’, with a focus on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (also known as SDGs or Global Goals).

I had the opportunity to hear from some of the top business and political leaders in the world, including other delegate speakers on range of topics including human rights, sexual violence, poverty, education, climate change and the environment. 

The overall aim of this year’s One Young World? To inspire and empower us as young leaders to make a positive change in our respective communities, so that we can achieve the targets set in the Global Goals by 2030.

Forging relationships with Chartered Accountants Worldwide

I attended the conference as a proud representative of Chartered Accountants Ireland along with 11 other delegates from the Chartered Accountants Worldwide network (Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Pakistan, Zambia, England & Wales, and South Africa). Our delegation also included the first female Chartered Accountant to work in Saudi Arabia (!). 

I enjoyed getting to know these remarkable young Chartered Accountants, and I look forward to catching up with them again in the future, both personally and professionally. 

World Class Speakers

There isn’t another forum quite like the One Young World, where you get to hear from so many of the top business and political, including various celebrity commentators at the same conference. Speakers this year included:

  • Former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, speaking on climate justice;
  • Sir Bob Geldof who told us “You are the first generation that MUST NOT fail. The very world itself is at stake.”
  • 3 Nobel Peace Prize Winners;
  • Former UK Prime Ministers: Sir John Major and Gordon Brown;
  • Top Business Leaders: including CEOs of Shell, BP, Reckitt Benckiser, BMW, Audi, Credit Suisse, BNP Paribas, Deloitte, KPMG, DSM; and
  • Various Celebrities: Akon, Terry Crews, Amber Heard, Rosario Dawson and Rossana Bee.

Tackling tough issues

I have to admit some of the stories I heard throughout the 4 days, I wasn’t emotionally prepared for, and there wasn’t a dry in the audience when the delegate speakers were sharing their stories. The story that stood out the most was from Luke Hart (from the UK) who spoke about domestic violence. Luke's father, Lance Hart, killed his mother and sister before killing himself. I really admired how brave these young people were to share their stories so publicly to make sure this doesn’t happen to someone else.

What am I going to do differently following One Young World?

I have made 3 commitments following the One Young World conference, which I am going to work on to help ‘Build a Better World’.

  1. Help to deliver on the Global Goals

    I have chosen to focus on SDG 10 ‘Reduce inequality within and among countries’ and link all the other SDG’s to this goal.

    I was reminded, during the conference, that the 8 wealthiest individuals in the world, hold more wealth than the bottom 50% of the global population. We as a profession, need to accept some responsibility for enabling wealth to be accumulated in this manner, and should try to find solutions for a more even distribution of wealth

  2. Reduce my impact on the environment

    I don’t want to be branded as an ‘environmental terrorist’ by continuing to use single use plastics, for instance, and will be more conscious of the products I use going forward to make sure there is no impact on the environment.

  3. Be an LGBT role model

    I didn’t have an LGBT to look up to for inspiration at the beginning of my career, which meant I didn’t achieve my full potential until I reached my 30’s. I will continue to be an advocate for LGBT rights both in society and the workplace, so that future young LGBT leaders don’t feel oppressed and can achieve their full potential.

Closing thoughts

At the closing ceremony, one thought struck me when everyone was dancing to Jay Sean. Not, ‘who is Jay Sean?’, but that there were 1,828 people from 192 countries, some of their countries are at war, and they are getting along with trying to ‘Build a Better World’. Why is this not always the case?

It is up to my generation and future generations to save our planet, create a more peaceful society, and put an end to poverty. We, as Chartered Accountants, have an incredibly important role to play in helping to achieve these goals.

So, my final question to my fellow Chartered Accountants - what are you going to do about the Global Goals?

Michael J Walls
Chartered Star 2018

Check out Michael's summit round up video >>>