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Countless Young Voices, One Young World

From Bogota to Bangkok, to Belfast, the One Young World Summit has been encouraging young voices across the globe since its founding in 2009 to speak up, with students from the University of Bath being fortunate enough to replicate just a small portion of the experience here in our little corner of the world.

The eighth annual One Young World Bath caucus event took place on Saturday 16th of March, welcoming over 130 speakers, panellists and attendees in the university’s state-of-the-art School of Management. Inspired by the global summit, OYW Bath aims to provide students with the opportunity to participate in a series of speeches, workshops and networking to engage and connect with some of the most pertinent issues facing our world today. Aptly summarised by one of this year’s caucus panellists – the university’s own Dr Sophia Hatzisavvidou – the event affords the “unique opportunity to show that ‘learning’ goes beyond classes. By allowing [a] space to exchange ideas, this extraordinary event gives young people the chance to engage in a critical yet fun way with some of the most important issues of our times”.

The day commenced with a palpable sense of excitement radiating from panellists and attendees alike. Although there is no way to replicate the exact atmosphere after the fact, the hope is that by putting pen to paper and producing this article, the opportunities afforded by the Bath caucus and the importance of the wider OYW mission can be shared with a larger audience. 

But first, let’s take a moment to recognise the months of planning, coordination and dedication that occur behind the scenes for events such as this. With both students and staff from multiple faculties, the committee has worked tirelessly to ensure that the Bath caucus came together in a way that did justice to the OYW organisation – a mission, it is safe to say, they more than fully achieved. To that end, let us now turn our attention to the day and start at the beginning…

Flooding into the main lecture theatre, this year’s event began with opening remarks delivered by Pro-Vice Chancellor Julian Chaudhuri, as well as by co-chairs, Elliott Powell and Kiara Singh. These remarks drew on the experience of attending the OYW summit in Belfast in 2023 and provided the perfect introduction to the three themes – climate justice, peace and reconciliation and mental health in sports. One notable individual in attendance was the Managing Director of OYW, Ella Robertson McKay, who delivered an opening address that spoke to the value of the university engaging with the OYW initiative. In her words, “[the] university has continued to be a great One Young World partner while pioneering University-led events…through One Young World, students are taking a genuine interest in being part of the solutions to the world’s biggest challenges”. In speaking to the wider OYW mission, one of the key sentiments shared by the Managing Director was the idea that the greater the position of privilege, the greater the responsibility to act – a message that resonated with many and was reiterated throughout the day’s discussions.

Following the opening ceremony, the first panel commenced with a keynote address delivered by Dr. Hatzisavvidou, centred around the theme of ‘Climate Justice’. Ranging from optimistic to, perhaps, some slightly more pessimistic opinions, the panel discussion that followed covered issues from environmental injustice to the importance of cross-disciplinary collaboration for effective action.

When asked to summarise the key takeaway from the panel, Dr Hatzisavvidou stated “I hope the panel demonstrated why simply talking about ‘climate action’ is not enough. Unless we place justice principles at the heart of responses, our actions will continue to exacerbate existing socioeconomic inequalities”. A powerful message indeed.

After a brief interlude of tea and coffee, the peace and reconciliation panel began with an introduction by Oxford University researcher Tiril Høye Rahn. At first glance, the four panel members – a Norwegian peace advocate, a Colombian dancer, a British social anthropologist and a Kurdish university student – may not seem to have much common ground. Yet, chaired by Professor Jason Hart, the panel all drew from their unique experiences to engage in conversations on the power of the arts, the importance of individual statehood and the necessity of proactive approaches. For those in attendance, the message was clear – although the experience may vary, the responsibility of advocating for peace is the tie that binds us all. This sentiment resonated with attendees with one such individual stating “university can be quite separate from the situations you are learning about…listening to an array of people’s lived realities was really invaluable”. One common idea shared across the panels was the notion that a single small initiative can make a difference. In hearing first-hand how the panel resonated with those in attendance, the power of the caucus in inspiring individuals to get involved in making a difference is indisputable.

Shortly after, with a hunger for both lunch and networking opportunities, the caucus once again broke for a brief interval before resuming with a series of workshops. Headed respectively by Syngeta’s Dave Hughes, Bath Women’s football Miranda Rolfe and Bath MUN representatives, each workshop afforded the opportunity to delve into one of the key themes in greater depth. When asked what he hoped participants gained from the workshops, Hughes remarked “the world is facing significant challenges…I hope to encourage them to use their skills to try to make a difference …hopefully, they get enthused to actually participate in becoming part of the solution.”.

Coming back together in the main lecture theatre, the final panel commenced with a video introduction by Global Youth Worker Robin Lockhart on the theme of mental health in sports. The importance of addressing such a topic is often overlooked in the shadow of issues such as those discussed in the earlier two panels. For those in attendance, however, hearing about the impact of injuries on mental health in terms of isolation, identity and performance pressure made it clear just how important these conversations can be. Aside from just raising the issues, the panel shared ideas for creating safe environments to encourage mental health discussions, giving listeners practical tools to put into practice. In speaking to the theme’s chair, former Bath student Abbie Watkins, she aptly summarised the key takeaway from the panel as follows: “We are people first…treat people with kindness, advocate for mental health being just as respected as physical health…you never know what is going on under the surface”.

As the day wound to a close, with a distribution of drinks and performances by various SU societies, the inspiration, engagement and encouragement of the event was tangible.

So what has been gained from the experience? It feels appropriate here to draw back to the opening remarks of Ella Roberston McKay that the greater the position of privilege, the greater the responsibility to act. For students at the University of Bath, the very chance to attend an event such as this speaks to a certain level of privilege that affords the opportunity to make a meaningful difference. Taken at the surface level, the discussion highlighted pertinent issues that may have cast a shadow over the prospects for the future state of our society. But, digging deeper, the sentiment that resonated across the panels was clear – yes, the world is in strife but the opportunity to innovate, advocate, engage and address these issues is there for the young world to grasp.

For those in comfortable positions, the solution is not to be found in surrendering to despair but in taking action to make a meaningful difference. The future is yet to be decided, let us use all our young voices to build a better picture of our one world. It feels appropriate here to end with the words of Tiril Høye Rahn, who beautifully summarised “during the event I was asked how I remain hopeful: the excellent organisation of OYW Bath with its engaged, empathic and curious students gives hope. OYW Bath was a fantastic way to engage on urgent questions of our time”.

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