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A mother of nine thousand leaders

A mother of nine thousand leaders

Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes

Speech Kate Robertson, co-founder of One Young World

Students who say that they will ‘do their best and have a good time’ at university make her very angry. “Do your best?” emphasizes Kate Robertson in her speech during the Opening of the Academic Year. “Doing your best means something. Not a sloppy, middle-of-the-road ‘it’s okay’. See it as a joy and a challenge and make sure everything is possible.”

Kate Robertson in one word, please? “A powerhouse”, says Costas Georgiades, junior policy advisor at Maastricht University and ambassador at One Young World. Robertson indeed delivered a powerhouse speech last Monday. “Take up the mantle of leadership and GET MOVING”, she shouted – writing GET MOVING in capitals seems the only way to do justice to her words. “Young people must do something and stand up.”
Kate Robertson, who was born in South Africa and grew up during the apartheid, “was inspired by the leadership of Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu”, states the One Young World website. Co-founded by Robertson in 2009, One Young World is a platform on which ‘young leaders’ between 18 and 30 years old can make themselves heard.

Robertson’s driving force behind the initiative “was to find something we could get our teeth into that would make a lasting difference. For me, leadership is everything and the idea that the world can be brought together as a human family is my emotional lodestone”, the former Global President of advertising company Havas explained in an online Inspirational Woman interview series.
“There are about nine thousand ambassadors for One Young World now. Once you attend a summit ­– self-sponsored or on a company scholarship; the fee is roughly €3,600 – you become an ambassador”, Georgiades explains.
During the annual international summit (the 2018 edition is to be held in The Hague this October), young people with positive ideas to change the world are brought together with CEOs, politicians, and members of non-governmental organisations. Georgiades: “It’s a great opportunity – especially if you’re from Mexico or Colombia, where it’s much more difficult to be heard than in Europe or the United States – to listen to and meet the CEO of Unilever or a high UN official.”

Georgiades’s fellow ambassador and UM colleague Luca Bücken describes Robertson as “the mother of nine thousand leaders; she has a strong sense of care and protection, as well as a sense of pride. The sky has no limits for her. She has strong confidence in everyone.”
On stage last Monday, Kate Robertson became emotional as she’s still mourning the loss of her “good friend” and former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, who died recently. According to Robertson, “he is so present in our work. He believed in the mission of finding young leaders. He said, ‘If leaders don’t lead, you must make them follow.’ Don’t grumble about what politicians or CEOs are not doing. You stand up and you do it.” Kofi Annan wanted to see the Millennium Development Goals completed. Although these goals ‘ended’ in 2015 (and were succeeded by the Sustainable Development Goals), “they aren’t completed. Far from it”, Robertson emphasized. “However, they will be completed”, she emotionally promised him. To the audience: “And you must do that.”

Bücken about One Young World: “It’s not only about the interaction with businesses and the private sector; it’s also about equality and collaboration, about having young people from Colombia, the Netherlands, Mexico, rural Africa or Saudi Arabia start working together and having a conversation about the challenges we face. There are many like-minded people and the more you get to know each other, the more you become ‘loudspeakers’ of each other. You see how one person’s work is amplified by social media campaigns.”
Bücken’s own organisation, Liter of Light, teaches communities how to build solar light solutions. “We create local jobs and empower energy-poor communities.” After he attended a One Young World summit, “his initiative just took off on social media. That’s the real spirit of the community.”
This sounds positive, but Bücken is quick to note that it doesn’t mean there are no challenges left. “Young people more and more often get seats at the formal institutional level, but what’s their impact at the end of the day? Are we just there because it looks good?” Another challenge: inequality and inclusion. “Costas and I are two young leaders with many privileges. We have to reflect on that, take a step back and think about how we can use our position to bring other young people to the table."

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