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New York City, 23 September 2019

  • 255 participants, young people of over 70 different nationalities and 47 speakers lent
    their voice to the global debate around balancing profit with purpose and fulfilling the. Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Discussions focused on the importance of young people being afforded and taking leadership roles, harnessing their unique ambitions and energies.
  • New #ItStartsWithUs initiative launched with #OneWord challenge to engage young people around the world with Sustainable Development Goals.

New York City, 23 September 2019The inaugural Misk Youth Forum closed today with young people from over 70 countries coming together in the heart of global business to discuss how to change business for good by balancing profit with purpose and putting a new emphasis on the fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Across the day’s events, young people engaged with established leaders, emerging changemakers, and their peers on challenging themselves and their leaders to bring real change. The topics discussed ranged from the importance of entrepreneurship to sustainable development to the role of sports in driving wider changes; from taking personal responsibility for change to how new regulatory approaches can incentivise socially- responsible businesses, all with the goal of creating real impact on the ground. 

The forum also saw the launch of one new way to drive impact: the #OneWord challenge of #ItStartsWithUs. This is a new initiative to drive young people’s engagement with the Sustainable Development Goals by writing one word they believe can inspire action and impact on their finger, tweeting a photo, and challenging their friends to do the same. 

Opening the wider forum, Shaima Hamidaddin, Executive Manager of Misk Global Forum, emphasised that the event was an opportunity for the young people in attendance “to bring your voices, ideas, energy and creativity to policy-makers, NGO leaders and business leaders. Together you can work to redefine the purpose of business for good, achieve social and environmental goals, and sustain those impacts for the long-term.” 

With the forum’s mission laid out, a full house heard from three young social entrepreneurs from across the world had begun to do just that. Victoria Alonsoperez, Founder & CEO of Chipsafer in Uruguay, spoke of how an outbreak of disease that threatened her country’s vital agricultural sector had inspired her to combine social concerns with a passion for new technology to create Chipsafer. She called on young people to be given greater access to new technologies, “because what they can achieve is unbelievable – they can solve the problems in their communities.” 

Razan Farhan Alaqil, Saudi Arabia’s National Focal Point of the Arab Youth Platform for Sustainable Development, called on young people to take action themselves, saying, “each individual in this room, each individual all around the world has to be responsible to say ‘I am responsible for my lifestyle.’ We can’t expect to see change if we’re not a part of it.” 

Meanwhile, Ezequiel Vedana da Rosa from Brazil, founder of sanitation solution Piipee, emphasised the need for entrepreneurs and changemakers to focus on simple solutions and offered a simple mantra for success to guide others: “I think our challenge is life is to find a purpose… because i really believe we are not just here to be here. We have to have a mission to do good.” 

As the day progressed, more young entrepreneurs offered their experiences and inspiration to the audience, earning praise from established leaders who expressed their admiration and hopes for the new generation to “change the world if we give them the chance.” Indeed, sustainability expert Paul Polman, Co-Founder & Chair of Imagine, stated that, “it’s young people’s future. So we need to be sure we not only give them a seat at the table, we give them the table.” 

Alongside the vital role played by business and the private sector, the Saudi women’s football team – founded for and competing in the SDG World Cup – offered a unique insight into how sports can have a wider impact. Taking to the stage, the team described how their sports clubs were bringing together the teams, families, and Saudi authorities to improve health, recycle, and completely engage their community with the SDGs. Their session ended with footballing legend Thierry Henry taking to the stage, ahead of his own session on how to expand access to education, to offer his own coaching expertise. 

Alongside these plenary sessions, the World Bank, Acumen, Bridge for Billions, and Global Pulse conducted workshops on how to achieve entrepreneurship success and drive change through social enterprises. 

The Misk Youth Forum was held as part of the Misk Global Forum’s commitment to taking its mission to empower young people with the skills they need for the future economy and to become global citizens. The forum concluded with Shaima Hamidaddin thanking all those who had taken part and expressing the hope that participants would join MGF at its annual gathering in Riyadh in November.