By Dr. Andreas Jacobs, Chairman of INSEAD, 2020 ZSP Jury Member
In 2018, 15 percent of the world’s 7.6 billion people were between 15 and 24 years of age, with a further 26 percent below 15 years. Due to the global challenges facing our planet, it has never been more crucial to ensure that the future generations of leaders are provided with the tools and opportunities to address and solve these challenges.
While 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, children and young people around the world continue to suffer. Whether it is the 1 in 10 children trapped in conflict zones or the tens of millions lacking basic access to education or healthcare, the situation for young people needs to see significant signs of improvement and more must – and can – be done.
As we approach the milestone of the first quarter of the 21st century, we cannot sit idly by as young people continue to face the threat of increasing isolation due to political instability, labour market challenges or limited spaces for civil participation. Therefore, this August 12th, we have both an opportunity and a duty to highlight these challenges via the United Nations’ International Youth Day and this year’s theme “Transforming education”.
Development of the next generation is a topic very close to my heart. Through my chairmanship role with INSEAD, overseeing the development and education of a new generation of business leaders, and my relationship with the Jacobs Foundation, which invests in the future of young people to become socially responsible and productive members of society, I take an active interest in investing in the future, by supporting the youth of today.
Another platform I am honoured to be part of, as a Jury Member, is the Zayed Sustainability Prize – the UAE’s global award recognising organisations and high schools for their innovative, inspiring and impactful solutions in the areas of sustainable development.
Founded in 2008, the Prize introduced a Global High Schools category, in 2012, to directly address and encourage the crucial youth demographic to be proactive agents of transformation in global sustainability. Since its introduction, this category has rewarded 35 winners and, collectively, their projects have benefitted schools and local communities, as well as being responsible for offsetting 3,400 tonnes of carbon emissions and generating 4.2 million kWh of renewable energy. The direct and indirect beneficiaries of these winning high school projects has reached over 388,000 people.
Encouraging young people to make an effective contribution to the global sustainability agenda by allowing them to engage directly with their communities and offering fresh ideas will lay the foundations for a more dedicated approach to managing sustainability and humanitarian solutions. While the challenges are many, the first step to resolving any issue is having the will and desire to make a difference and back that up through action. Philanthropic and government funding are a key part of that process, allowing concepts to manifest from mere ideas to actual solutions.
As sustainability initiatives continue to identify, many young people around the world are actively keen to transform their words and thoughts into action. One current example is the Swedish teenager and environmental activist, Greta Thunberg, who has become a figurehead for a global movement of young people demanding that the older generation step up their efforts to fight climate change.
So, old and young, let us mark this year’s International Youth Day by committing to provide equal and improved access to education for all and ensuring their education is a cherished part of their individual and social growth. By continuing to offer the opportunities and space for all this to grow, we establish a positive foundation for all our futures.