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Rimla Akhtar on the One Young World Summit

By Rimla Akhtar, ICAS, Scotland. For the past 15 years all I’ve been doing is working on my passion.  I’ve been passionate about sport and about the development of our global community through and within sport. I’ve been able to combine these passions in my work as an Inclusion and Diversity Consultant at my social enterprise business, RimJhim Consulting.  What has made this combination powerful, however, is the CA education that I’ve had.

rimla

Rimla Akhtar, ICAS

When I began my CA education, I was totally focused on getting through it whilst performing to the best of my ability at PwC and I never imagined that I’d be where I am today, working on what I love on a daily basis.  I also never imagined that I would be crowned the One Young CA for 2016 by my institute, ICAS, and be given the opportunity to travel to Canada as a representative of Chartered Accountants Worldwide delegation at the One Young World Summit.

Before heading to Canada and the 2016 Summit, delegates were told that the experience is often described as a life changing one.  It has been over a week since the Summit was officially closed and it is still quite a task to attempt to express the entire experience in words that would be fitting.  It is ultimately the delegates that ensure One Young World leaves a lasting impact, because being around such inspirational and determined young leaders re-ignites a desire within you to be the best version of yourself.  You simply cannot leave the Summit without being moved in some way.  Some may wish to tell us that considering ourselves citizens of the world means that we are citizens of nowhere.  Meeting this group of delegates, however, makes you realise that being a citizen of the world means you are a citizen of everywhere.

One Young World is the preeminent global forum for young leaders and gathers the brightest young leaders from around the world, offering a platform to affect change at a global level.  Apart from the Olympic Games, no youth led movement represents as many nationalities as this Summit, with over 1300 young people present from every country in the world.  The days are packed full with diverse content covering a plethora of the world’s pressing problems.  Household names are partnered with young leaders to take the stage in presenting their solutions, and delegates are given every opportunity to network to create synergies that will make a difference.

The one feeling that has permeated the entire experience is excitement.  From the reception held at Canada House for UK delegates to One Young World delegates taking over the flight to Ottawa; from the Opening Ceremony to the Closing Ceremony and everything in between.

We had the opportunity to hear from a diverse group of heavyweights from across the globe.  Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, encouraged all delegates to “create a future that we will all be proud of”.  Kofi Annan spoke of the need for us to not rely on governments and institutions but to create change ourselves.  Sir Bob Geldof spoke to us all about the need for action now in challenging ourselves and challenging global institutions through action.   Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus described his desire to create three zeros – zero poverty, zero unemployment and zero net carbon emissions.  Former Irish President, Mary Robinson, took us through a journey of understanding the impact of climate change in some of the poorest parts of the world.  Actress Emma Watson shared some of her most vulnerable moments in working towards gender equality.

There were so many themes that were covered across the three days of the Summit, and yet within each theme we heard how the problem impacted local people right across the globe in a variety of ways.  It would be easy to lose hope and feel down about the various issues we hear and read about.  However, what energised me was the fact that we have many young leaders across the globe who are determined to create resolutions. This was evident in the session held by Chartered Accountants Worldwide discussing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the role we all must play in helping achieve them.

The session was led by President and CEO of Rogers Telecommunications, Alan Horn CA, alongside Martin Martinoff of the ICAEW.  The room was full with over 60 delegates from a variety of professions and industries being given an opportunity to discuss and debate the various Goals set by the UN.  Following a particularly hilarious introductory speech from Alan (who said accountants aren’t funny?), Martin took over the reins and each of the six groups provided their own framework for achieving the Goals.

Businesses need not care about who gets credit for achieving these Goals because everyone will win if they are achieved.  Alan summed up the session well when he said that there is a need to protect the interest of the public before we protect the interest of our stakeholders, as is the case with ICAS and other Institutes and the entire accounting profession.  Speaking to the delegates on my table and others, it was clear that they left the session educated and, most importantly, with a framework within which they can act.

The stand out session on stage for me was with Senator Murray Sinclair and young Aboriginal leaders.  Senator Murray gave a speech which gained a deserved standing ovation from the audience and hearing from four young aboriginal leaders lended some serious perspective to the situation, in particular in relation to the high levels of suicide amongst young aboriginal people due to the impact of the marginalisation of their ancestors.  He spoke of how a removal of their identity and forceful assimilation meant that their ancestors were made to feel inferior.  As a woman from an Asian and Muslim background, it reminded me of the difficulties that my communities have faced and continue to face and the need for education for all communities to unite as one without the need for uniformity.  As I always say, diversity is magic, and if we recognise the beauty in our differences, the conflicts we see around the world will reduce.

I must all give a special mention to my #TeamCAW peers and, I can now say, friends.  For those who have the privilege of attending the Summit as part of Team CAW in future years, my advice would be to go prepared to make the most of the event so that it isn’t overwhelming.  The more you invest in the Summit, the more you will get back.

I can certainly say that this Summit has impacted how my view of the world will develop, as well as my own ability to contribute to it.  The overall message to the young people in the room was to harness the innate creativity within us as humans to create a better world that will enable the global issues to be resolved.  This Summit particularly spoke to me about the fact that the challenges we face are universal.  The fact is that we are all in this together, no matter our ethnicity, our gender, our faith or any other aspect of our being, and so there is a clear need to be united in eradicating all forms of discrimination and working towards an inclusive local and global community.

This Summit reminded me of a quote of the Persian poet, Rumi, who said, “You are not a drop in the ocean.  You are the entire ocean in a drop.”  We, as CAs, have had the privilege of going through a fantastic education and, although we may not realise it, we have the ability to create the world within which we wish to live every day – we can be the entire ocean in a drop.

Rimla Akhtar

ICAS, Scotland