With more than 1,800 young delegates sharing their initiatives to change the world, the event suggests we can expect great things from our future leaders
"Being without a toilet is not something you might ever have experienced," Rakesh Kapoor, stated at the recent One Young World Summit in The Netherlands. "But billions of our fellow humans – one-in-three – don't have the privilege of access to one."
Rakesh was speaking for the first time at One Young World (OYW), an annual global summit that unites more than 1,000 leaders under the age of 30. Along with established figures from business, NGOs, governments and economists, they meet, make connections and aim to tackle some of the world's most complex social issues.
Sanitation is a subject close to Rakesh's heart; he grew up in an Indian village where most households had to tramp for half an hour every day just to relieve themselves. And hand-in-hand with poor sanitation comes disease and the risk of violence. In his speech, Kapoor highlighted that some 2.3 billion people worldwide don't have access to basic toilets. And one-in-nine don't have access to safe drinking water. "I refuse to live in a world where children are dying in appalling numbers from preventable diseases, such as diarrhoea," he informed assembled delegates in The Hague. "The world can't wait."
A bid for basic human rights
Universal access to clean water and sanitation is one of the United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals. These UN goals have set ambitious targets for a more sustainable, equitable world by 2030, and this year's OYW delegates pledged to make tangible progress on these. Rakesh and RB hope the global summit will spark initiatives to bring about change. As such, RB recently partnered with water.org to support the charity's aim for safe water and sanitation worldwide. With better sanitation, fewer children will die from diarrhoea.
In a bold initiative at this year's summit, RB brand Harpic raised awareness by prompting delegates to ponder an uncomfortable situation – how they'd feel if they were randomly blocked from using public toilets. Delegates watched a "toilet takeover" video made with water.org in which individuals reacted angrily when denied access to public lavatories – a bid to drive home the reality faced by so many in developing countries.
Actions behind words
Among a host of high-profile speakers this year, activist and supermodel Naomi Campbell urged delegates to make a difference with action and initiatives. RB's Laurent Faracci, EVP, CDO for Health at RB, spoke to delegates about the need to combat preventable diseases.
RB – which has been sending young professionals to the summit since 2014 – did just that after last year's event. Leveraging its profile and expertise from its Durex brand, it partnered with the charity The Unmentionables, which provides underwear, sanitary products and sexual-health products and information to refugees in camps, mostly in Africa and Greece.
Together, The Unmentionables and a project team from RB built and launched an app to support refugees with sexual-health issues.
Refugees say they urgently need information about contraception and reproductive health. Eighty-nine per cent of female Middle Eastern refugees say they'd like to learn more about sexual health but only eight per cent feel they could attend a class in person. However, as 80 per cent of Middle Eastern refugees own a mobile phone, a newly launched multi-platform tech solution, UnFiltered, has solved the issue. Information can now be looked up directly, and in many different languages, on a mobile. The app even caters for those who are unable to read.
Committed to change
Places at OYW are in great demand, says Shalini Weerasooriya, an RB delegate who, having attended the summit in 2017, was inspired to establish Project Oscar – a campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of neonatal jaundice. As a returning delegate this year, she commented: "The summit proved yet again how powerful it is in inspiring young people to make real differences in solving the issues of today's world. The incredible stories we heard were of hope, promise and, most importantly, action."
Many discussions at the summit concerned environmental threats – plastic pollution in particular – and delegates were galvanised by the sessions. "I feel committed to finding solutions to reduce plastic waste," said Carlos Gallardo, one of RB's 21 delegates for 2018 who, between them, represented 13 nationalities. "Together we can make a significant change by being creative."
Sughra Shah, another delegate, was inspired to leverage RB's expertise in health and wellbeing. "Poverty alleviation is a mix of good health provision, education and business opportunities – which is exactly what RB is trying to achieve – empowering people to bring about sustainable global development."
In 2019, RB expects even greater interest from its young professionals wanting to attend OYW. As it moves to London for its 10th anniversary, it promises to be the largest gathering yet.