“A resounding success. We have had open, honest, and frank discussions, making this year’s session most fruitful.” So were the words of the President of the World Bank/IMF Group Board of Governors. I picked up a rumor that the Prime Minister will be addressing the plenary session this morning and made my way to the grand hall. It seems I am early but just in time for the closing remarks.
While I’ve yet to meet an actual youth delegation, there are still a number of young people here. Interns, assistants, conference support, information desks, coffee, photocopying, mic running, IT support, and of course depending on your definition of “youth,” active members of NGOs.
My first day at the Annual Meetings, and it’s a good thing I’m here early. Security is tight and traffic is backed up. Still, delegates can be seen happily chatting away as they wait to pass through the metal detector, the press is photographing the lines, and meetings are being planned for lunch. A thermal camera screens us as we are cleared through.
It’s not like I was expecting apathy, but in any case it’s not what I got at all. The World Bank meetings are well-known, and opinions are pointed. Perhaps it’s because of a recent shoe-throwing incident aimed at IMF Chief Dominique Strauss-Khan at a pre-meeting university seminar. Perhaps it’s because of the protests organized around the city (activists can be seen handing out flyers and the police running drills). Or perhaps it’s simply a collection of pointed opinions on all things political, economic, or cultural.
Today the day starts early. The morning is dreary, gray sky, a sprinkling of rain…but that’s more than likely to change as the day continues. I’ve just arrived in Istanbul, not the capital, but Turkey’s commercial, financial, and transportation hub nonetheless. The airport has welcome signs to the IMF-World Bank meetings for all the international delegates expected this week. I smile as the passport officer greets me. I’ve been living abroad for nearly a year, and it’s always nice to visit.
This year’s annual World Bank conference will be held in my beautiful home city of Istanbul. This year’s annual summit brings together government, civil society, and key financial and business figures to discuss the world economic outlook, poverty eradication, economic development, and aid effectiveness. And while we may not be participating directly in the discussions, youth involvement is still crucial!
As part of the lead-up to the Y2Y Global Youth Conference to take place here in Washington DC in October, the World Bank Youth-to-Youth Community is launching an essay competition on youth entrepreneurship in times of crisis.
The contest is open to all young people aged 18-30 around the world and shortlisted essays will be featured on the World Bank Y2Y website.
Last year, Maria and I went to the IWF World Leadership Conference. It was a very interesting event where we had a number of stimulating discussions. One of them was about the need to have a Youth Foundation which would impart entrepreneurship training and be instrumental in creating social entrepreneurs. I was already working in this field and decided to form the Climate Smart Entrepreneurs’ Alliance (CSEA) as a stepping stone to the Youth Foundation.
The author, Kwasi Owusu Gyeabour, won third place in an international youth essay competition sponsored by the World Bank and other partners. He answered the question “How can you tackle climate change through youth-led solutions?” The awards were announced in Seoul in June, 2009.
“There is never a time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment, the time is always now.” -James Baldwin (1924 - 1987) Nobody Knows My Name, "Faulkner and Desegregation”
It is a privilege to be called on to share ideas on issues of our time, issues that can be solved through youthful action. In my essay, “Greening the Ghanaian Youth” I proposed several ideas that would help tackle climate change. Here is a sample of the ones I consider most practical.
Youth action at the community level is the most potent force in our fight against rapid climate change. So I proposed the establishment of a Green Sector Mutual Fund. This community-based fund will invest in firms that operate in the green/environmental sector. Now I consider this feasible because I have friends who have established mutual funds such as the University of Ghana Campus Mutual Fund which have turned out successful. The success of a fund mostly depends on factors such as advertising and the prestige and market reach of the fund managers. Most asset management firms these days would jump at the opportunity to manage something ethical just to create a sense of social responsibility and goodwill.
"Young people have proven themselves to be key partners in sustainable development."
—UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon