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Brussels: Diving into the Heart of Development Policies

Liviane Urquiza's picture

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I just returned from Brussels where I met five very determined individuals. Whether an entrepreneur, a doctoral student, a ministerial chief of staff, or the head of a community organization in the slums of Nairobi, these five young people have one common goal: to fight for a more just future. And to achieve this goal, they have chosen to use both their talent and their determination to intensify the pace of social progress in their country.

Benedetta Mwongeli Kyengo (Kenya), Bruce Dube (South Africa), Crystal Fiallo (Dominican Republic), and María de los Ángeles Lasa and Alexis Estevez (Argentina) were guests of the World Bank at the Brussels Forum.

Click on the slideshow below for their portraits

The schedule for the trip was packed. No sooner had they been introduced than they had to set off for their first major meeting...  

The Decision Makers of Tomorrow Ready to Take Over

The five guests of the World Bank participated in the Young Professionals Summit (YPS) on March 15 and 16. This event, organized by the German Marshall Fund (GMF), brings together around 100 young people each year, mainly from Europe and the United States, to discuss political issues.

As it took place in parallel with the Brussels Forum, the YPS was able to invite prestigious stakeholders to share their points of view and experience with the young Summit participants. This is the mission of the YPS: to facilitate the passing of the torch from one generation of political decision makers to another.

This year, the GMF and the World Bank collaborated to broaden the scope of the Young Professionals Summit to global issues. “We have invited these five young people in order to enrich the discussions with new points of view from developing countries in Africa and Latin America,” explains Guggi Laryea, the World Bank Project Coordinator.

A number of the themes proposed gave rise to particularly dynamic discussions, such as the following:

  • Ethics in politics
  • The intervention, whether desired or not, of the international community in complex situations (such as the conflicts in Mali and Syria)
  • The role of young people in the democratic process
  • Redefinition of the social contract between the State and citizens
  • Internet-related risks and opportunities; the evolution of the role of the European Union on a global scale, etc.

María, Benedetta, Crystal, and Alexis all spoke during the discussions, and Bruce even took the moderator’s seat to lead a lively discussion on “Shared Prosperity” with World Bank Senior Adviser, Katarina Mathernova, and the Brazilian Trade Minister, Tatiana Lacerda Prazeres (notice that she is also included in the category of young professionals since she is only 33 years old!).

Meetings with European Development Actors

Sándor Sipos, Head of the Brussels Office of the World Bank, began the third and final day of meetings by briefing the group of young experts on the relationship between the World Bank and the European Union (EU), two major international development actors. In fact, the member states of the EU and the European Commission (EC) provide over 60 percent of official development assistance (ODA). The group then had a meeting at the EC headquarters with Daniel Giorev, from the Office of the Commissioner for international cooperation, humanitarian aid, and crisis response, Kristalina Georgieva. In the afternoon, the group of young experts was received by Filip Kaczmarek’s team. Mr Kaczmarek is the rapporteur for the European Parliament responsible for drafting the document defining the European Union’s broad guidelines with respect to the new Millennium Development Goals beyond 2015.

Each meeting offered the five young experts the opportunity to pose questions and share their suggestions regarding the European Union’s strategic orientations on the subject of poverty reduction and humanitarian aid.

At lunch, the high-level meetings gave way to a less formal—but serious—discussion with representatives of European civil society organizations devoted to youth issues (European Youth Forum, Plan, and JADE).  The discussion quickly zeroed in on one fundamental issue for young people across the globe—employment.

How can we help troubled young people access vocational training and employment? How can entrepreneurship be stimulated to create new opportunities? Each participant described the solutions developed by his or her organization; ideas were exchanged, as well as contact information, email addresses, and Facebook account information. This meeting clearly highlighted for me the importance of networking as everyone around the table agreed on this point: in order for a youth initiative to be successful, the creation of a network of reliable and motivated actors is crucial. The further this network extends based on sound linkages, the greater the likelihood that a project will have a strong impact on a large number of people.

Finally, to close this last day, Crystal, Alexis, Benedetta, Bruce, and María were able to offer their responses to the question posed some months ago by the World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim: what will it take to end poverty? Their responses are below as tweets:

What will it take to end poverty

Do these issues interest you?

Do you dream of pursuing a career in politics to be among those responsible for making these decisions in the years to come? If the answer is yes, request more information through local associations to find out if these citizens’ debates are organized in your region.

How can an institution like the World Bank better support youth participation in global challenges? How can we bring an end to poverty and achieve shared prosperity? Share your thoughts in the comments section, and join the "Global Voices" debates World Bank Live.