Four American young leaders joined 46 others from around the world to participate in Future Leaders Connect, a British Council program. While in the UK, the future leaders met former global leaders, ambassadors and visited No. 10 Downing Street and the Houses of Parliament.
The British Council’s Future Leaders Connect program provides an opportunity for young people with leadership potential to become the next generation of policy leaders. It is a long-term program to build a community of policymakers around the world whose leadership and policy skills have benefitted from learning in the UK. The British Council aims to support this network of emerging leaders whose global visions and values will help them address issues they face in their regions.
One of the many highlights was hearing Kofi Annan and Graça Machel speak about challenges for peace in Trafalgar Square. This event was in partnership with The Elders, an independent group of global leaders founded by Nelson Mandela a decade ago to work together for peace and human rights.
The Elders, including Kofi Annan, Graça Machel, Ban Ki-Moon, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Ricardo Lagos and Ernesto Zedillo, led a walk with hundreds of people including the future leaders through central London to lay peace candles by the statue of Nelson Mandela.
Kofi Annan, Chair of The Elders and former Secretary-General of the United Nations, said:
“Only collective action and cooperation can meet global challenges, from climate change to nuclear proliferation, and only solidarity can protect fundamental human rights and freedoms from tyrants and abusers.”
Graça Machel, co-founder of The Elders with her late husband Nelson Mandela, added:
“Today we are walking together in London, but our message goes out to everyone in the world, from the slums of Gaza to the refugee camps in Calais, the townships of Soweto to human rights defenders in Charlottesville, USA: your struggle is our struggle, your freedom is our freedom, your peace is our peace.”
Following the walk, The Elders and British Council held a public event in Church House, Westminster. The event brought together The Elders and Future Leaders Connect members for a rich debate on how to build peace and bridge political, economic, social and cultural divides.
Four USA young leaders were among fifty emerging leaders from Egypt, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tunisia and the four nations of the UK. Imani Jacqueline Brown is a New Orleans native, artist, activist, and researcher tackling gentrification and socio-economic inequality post-Hurricane Katrina. Imani is Director of Programs at Antenna, Co-Founder of Blights Out and a core member of Occupy Museums. Juliana Ospina Cano from Atlanta, Nashville and now Washington DC is a first generation immigrant from Colombia focused on STEM education for underserved students at UnidosUS. Juliana is also studying for her post-doctorate at Johns Hopkins University. Sonia Guiñansaca is a migrant poet, cultural organizer, and activist from Harlem by way of Ecuador. As Managing Director of CultureStrike, Sonia’s global vision for change is to shift culture and narratives about migration to address the political, systemic, and social needs of migrants and refugees. Tada Vargas is a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe in South Dakota, focused on food sovereignty given the local challenges of her community. She is pursuing Chemistry and Conservation Biology at Oglala Lakota College, a Tribal College composed of eleven centers across the Pine Ridge Reservation.
Future Leaders Connect members were chosen from 11,000 applications from around the world. Applications to be part of Future Leaders Connect 2018 will open in February 2018.
Sir Ciarán Devane, the Chief Executive of the British Council, added: “An international outlook is vital for the future leaders of all countries, if they wish to overcome the challenges they will face.
“Through Future Leaders Connect the British Council will help a new generation to understand practical policy development by putting them in contact with the leaders of today. The programme will help them to develop the skills and international contacts they need to make positive change in their countries.”
Research by the British Council’s Higher Education Policy Unit found that 55 current world leaders, covering one in four countries, were educated in the UK.