In front of a packed audience at the World Forum centre in The Hague, actress and activist Amber Heard spoke about sexual violence towards women. Some might scoff at a Hollywood star holding forth about such difficult topics. But Heard was the one that everyone in the auditorium, mostly under the age of 30, wanted to hear.
There was not a word about the US actor’s messy divorce from Johnny Depp or her own personal troubles. Instead, she spoke about the universal suffering that many women go through in terms of suffering abuse, whether it’s emotional, physical or financial.
And isn’t this what a conference is supposed to fulfil? A full and frank discussion, a chance to meet face-to-face and to hear keynote speakers that make you sit up and listen, rather than slope off to the buffet bar?
The One Young World was a delight to attend. An international conference with more than 1,800 young people from all over the world, including the UK, who will be the leaders of the future in sectors such as politics, finance and health.
Other speakers included Sir John Major as well as John Roberts, founder of electrical goods giant AO, Bob Dudley, CEO of BP and Marisa Drew from Credit Suisse. Other companies there included Unilever, Coca Cola and Johnson & Johnson. Also there was Astra Zeneca, keen to show off its global community investment programme.
A good marketing opportunity, those of a cynical persuasion might say, but at least these corporates have to address such issues as climate change and discrimination in the workplace. As one delegate from the Johnson & Johnson stand said to me, “these companies need to change, otherwise they will not be around in the future.”
The World Forum is a conference centre renowned for attracting events and meetings in the peace and justice arena. Located in The Hague, there are more than 150 international organisations and NGOs, which add to the Dutch city’s reputation. No wonder it’s dubbed the International City of Peace and Justice.
However, the Hague is not resting on its peace laurels just yet, but looking to branch out into new sectors such as positioning itself as the cyber security capital of the world. It’s forging a name as the biggest security delta in Europe.
Keen to welcome more conferences and meetings into the Dutch city, there will be more than 1,000 extra hotel rooms over the next five years. This includes the new Asian Business Court, with 120 rooms, opening in 2019.
But back to the One Young World conference. One important topic was raised – the refugee crisis. As Tarnana Asey, a young Afghani woman, who now lives in The Hague pointed out, there are many skilled migrants looking for work and she called on companies to tap into this and benefit from it.
So what can our industry learn? It’s often been pointed out that there is a skills shortage and many vacancies can be filled in the hospitality industry from immigrants arriving into the country. Perhaps it’s time to draw on this valuable pool of resources.
For those who fear that migrants are a drain on the economy, as Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s secretary-general pointed out, Albert Einstein was a refugee. Food for thought indeed.
Fiona Keating, Editor of M&IT