Young Global Leaders are needed now more than ever. Here's why

Young Global Leaders have the potential to change the world.

Young Global Leaders have the potential to change the world. Image: World Economic Forum/Pascal Bi

Wadia Ait Hamza
Senior Advisor, NA
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  • The Forum of Young Global Leaders was set up to help the world tackle increasingly complex and interdependent problems.
  • As we launch the 2023 cohort of Young Global Leaders, we celebrate the young people who can really impact their society.
  • We need to listen to young people as they are the ones who are going to be living with the consequences of decisions made now.

We live in an increasingly turbulent and polarized world and inspired young leaders who can help bridge divides and create real world change are needed now more than ever.

Young people with passion and engagement are embodying a new generation of compassionate leaders who are purposeful and willing to do whatever is needed to improve the state of the world.

The Forum of Young Global Leaders (YGL) was set up in 2004 with the aim of helping the world tackle increasingly complex and interdependent problems.

Nearly 20 years on, our diverse community of young leaders are still working to shape a more inclusive and sustainable future across borders and sectors. As we launch the 2023 YGL cohort, we celebrate young leaders of today who can really impact their society and benefit from joining our community.

Giving young people a space to learn to lead

The Forum of Young Global Leaders was launched to give people under 40 a safe space to learn from each other and be challenged so they can be better leaders for their companies and societies at large.

We now have more than 1,400 YGLs – as we like to call them – who come from all walks of life and that includes artists, heads of state, CEOs of both Fortune 500 companies and trailblazing start-ups, activists, academics, researchers, journalists and more.

And the common thing between all of them is that they come together to solve the world’s most pressing challenges and problems.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2023 outlined the current ‘older’ threats facing the world including the cost of living crisis, social unrest and trade wars alongside newer risks such as the war in Ukraine, a new era of low growth, rapid development of dual-use (civil and military) technologies and the growing impact of climate change.

Engaging young people across the world to help tackle these major global risks will be key and the YGL community, in particular, has long shown it can play a vital role in driving public-private cooperation in the global interest.

What makes a Young Global Leader?

For me, the main characteristic of a Young Global Leader is having the capacity and resilience to deal with different risks simultaneously.

Having the capacity with deal with what is known as VUCA – vulnerability, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity – is also crucial. We don’t know what’s going to happen from week to week, be it geopolitically or with the climate crisis, for example.

But I am hopeful. The new generation of leaders is very different from their predecessors, because they care more about having a sense of purpose and having a positive impact on society and the environment.

Have you read?

Young people are best placed to address the world’s greatest challenges and we need inspired leaders who can create real world change for the benefit of all.

Through the Young Global Leader community, we really stress the importance of intergenerational dialogue – not just because YGLs crave opportunities to learn but also to engage older generations so they can together create lasting impact.

Young people bring to the table discussions that many of their older counterparts still see as taboo. After all, it was young people who brought climate change to the fore, just as they did with many issues of social justice.

They tend to stand up for their values and they actively think of building bridges rather than destroying them, and that is something to be celebrated.

Tackling the global challenges that lie ahead

The World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos recently put forward a rallying call for leaders to unite in the face of the world's most pressing issues.

Young people such as the YGLs will play a key role in meeting this aim, but they do face challenges including a lack of representation at all political levels, including at the UN.

Indeed, elections across the world have shown that many young people are less likely to go out and vote compared to their older counterparts.

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They need to be engaged; they need to stand up and be part of the game. Young people need to run for elections, bring their values and represent their communities.

How do they get there? I believe young people need to be true to themselves to be authentic, including in their leadership. They need to be guided by cooperation and collective interest in their leadership, and respect the diversity of everyone.

How YGLs can change the world

With so much diverse talent between them, it’s hard to single out one or YGLs above another as they are all doing an amazing job and their stories speak for themselves.

In 2017, Rodrigo Hübner Mendes, who is quadriplegic, used technology developed by fellow YGL Tan Le to drive a Formula 1 racing car with his brain. Mendes was able to control the vehicle by using an on-board computer that translated his thoughts into commands.

Meanwhile, in Brazil Maria Vasconcelos is CEO and co-founder of AgroSmart, the largest agricultural data network in Latin America. The platform collects and processes data to generate insights that support 100,000 farmers in making data-driven decisions and overcoming the uncertainty of climate and climate change.

Born in a refugee camp and raised during Uganda's civil war, YGL Victor Ochen founded the African Youth Initiative Network, a human rights organization that has provided reconstructive medical repair and psychological assistance to more than 21,000 victims of rape, mutilation and other violence during war.

In Japan, Taejun Shin founded Gojo & Company to promote financial inclusion by creating ‘the private sector version of the World Bank’. Today, it serves over 1.2 million households and provides its clients with financial products like insurance and energy loans.

These are just some of the achievements and stories of the YGL alumni who have sought to make the world a better place.

We need to continue listening to young people, as they are the ones with the fresh ideas and the ones who are going to be living with the consequences of any decisions made now.

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