Belfast extended a warm welcome to more than 2,000 delegates hailing from 190+ countries for the 13th annual One Young World Summit.
The gathering served as an empowering and developmental platform for the world's most influential young leaders, united by a common purpose to address urgent global challenges, including peace and reconciliation, climate emergency, food crisis, education, and mental health.
Participants engaged in a jam-packed four-day programme filled with impactful speeches, insightful panels, networking opportunities, and interactive workshops. Chosen delegates also had the opportunity to deliver keynote speeches, sharing the stage with influential global figures including musician and activist Sir Bob Geldof, footballer Rio Ferdinand, Rugby World Cup winner Francois Pienaar, and British-Iranian journalist and author Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. This exciting event encouraged attendees to challenge world leaders and gave them a unique opportunity to be mentored by industry experts.
Ambassadors take over Belfast
Belfast's selection as the host city for One Young World signified not only a remarkable opportunity to showcase its rich history and its ongoing commitment to peace and reconciliation but also to position itself as a beacon of hope and inspiration for the future. This significant event, eagerly awaited by the city and the world, was recognised as being part of the official celebrations for the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.
Commenting on the importance of hosting One Young World ICC Belfast Chief Executive, Julia Corkey said:
It's a remarkable opportunity for us to showcase our world-class destination of Northern Ireland, especially in this year which marks the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. This decision not only reflects the vibrancy of our city but also underscores our commitment to fostering global connections and creating positive change.
One Young World was handed the keys to the city which meant a complete takeover of Belfast. Delegates were given a giant welcome when they landed at Belfast City Airport with a Riverdance-style line-up of dancers and brass band performing live on arrival. The SSE Arena Belfast hosted the Opening Ceremony of the Summit, where counsellors, delegates, and distinguished guests were treated to a captivating evening of performances by some of Belfast's finest local talents.
Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan delivered the keynote address, receiving a standing ovation as she urged delegates to “pass on a better world” through the leadership work they're undertaking in their countries. Other notable speakers included the Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, Jayne Brady, as well as the founders of One Young World, Kate Robertson and David Jones.
As the attendees gathered for the flag ceremony, the sound of drums, courtesy of the cultural ensemble ArtsEkta, gave the event a palpable heartbeat. The famous ceremony showcased a powerful display of diversity, underscoring the global reach and significance of the Summit.
Leaders take centre stage
Against an inspiring Belfast backdrop, ICC Belfast provided the perfect space to deliver a diverse programme, including exhibitions, panels, workshops, and networking opportunities. The Main Auditorium featured a range of plenary sessions, including keynote addresses and panel discussions, all focusing on confronting some of the most significant global challenges. These thought-provoking sessions were led by counsellors, guest speakers, delegates, and One Young World ambassadors. As part of the commemoration of the 25th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, key architects of the Agreement, such as Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and member of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition Monica McWilliams, took to the stage. Between the main stage events, delegates had the chance to connect with their peers and participate in workshops and mentorship sessions.
One Young World Managing Director, Ella Robertson McKay said:
Everyone finds the people of Belfast incredibly friendly, it’s a walkable city which is great for sustainability purposes, and everyone is incredibly impressed with the Auditorium, it looks really spectacular.
Every inch of the exhibition space in Hall 1 was considered. Bespoke experiential zones from sponsors like BMW, PWC and AstraZeneca integrated seamlessly with the break-out areas, allowing delegates to network with each other and the Summit’s official partners.
We’ve got a great exhibition space and it’s great to see we were able to display a concept car from BMW alongside sponsors and beautiful stands which has really brought the venue to life.
Cityside Concourse offered a unique, open floor area for delegate workshops and Q&A discussions and all Meeting Rooms were taken over for more private, intimate sessions, which allowed smaller groups to get together to debate the issues and topics they are most passionate about. The organisers also made use of the Boardrooms for media use and the Mezzanine Rooms, which offered green room access for their high-profile guests.
To enhance the new connections made among the young leaders, a digital platform was developed to complement the Summit. The ICC Belfast team supported the challenge of making sure all live content was broadcast in real-time and remained accessible for on-demand viewing, ensuring an immersive and unforgettable experience for everyone involved. Accessibility remained a key priority for the event delivery team, and recent enhancements at the venue ensured increased participation which celebrated diversity and inclusivity.
Director of Events and Customer Experience at ICC Belfast, Charlie McCloskey said:
We provided simultaneous translation and closed caption of sessions using AI integration through Worldly, accessible seating and changing areas, and private prayer areas as well as ensuring our venue was physically and digitally inclusive.
It was an opportunity to showcase our full in-house technical production capabilities which began in the initial planning stages. To bring the event to life, One Young World fully utilised the in-house LED screens, lighting design and stage sets across all the main stages and breakout sessions.
The technical team also provided a unique solution to the client when music licensing prevented the use of chart tracks. Instead, music was sourced from local artists to introduce some of the biggest names in sport, politics and screen, to the stage.
Change-makers tackle global issues
As the most international youth conference in the world, the Summit acted as a catalyst for transformation, empowering these young change-makers to go back to their communities and organisations equipped with both the motivation and the tools to effect positive change.
One Young World Northern Ireland Ambassador and Education Authority Social Impact Officer, Aimée Clint, said:
One Young World is the largest meet-up of young leaders from across the globe, they are the change-makers, the social activists and they bring together people who really want to make a difference and they do that collaboratively together.
Being part of the One Young World global network of 15,000 young leaders means that after the Summit, delegates can bring back innovative ideas and drive special projects that contribute to subjects discussed, including sustainability. Inheriting client KPIs as our own is not unique to the One Young World Summit. However, the ICC Belfast delivery team understood the importance of promoting sustainable practices across the four days so the Summit would leave a lasting positive impact on our environment and society. An example of this was offering locally and sustainably sourced food served in compostable containers.
One Young World Liberia Ambassador, Ezekiel Nyanfor, said:
The plenary aspect of this event is to be environmentally conscious and (this venue) offered many green spaces, used many renewable materials, and served vegetarian food.
Beyond the convention centre, delegates had a chance to explore the city through an exciting social programme which included a special dinner hosted at Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University which saw representatives from the universities share insights into their strategic ESG plans. In the same space where earlier this year, President Joe Biden made his key address, ambassadors at the Ulster University event welcomed local school and community groups who talked about how their partnerships are making strides in extending education opportunities to all.
Other citywide initiatives throughout the historic week included KPMG NetWalks, the One Young World ‘Cathedral Quarter Takeover’ social event, and the closing ceremony, which took place at Titanic Belfast.
Following the Summit, delegates will graduate as One Young World ambassadors and will return home with the knowledge and motivation to make a difference in their communities. As they took on the challenges of peace and reconciliation, climate emergency, food crisis, education, and mental health, it was clear that delegates were leaving behind this city to make the world a better place and become a force for positive change. It is estimated that the One Young World Summit injected £3 million into the Northern Ireland economy, proving that Belfast is the perfect host for business events and international conferences.
Following the close of the One Young World Belfast Summit ICC Belfast Chief Executive, Julia Corkey said:
These remarkable individuals are the leaders of tomorrow, and we're confident that their time in Northern Ireland will be an unforgettable and immersive experience. We believe that the impact of this Summit has the potential to leave a lasting legacy, not just in our community, but globally, and one that will reverberate for years to come.