Zug, 22.01.2024

Young people from all over the world plan a better future

Young people from all over the world gathered at the International School of Zug and Lucerne (ISZL) for the seventh annual Youth Forum Switzerland (YFS).

Over 900 students attended, coming from schools in the local area, including several public schools in the Canton of Zug, as well as Zurich International School, ICS Zurich and the Ecole d'Humanité, and students from the United States, Rumania and Germany.

The keynote speaker at the event was North Korea defector and activist Timothy Cho. Mr Cho now lives in the UK and is part of the secretariat of a cross-party group of British parliamentarians with expertise on North Korea.

Swiss Paralympic gold medallist Manuela Schär and former WEF Managing Director and Executive Director of the Villars Institute, Lee Howell, were among the other speakers.

The YFS also attracted local attention: the audience included Mattias Michel, Zug's representative in the Council of States (Ständerat), Sylvia Thalmann-Gut, Director of Economic Affairs and member of the Zug cantonal government, and Stefan Schleiss, Head of the Directorate of Education and Culture.

The Youth Forum Switzerland was inspired by the Open Forum in Davos, to which a group of ISZL students were invited to take part in 2017. They returned energised. Why were a group of older people discussing the future of the planet without young voices? If young people are to inherit the world, their views should be heard.

With the support of their teachers, the first Youth Forum Switzerland was born, inviting speakers from Zug and beyond. The students now had their own answer to the World Economic Forum.

The event has grown year on year, and, as well as being a passion project for young ISZL students, has been integrated into the curriculum. Much of the enormous amount of work involved in planning, organising and running such an event is done during the school week, and many students also use the project as part of their requirements for the International Baccalaureate.

The students were determined that this should not be a typical conference. There were panel discussions with speakers, but also TED-style talks, an art festival, art workshops and "impact labs" where students learned first-hand how to live more sustainably. This year, young entrepreneurs presented their ideas and prototypes to a panel of experts for feedback and suggestions.

Student and organiser Lilou Pulles opened the event, and said its success was a reflection of how well the 130-strong organising team had worked together:

"Our visitors told me they were really impressed with how well organised the YFS was. One person asked me if teachers were running it, and I said 'No, it's for students, by students'. They asked, how do you have the time? It's really just dedication. Once you sign up for the YFS, you have to be dedicated for the next five months, no matter what team you're on. I'm very proud of the entire YFS team. Every year only gets better."

The ISZL teachers provided support and guidance, but it was clear for the students: this is their event. From the invitation and hospitality to baking over 1,000 biscuits for delegates, the organisation is in the hands of the students.

ISZL teacher, Fabio Paron, said: "It's inspiring to see so many students come together to discuss issues and find solutions that are important to them. The future is bright when these students inherit the planet."

The vision of the ISZL is that students and their learning should be translated into action. The hundreds of students from across Switzerland and around the world who returned home after an inspiring day will certainly be thinking about how they too can make the change the world wants to see.

Source: Cull Joana, ISZL