'Hear this call' for Kofi Annan

A hall full of young people with hope for the future. Young people who are inspired by Kofi Annan at the public event of the HOPE XXL European Conference, where young people from 25 countries are formulating their vision for the future. ‘The cynics are missing out,’ tweets Petra Stienen of the Board of Recommendation.

‘Wow, Kofi Annan’

Sintayehu Romano from Italy is looking forward to the unexpected appearance of the former Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Prize Winner for Peace in Leiden. ‘Wow, Kofi Annan!’ The Erasmus exchange student is certainly attending the event at the Concert Hall (Staddsgehoorzaal). Together with Kofi, and with young people from 25 countries who are formulating their vision for the future a the three-day HOPE XXL European Conference. The public event is in the spotlight, no doubt because of Annan. ‘Some experience indeed!’ German student Sabrina Hoeling agrees. ‘HOPE XXL is a Dutch initiative. It is wonderful that they involved Europe; the next step, outside Europe, is in my opinion even more exciting. How do the young people of India or Africa envision the future?’


‘Annan is an exceptional speaker,’ emphasizes Spanish student Paloma Blazquez. ‘But Leo Bormans is also very inspiring; he is not just telling some story about happiness.’ Environment and Sustainability expert Klaas van Egmond from Utrecht University introduces the public event. Herman Van Rompuy, Chairman of the European Council, gives a video conference: 'We need your ideas. Your thinking is not naive.’ Bormans, author of the World Book of Happiness, calls out for optimism, a call which spreads through the hall. Inspiration. That is the key, as apparent from the very start in the opening speeches of the conference given by Vice-Rector Simone Buitendijk and former Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende.

One handshake away

Annan speaks in a soft voice about his book Interventions: A Life in War and Peace. He wants to inspire young people to become world citizens and leaders of the 21st century. ‘Think globally, act locally.' Annan gives the young citizens courage on the road to the United Nations 'Keep dreaming, make your own mistakes and keep on going.' In the Concert Hall, his ‘the UN is us’ resounds like a wake-up call. But the Annan moment is still to come. He personally welcomes every participant in the discussion forum to his table with a handshake. After all, these are the people who will be carrying out his vision, who will be taking over his task. ‘Hear this call, to change the world,’ sings Merel Koman for Annan as a parting gift. The public gives him a standing ovation.

Universele mensenrechtenmix?

Paloma Blazquez registered for the master’s programme in Public International Law at Campus The Hague. On the Leiden University website, she was struck by the information about the HOPE XXL conference, which the University helped to organise. ‘It’s a rare opportunity to exchange ideas with young people from all over Europe.’ She does have one point of criticism: the conference participants were not allowed to ask questions during this event involving 800 young people. And that is precisely what she would have liked. To ask questions about freedom of speech and religion, which have a different meaning in the West than in the East. About whether a common notion of human rights is desirable. And whether Annan believes in other possibilities, such as a mix of universal human rights with some space for regional differences. Paloma Blazquez, a future world leader? 

(7 december 2012/ photos Anne Makaske)


KofiAnnan Foundation ‏@KofiAnnan
Mr. Annan is now speaking #HopeXXL, thanking the audience for not mistaking him for Morgan Freeman! #Hopeannan

Jos van den Broek ‏@iBroek
800 mostly young people eagerly waiting for Kofi Annan @HOPEXXL European Conference Stadsgehoorzaal Leiden pic.twitter.com/4K2XCxL8

See also

Studying in Leiden

Last Modified: 18-12-2012