His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, and His Excellency Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, Minister of Tolerance, United Arab Emirates, opened the tenth annual Global Citizen Forum to hundreds of international delegates, with an agenda focused on impactful climate change action.

In partnership with the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA), and RAK Properties, the Global Citizen Forum’s second instalment in the ‘Butterfly Effect’ trilogy, Earth Age, opened its doors on Wednesday 6th December. Anticipation had long been building as people witnessed the giant white dome installed on the beach to serve as the main stage for the Forum. The first day focused on experiences that brought the concept of global citizenship to life, with a charity gala and dinner bringing the night to a close. The second day saw the start of the Annual Summit, with a host of international voices making the case for meaningful climate action and global citizenship.

  • Day 1: Yusra Mardini and collective of changemakers host interactive experiences for the delegates

During the opening sessions, Olympic swimmer Yusra Mardini discussed her personal story as a refugee and how she is shaping and engaging conversations to address the challenges faced by displaced people across the globe. Yusra, who was joined by Jetex CEO Adel Mardini, was determined to show that “everyone has the right to dream”. Yusra expanded on how women’s rights must be central, explaining that “education is a woman’s personal weapon for positive change” and can broaden people’s horizons for good.

In a beachside tent crafted to mimic the hexagonal structure of honeycombs, PANGAIA re-energised the global conversation about ongoing efforts to save the declining bee population. Leaving the forum with custom hand-printed t-shirts, delegates will spread this vital message around the world with the very clothes they wear.

Other experiences gave delegates the opportunity to learn from acclaimed artist Domingo Zapata in an exclusive painting workshop, learn mindfulness techniques from therapist to the stars Marisa Peer, and witness the everyday trauma faced by so many in the world via visionary photographer Bobby Sager’s moving exhibition ‘Being Human’. Bobby asked delegates to “not be annoyed by the things we take for granted. Take joy in them”.

Day one’s closing charity gala, held in partnership with Nammos World, raised an incredible £570,000, in support of the Yusra Mardini Foundation and the Global Citizen Cultural Centre for Youth, as well as other initiatives, helping the voiceless to be truly heard. Music icon Nile Rodgers presented celebrated comedian Russell Peters with the Global Citizen Forum Award, with the comic delivering some hilarious lines as part of his acceptance speech. The night ended with chart-topping singer Craig David taking guests on a journey through R&B and UK Garage in a set filled with his greatest hits.

  • Day 2: Keynote speakers and panels discuss global citizenship and argue for urgent action on climate change

During the Annual Summit, International Anchor at CNN Richard Quest conducted proceedings in his signature acerbic style. His Excellency Raki Phillips, Chief Executive Officer of RAKTDA, gave an address on how Ras Al Khaimah is putting sustainability at the heart of its tourism plans. He praised the rising numbers of “conscientious travellers”, arguing that through highlighting the Emirate’s natural environment, tourism can be both sustainable and bring crucial investment for local communities.

Highlighting the crucial bridge between climate awareness and lasting change, a discussion seminar including Irina Bokova, former Director General, UNESCO, and Lee Howell, former Managing Director, World Economic Forum, discussed how to build access to education at every level of society. Transforming our climate requires the innovation that properly funded education can inspire.

A star-studded panel of speakers including Feraye Ozfescioglu, Chief Executive Officer at the World Humanitarian Forum, and Baroness Shaista Gohir OBE, Member of the UK House of Lords, discussed their vision for a world defined by uninhibited global mobility. They determined that provision of equal rights, access to education, and the chance to move freely across our world must be a core part of global efforts to bring lasting change to a planet crying out for help.

Delegates witnessed a unique experience: the world’s first live underwater panel discussion which was held off the coast of Ras Al Khaimah. Dr. Deborah Brosnan, President of Deborah Brosnan & Associates and Founder of Oceanshot, “sat” at a sunken panel desk with Armand Arton, Chairman and Founder of the Global Citizen Forum, and Drew Richardson, President & Chief Executive Officer of the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), to discuss the catastrophic collapse of coral reef ecosystems. Arton noted that “there are no borders, no nationalities in the ocean, we cannot repeat the mistakes we’ve made above the waves”.

Dr. Amanda Parkes, Chief Innovation Officer at PANGAIA, introduced award-winning filmmaker Josh Tickell to showcase his timely documentary on restoring collapsing bee populations. With honeybee pollination directly impacting between 50%-80% of the world’s food supply, the ‘Bee the Change’ documentary calls for a grassroots campaign to produce millions of local havens for bee colonies to flourish.

The Forum closed with the lighting of a ‘bonfire’- a bespoke arrangement of LED lights to negate the pollution caused by burning wood. Local legend Dany Neville, DJ and Producer extraordinaire, made sure that the evening ended with a bang, playing a rotation of hits as delegates danced on the beach to celebrate another successful Forum.

In his keynote address, Armand Arton, Chairman and Founder of the Global Citizen Forum, warned: “The climate disaster will displace hundreds of millions of people over the coming years…a global mindset shift is the cure. No one is born a global citizen, you need to become one. It is up to us to decide on the effect we have on the world we live in.”

“Today I ask you to look outward and see what we can achieve together. We are the planet; the planet is us.”

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