By Morgan Moran, ONE Member and Congressional District Leader
A few weeks ago, I had the honor and absolute pleasure of representing ONE’s U.S. volunteers at the 2017 ONE Youth Ambassadors Summit in Brussels, Belgium. This annual meeting brought together 200 young advocates from across Europe for three days of networking, training, campaign updates, and lobby prep, all culminating in a day of meetings with Members of European Parliament.
On the first day of the summit, Youth Ambassadors from all different countries shared success stories from their respective countries. Some had participated in interviews with their local radio or TV station to discuss the issue of girls’ education and what we can do to help ensure every girl has the opportunity to learn. Others had volunteered to sign up new ONE members at U2 concerts or met with their elected officials to urge them to support policies to combat extreme poverty.
One of my favorite speakers that day was Benedicta, a ONE Champion from Nigeria. She shared how she and her fellow ONE Champions — the committed group of volunteers who work to support ONE Africa’s work — educate their communities and advocate to ensure that the country’s government follows through on its promises to provide additional social services like healthcare and public education. Benedicta’s stories about mobilizing her community to advocate for themselves reminded me that now, more than half of ONE’s members live on the African continent and are invested in ending extreme poverty in their respective countries.
When it was my turn to present about my experience with both the ONE Campus program and volunteering as a Congressional District Leader where I live now, I realized that even though the politicians and decision-making processes differ from country to country, we all use similar advocacy tactics to bring attention to the same core issue: ending extreme global poverty in our generation. In this fight, regardless of our language or nationality, all of our voices matter.
On day two, we heard from the always inspirational Gayle Smith, CEO of the ONE Campaign, about her vision for the organization in the coming year. We were also moved by a presentation from ONE’s Chief Marketing Officer, Roxane Philson, about the Girls Count campaign. We even got to create our own Girls Count video, in which we counted a number to represent one of the 130 million girls currently out of school globally.
On day three, we boarded buses before dawn to meet Members of the European Parliament. Earlier in the year, a decision-making body called the European Commission released its budget proposal for the EU, which called for a 6% reduction in development aid compared to last year. This announcement was truly disappointing, as any decrease in funding for poverty-fighting programs around the world could lead to setbacks in the tremendous progress we have made over the last 30 years. Our mission that day was to convince the Members of European Parliament to reject these cuts in the budget they put forward.
After a tremendously successful day of advocacy, including 107 meetings with Members of Parliament, we learned just how much our efforts paid off. The European Parliament rejected part of the cuts to international aid proposed by the European Commission and increased allotments for education and nutrition programmes! This move will go a long way in showing the world that the EU will not turn its back on the rest of the world, and instead will continue to contribute to countries’ efforts to lift their citizens out of extreme poverty.
I had so much fun meeting other young ONE advocates from around the world, comparing our advocacy experiences, and learning from their successes. I brought plenty of organizing knowledge (and Belgian chocolate!) back home and can’t wait to start applying everything I learned to my own advocacy and organizing activities. Thanks to social media, I plan on keeping in touch with many of the passionate people I met, and I hope to one day host some ONE Youth Ambassadors here in the U.S. to help me lobby Congress to protect our own foreign aid budgets!