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Project «Challenge the Best 2012»

Report by Karmen Kütt*

"Tired, confused, nervous, a bit frustrated – I have to admit, at some point of the event, I felt all of those things. But I am quite sure I was supposed to feel that way. I felt challenged and you cannot feel challenged, when you are in your comfort zone.

But then again, I also felt inspired, enlightened and full of all this new knowledge, feeling the need to share it with the world. Though Challenge the Best did not give me the world, it did give 40 other people with the same sentiment towards water. 40 people, with whom I could discuss not only water scarcity, but also the conflict in the Middle East, dictatorships in Africa, food pricing and many other issues.

The event also gave me people with deep insights into the issue of water scarcity. We met with guests and lecturers, who had real-life experience with water issues, but also sometimes contradicting views on how to solve the problem. We had our coordinators, who pushed us to go deeper into the issue and not be satisfied with one solution that seems to work somewhere. All of them in the end prepared us to challenge the best with just two days of training.

For me the event was not just about challenging the best, the experts, the ones with a lot of knowledge, it was also about challenging myself. It was about understanding difficult concepts, grasping the root causes of the problems and trying to find solutions the experts have not found in 40 years. It was about working together with other students, who had very different backgrounds. It was about standing up in front of a huge auditorium and being willing to question the experts.

So in the end, the true charm of the event was not the topic, but the people brought together by the topic. The fellow students, honored guests and the coordinators, were the ones, who made the event truly memorable."

*Karmen Kütt studies at the Tallinn University of Technology in Estland, where she has acquired a Bachelor in Transport Engineering. She participated in organising this year’s “Challenge the Best”.

Population growth and climate change have transformed water into a rare commodity in many of the earth’s regions. 800 million people currently have no access to clean drinking water. In the year 2050, possibly 7 billion people could be affected by water scarcity. To support people living in water scarce regions, in July 2010, the United Nations declared access to sanitary provisions and water to be a human right – with no significant current improvement of the situation. In the course of the thinking competition “Challenge the Best” on March 26, students held discussions on the above alongside guests from business, politics and society. The dialogue of generations was organised by ten students from the HSG. The project is organised under a three-year patronage of HSG Alumni.


A history of failure

“After the UN declaration of the human right for water and sanitary provisions, not many people doubted the meaningfulness of this decision. The resolution holds a more symbolic than actual impact,” said Kassian Pause, student of international affairs and deputy head of the organising team.

Addressing high-level guests with uncomfortable queries

The organisers invited 40 students from 14 countries selected via a Europe-wide essay competition. From March 23-25, 2012, the students prepared themselves for the conference in preparatory seminars together with international guest speakers. Among them was Ian Johnson, former Vice-President of the World Bank and the current Secretary-General of the “Club of Rome”.

During the main session on March 26, in groups of six to seven students including one guest, the participants discussed how the globalised societies of the 21st century should deal with water scarcity. Among the guests of honour was Maria Mutagamba, Mininster for Water and Environment of the Republic of Uganda. Alongside Robert Mardini, Deputy Director-General of the International Committee of the Red Cross, she emphasised the opportunities emerging from peaceful negotiations between nations and described her first-hand experiences.

The results of the conference will be published in a final publication and presented to decision-makers in politics, society and business. Through the support of HSG Alumni, the next conference will take place on March 25, 2013. The subject will be: “The Future of Work”.