Monday 16 October 2017


Two of Northern Ireland’s emerging policy leaders have been selected for a prestigious nine-day leadership programme.

Katherine McCloskey, a Public Affairs and Policy Co-ordinator at NIACRO, and Jonathan Buckley, a MLA for Upper Bann, are heading to London this week (Wednesday, October 18) as part of British Council’s Future Leaders Connect programme.

The global programme is out to find exceptional individuals from across the UK and the world – to discuss the most significant global issues facing the next generation.

Throughout the nine days, the participants will be put through their paces in both Cambridge and London, with an intensive programme around leadership learning and development, culminating in a conference in the Houses of Parliament.

One of the highlights will be an event held by the British Council in conjunction with The Elders, an independent group of global leaders brought together by Nelson Mandela a decade ago to work together for peace and human rights. The participants hope to get the chance to hear from the likes of Kofi Annan, Ban Ki-Moon, Jimmy Carter or Desmond Tutu and debate the global policy issues that matter most to them and discuss how we as a global community can create and sustain peace. 

As part of the selection process, both Katherine and Jonathan had to outline one major global change they would like to see over the next five years.

Katherine’s focus was on bringing about an improvement in mental health and wellbeing services within the criminal justice system, supporting transition into the community and to reduce the risk of reoffending. 

Speaking ahead of the programme, she said:

“I wanted to take part in Future Leaders Connect as I felt it was a fantastic opportunity to share the work being done here in Northern Ireland and across the globe. I especially want to advocate in my policy area – as issues relating to mental health, particularly within the criminal justice sector, span all countries – and it’s important to learn and share from each other.

“It’s vital that this issue is addressed globally to ensure that those who experience the criminal justice system can re-integrate into, and contribute to a safer society.”

For Jonathan, his focus was to open up educational opportunities for all and tackle a lack of education and educational underachievement through fostering a collaborative approach between political leaders, charities, NGOs, educational leaders and the private sector.

He said: “I hope programmes like this can help Northern Ireland take centre stage, and by reaching out to future global policy leaders, our voice can be heard at a national level.

“It’s important for us as a global community to share best practice and learn from each other to tackle future challenges. I especially look to share best practice in terms of education – something Northern Ireland does very well – and help to address the global education sector's most-pressing issues.”

The pair joins a total of 50 emerging leaders from the rest of the UK, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tunisia and the USA.

Participants were chosen from 11,000 applications from around the world. Applications for the 2018 Future Leaders Connect programme will open on 22nd in February 2018. 

Through the scheme the British Council hopes to create a network of leaders whose global visions and values will help them tackle the challenges they face in their regions.

Jonathan Stewart, Deputy Director, British Council Northern Ireland, said: “An international outlook is vital for the future leaders of all countries, if they wish to overcome the challenges they will face.

 “Through Future Leaders Connect the British Council will help a new generation to understand practical policy development by putting them in contact with the leaders of today. The programme will help them to develop the skills and international contacts they need to make positive change in their countries.”

Future Leaders Connect is a long-term project to create a community of emerging leaders from around the world who have spent time in the UK developing their capacity to be effective policy leaders, and have a connection with the UK’s culture and institutions.

British Council research (Trust Pays) has found that: “Those who have had involvement in cultural relations – arts, education and English language activities – with the UK have great trust in people from the UK.”

Further research by the British Council’s Higher Education Policy Unit found 55 current world leaders, covering one in four countries, were educated in the UK. 

For more information on Future Leaders Connect or British Council Northern Ireland, visit or

Notes to Editor

The Elders event will be streamed live ono Facebook on October, 23.

For further information, please contact:

Claire McAuley, Communications Manager, British Council Northern Ireland, T +44 (0) 28 9019 2224 | M +44 (0) 7856524504 Twitter: @BCouncil_NI or Facebook (

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. Using the UK’s cultural resources we make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust.

We work with over 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Each year we reach over 20 million people face-to-face and more than 500 million people online, via broadcasts and publications.

Founded in 1934, we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. The majority of our income is raised delivering a range of projects and contracts in English teaching and examinations, education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. Eighteen per cent of our funding is received from the UK government.