Friday 27 October 2017


Two of Northern Ireland’s emerging policy leaders met with some of the world’s top leaders as part of 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 in London this week (Until Friday, October 27) as part of British Council’s Future Leaders Connect programme.

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

One of the highlights for the group was hearing Kofi Annan and Graça Machel speaking about challenges to peace in Trafalgar Square. This was part of an event in partnership 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 Elders, including Ban Ki-Moon, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Ricardo Lagos and Ernesto Zedillo, led a walk by hundreds of people including the future leaders through central London to lay peace candles by the statue of Nelson Mandela.

Kofi Annan, Chair of The Elders and former Secretary-General of the United Nations, said:

“Only collective action and cooperation can meet global challenges, from climate change to nuclear proliferation, and only solidarity can protect fundamental human rights and freedoms from tyrants and abusers.”

Graça Machel, co-founder of The Elders with her late husband Nelson Mandela, added:

“Today we are walking together in London, but our message goes out to everyone in the world, from the slums of Gaza to the refugee camps in Calais, the townships of Soweto to human rights defenders in Charlottesville, USA: your struggle is our struggle, your freedom is our freedom, your peace is our peace.”

Sir Ciarán Devane, the Chief Executive of the British Council, said: 

“Bringing together tomorrow’s leaders from around the world to walk together with The Elders creates a network with the vision and skills to tackle our global challenges. Inspired by their predecessors, our future leaders will be working in new, connected ways across borders, to build resilience and promote peace.”

Following the walk, The Elders and The British Council held a public event in Church House, Westminster. The event brought together The Elders, and ‘Future Leaders Connect’ members in a rich debate on how to build peace and bridge political, economic, social and cultural divides.

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 healthcare services within the criminal justice system, and ensuring reintegration and a safer society. 

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 both in Northern Ireland and across the globe. I especially want to advocate in my policy area – as mental issues in the prison 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. 

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


Notes to Editor

For further information please contact: 

Claire McAuley, Communications Manager: T +44 (0) 28 9019 2224 | M +44 (0) 7856524504 Twitter: @BCouncil_NI , 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.