Y20 Summit begins with call to empower world’s youth

The Y20 Summit delivered key messages regarding political and social inclusion of marginalized youth, who today account for more than half of the world’s population. (Supplied)
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Updated 16 October 2020

Y20 Summit begins with call to empower world’s youth

  • Genuine collaboration and integrated solutions urged as experts analyze post-COVID opportunities

RIYADH: The Y20 Summit kicked off on Thursday with speakers highlighting the increasingly prominent role youth can play, particularly in a world reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.
The first day of the summit delivered key messages on the political and social inclusion of marginalized youth, who account for more than half of the world’s population.
Ahead of the G20 Leaders’ Summit, Y20 during its three days will focus on the topics of Youth Empowerment, Future Fit and Global Citizenship.
With just 10 years to go until the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 deadline, it seeks to find fresh impetus and ideas through the world’s youth.
Othman Almoamar, Y20 chair, highlighted the challenges that the coronavirus crisis had presented to the organization of the summit, transforming it from a live event to a virtual one.
“What a year,” he said. “2020 has shifted everything and for us at Y20 that has been the case. We started our plans in 2019 ... and we didn’t expect that we would do all this virtually. We had a plan to have everyone (here) but COVID-19 meant we couldn’t do that. I’m sure we all want a refund, 2020.”
Dr. Fahad Almubarak, Saudi G20 sherpa, called youth “the hope for the future,” and said that youth empowerment was always one of the main topics on the agenda for the G20 summit.
This was followed by a brief comment from Antonio Guterres, secretary-general of the UN, from his  headquarters in New York.
In the first panel discussion, titled “The Importance of Empowering Youth: The Next 10 Years,” Dr. Badr Al-Badr, CEO of Misk Foundation, and Hussain N. Hanbazazah, director of Ithra, explained the roles that their two organizations played in creating the edition of Y20.
The second panel discussed the topic of “post-COVID-19 opportunities” and why genuine collaboration and integrated solutions were required to provide opportunities for youth to be fully engaged and empowered, particularly as the pandemic has affected the education of 1.6 billion students globally.
“Our youth have been really helpful in helping us to manage the crisis,” said Alvin Tan, Singaporean Minister of State for the Ministry of Community, Culture and Youth and Ministry of Trade and Industry.
“In the early days we faced a lot of challenges with the crisis because it was unknown, but in the last couple of days we’ve had very low digits, single or even zero two days ago, and we had low fatality rates of 0.05 percent,” he said.
“The youth are playing a really important part in securing lives. In having conversations with them, they’re helping us, wearing masks, ensuring social distancing and helping to get the message out.”
In a one-on-one discussion with moderator Edie Lush under the slogan of “Youth Empowerment — How to Empower Yourself as a First Step,” author Jay Shetty addressed young people about how to follow their dreams by focusing on their own strengths and by not feeling that they were constantly in competition with others.
He said the way to do that was by identifying their passions and showing resilience against any obstacles in pursuing them.
The next point of discussion, “The State of Youth Leadership: Addressing Mismatches,” highlighted that in a recent Y20 CCL survey, 65 percent of respondents thought their country would benefit from more youth leadership.
John R. Ryan, president and CEO of the Center for Creative Leadership, US, and Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN’s secretary-general’s envoy on youth, explored the incentives and disincentives for youth to engage in political discourse.
“I would say in certain cases, the incentive really is having no choice, and being pushed as young people to take these positions and do something about our world,” Wickramanayake said.
She added: “Disincentives? A common concern I hear is that most often the existing systems do not really represent young people’s needs, their rights and their pressing concerns. What disincentivizes young people are the systems of exclusion, systems that make the rich ultra-rich and the poor ultra-poor. Systems that perpetrate colonialism and discriminate based on your skin color, that perpetrate sexism, patriarchy and make young women feel like they are secondary citizens.”
Next on the agenda, a panel titled “Getting Beyond Words: Succeeding With Youth Empowerment” called for accepting different and fresh ideas from the younger generation.
To succeed, the panel discussed the need to clear pathways for youth to prepare themselves and be ready to take on the responsibility of inclusivity across nationality, gender and social backgrounds.
Speakers spelled out how skill and capabilities were not enough to empower youth but must be complemented with access and inclusivity.
Equal representation for women was at the front of the agenda.
Salma Al-Rashid, Saudi W20 sherpa, said: “One of the things that the Women 20 (W20)  focuses on are policies needed to empower women and girls. We need to ensure that at every point of the decision-making process there is representation by women.”
In the last group panel of the day — “Building Bridges and Breaking Barriers: Youth and the G20”— Saudi C20 chair, Princess Nouf bint Mohammed Al-Saud, and Dr. Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Saudi W20 chair, set out a list of recommendations that will be presented to the G20 summit on youth empowerment and gender equality.
“Within most G20 countries, young people are fighting to ‘break the glass ceiling,’ ‘walk through the door,’ all those expressions we use,” Princess Nouf said.
“But within G20, I think our biggest role is to fight for those that don’t even have a door to walk through. There’s no roof, there’s no door, there’s no building.”
The first day of Y20 wrapped up with another one-on-one discussion between moderator Sebastian Muermann, Y20 head delegate, Canada, and speaker Jose Manuel Barroso, chairman of Goldman Sachs International, former president of the European Commission (2004-2014) and former prime minister of Portugal (2002-2004), focusing on the topic of  “Empowered Youth — Tomorrow’s Leaders.”
The second part of the Y20 Summit will be under the theme of “Future Fit,” with a focus on workforce inequality, the growing city-rural gap, and the likely semi-permanent impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, among other issues.

Saudi T20 task force coordinators in action and thinking big

Updated 21 min 59 sec ago

Saudi T20 task force coordinators in action and thinking big

  • Saudi Arabia holds the presidency of the G20 this year, and the group’s annual summit is due to be held in Riyadh in November
  • Think 20 (T20) is one of its independent engagement groups

RIYADH: This year, 11 workers at two Saudi research centers, backed by an army of researchers, took on the daunting challenge of delivering results that meet the high expectations for the G20’s “ideas bank” — and their work is almost done.

Saudi Arabia holds the presidency of the G20 this year, and the group’s annual summit is due to be held in Riyadh in November.

The Think 20 (T20) is one of its independent engagement groups, led by organizations from the host country, which focus on different sections and sectors of society. Considered the G20’s intellectual backbone, it connects and collaborates with think tanks from around the world to develop fact-based policy briefs that contain recommendations for ways to tackle a number of important global issues.

This year’s T20 is jointly led by the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC) and the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies (KFCRIS).

It has adopted some key policy recommendations developed last year, when Japan held the presidency, and developed new ones designed to address the latest global developments and issues.

The success of this year’s T20 can, to a large extent, be attributed to the months of dedication and hard work by 11 task force coordinators, and the army of colleagues who backed them up every step of the way.


The T20 published 146 policy recommendations this year, compared with 104 last year. All of them were produced by a team of researchers who worked for more than a year to develop concise and fact-based recommendations.

To achieve this, the T20 set up 11 task forces. Each of them was led by a researcher, affiliated with KAPSARC or KFCRIS, who coordinated the work of authors and co-authors and the lead co-chairs, among other tasks.

Many of the coordinators were handed responsibility for task forces covering issues that were initially unfamiliar to them, but showed great initiative and took control of the work flow in a highly professional manner. Adding to the challenge, many of the people they were working with were relatively young, with limited experience in their fields.

“It wasn’t easy for us, to have a team of juniors participate with us,” said Turki Al-Shuwaier, one of two T20 deputy sherpas. “But we believed in them. Our recruitment was very carefully done, based on character and attitude and the nature of their ambition, which helped a lot.”

Each member displayed the initiative that was needed to create change, he added, and worked very hard to achieve their goals, even when faced with initial problems due to lack of experience.

“Communication was done the right way and we were able to solve our problems quickly that way, building a strong link with them via continually updated tools, weekly communiques and so on,” said Al-Shuwaier.

“Maybe if we’d had a team of seniors we would not have had to put in so much effort, but it has been worth it because we loved to do it.”


When speaking to the 11 task force coordinators about their work, it becomes clear that the emphasis placed on good communication was a key to the success of the endeavor. They worked across time zones to connect with hundreds of authors and co-authors of the proposed policy briefs, assembling a first-class team that not only investigated the issues, but provided cohesive, universal and adaptable recommendations.

The rigor and relevance of the research are important factors in the development of effective policy briefs, said the T20’s other deputy sherpa, Brian Efird. Coordinators, policy and research experts, action-team members and other participants from KAPSARC and KFCRIS collectively managed more than 700 researchers and more than 100 think tanks worldwide, he added.

The 11 coordinators have their own areas of specialist expertise, but the focus of the task force each was assigned to was unfamiliar to them. This did not hinder them, however. With the help of task force lead co-chairs, each coordinator rose to the occasion, overcoming communication problems, linguistic issues and other challenges along the way.

Emere Hatipoglu, a research fellow at KAPSARC and a member of the T20 action team, said that most of the hard work was done by the junior members. With help from the action team, he added, the coordinators reviewed many proposals to “up the quality of the peer reviews.”


When the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus outbreak had become a pandemic in March, the T20 coordinators rose to the additional challenges this created by working with their authors to ensure the effects and implications of the pandemic were reflected in the proposed policy briefs, so that they would fully meet the expectations of the T20 secretariat.

The coordinators described the rapidly evolving situation they found themselves in as challenging, hectic, dire and, ultimately, fruitful. Ensuring that their work took into account the effects of the COVID-19 crisis proved to be an invigorating experience that encouraged them to push their own limits and learn new skills to meet the demands placed upon them.

The number of proposals they came up with grew along the way, and a series of online meetings were organized while many nations, including Saudi Arabia, were in lockdown.

As one coordinator said: “Give a researcher a task and you can be sure they’ll get the job done in the most efficient way.”

Still, the coordinators often found themselves faced with problems they could never have imagined before the pandemic. Simply getting in touch with their authors was suddenly a challenge, as some were infected by the virus and others found themselves stuck in COVID-19 hotspots in Europe.

The coordinators were obligated to be sensitive and help their team members in whatever ways they could, while also trying to ensure the work continued to push forward.

“Transitioning from physical events to virtual ones was a sign of maturity,” said Efird. “To manage this huge process by rewriting the plan in the middle of (the pandemic was) nice to see.”


With the help of their policy and research teams, the coordinators were able to arrange discussions covering a wide range of topics, coach authors throughout the process and ensure that the proposed policy briefs delivered long and short-term solutions. Eventually each task force settled on a final list of recommendations, ahead of the T20 Summit on Oct. 31 and Nov 1.

Because the coordinators are also researchers, they had the general skills they needed to select speakers for webinars, choose abstracts and carry out the other tasks required of them. As one coordinator put it: “I spoke the same language as the authors of the policy briefs.”

Faris Al-Sulayman, a KFCRIS research fellow and member of the T20’s Policy and Research Committee said: “A set of criteria was established from the very beginning. Each topic was relevant to the task force themes and went through a rigorous process.

“The team effort made it easier and more concise. Even as we became used to working remotely, it served as beneficial to the process.”

The coordinators were able to systematically address all problems that arose, thanks to the expertise they had developed working at KAPSARC and KFCRIS, according Anvita Arora and Axel Pierru, who are also members of the Policy and Research Committee. The coordinators were able to get the best out of the authors by ensuring that the process was as enriching as possible for all the researchers, they added.

“Five to 10 years down the road, you’ll see that the Saudi T20 served as a critical juncture in how the T20 works,” Hatipoğlu said.