Y20 young leaders ready to lead with passion and care

Y20 young leaders ready to lead with passion and care

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The G20 has eight engagement groups ensuring that stakeholders, who are not part of the G20 governments, can engage with the process and influence its agenda. They include communities formed around business, youth, labour, think tanks, civil society, women, science and urban issues.

The Y20 summit, which is in its 10th year, took place between Oct. 15 and 17. Sadly it was a virtual event, not giving the brilliant young people the opportunity to visit Saudi Arabia, see the beauty of the country or interact with its youth in person. On the other hand, as one speaker pointed out, the virtual nature of the event gave more people access to the summit. Each day more than 5,000 people from over 100 countries tuned in.

If there was ever a G20 member destined to host the Y20 summit, it was Saudi Arabia, where 50 percent of the population are below the age of 24. With its young populations, youth matters in the Middle East. But young people also matter everywhere, after all, they will inherit the world and have to live with the long-term ramifications of what is decided in G20 summits.

The three days of this year’s Y20 were addressing the following issues: Future fit focussing on skills, work and employment; youth empowerment focussing on inclusion and leadership development; and the last day focused on global citizenship: Multiculturalism and sustainable development.

What weaved through the three days was an intense belief that inclusivity, social equity, tolerance and sustainability were non-negotiable principles to create a better world for future generations.

Throughout the program, the young leaders advocated for global multilateral solutions against an “us versus them” mindset. Many of the young stressed that the big issues of our day like the environment, sustainability, the pandemic and global health are inherently global issues and can only be resolved through international and multilateral frameworks. Nothing has brought this home more than the global dimension of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

All in all, the Y20 was uplifting, because it showed that the participants truly cared about the future of the world. The values were clear as were the priorities: Make the world a better, fairer, more inclusive and more sustainable place.

Cornelia Meyer

The global citizenship event focussed on how children in the least-developed countries were affected, what it meant for their education, health and wellbeing.

This economic crisis has had big effects on education, especially for the poorest of the poor who lack access to learning tools, as education has increasingly moved online, necessitating internet access and computer equipment.

The world had pledged to end child labour by 2025. One of the sad effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is that more children have slipped into the shackles of child labour due to abject poverty. COVID-19 has pushed many young people into the informal economy with no social protection.

Nobel Prize laureate Kailash Satyarthi made an impassioned plea for the G20 leaders to set aside $1 trillion for education, health care and wellbeing of the least privileged children in the world. Satyarthi emphasized to G20 leaders that history would judge them on how they dealt with the COVID-19 era.

There was a call to action for leaders to engage the young more and empower them by including them in decision-making processes. One participant pointed out that the flipside of this equation was that the young needed to assume responsibility for themselves.  

Putting profit alongside purpose is important for the world’s biggest corporations. Here again there is a need for engagement of management with the young and vice versa. Some of these corporations command revenues bigger than many nation states, which constitutes a huge responsibility — or at least it should. There is another point there, which was not mentioned during the conference: While this cross fertilisation helps the young bring their priorities to bear, the companies benefit too, because the young are customers now and in future. The world can only become an inclusive and fair place if the young, women, the private sector, and other groups work together to build a truly inclusive and fair world. Big companies are in a good place to commit resources behind many of the goals listed over the last three days.

Last but not at all at least, sustainability was one of the big themes for global citizenship. Sustainability has topped the concerns of the young for at least three years. Who could forget how the schoolgirl from Sweden and environmental activist Greta Thunberg shaped the global agenda over the last two years?

Rose Vennin, Y20 delegate for France, pointed out that the big topics were health, sustainability, and inequality and that the young are front and centre in all of them. The question here is how the youth can be integrated in the political decision-making process. Leaders will hand this world over to the next generation, who will have to live with the decisions taken today for decades to come. This has two sides: On one hand leaders need to listen and on the other the youth should not be discouraged and must engage.

The last day concluded with the Saudi Y20 chair Othman Almoanar emphasizing that the Saudi presidency wanted to broaden engagement, improve the Y20 platform for the future and ensure that there was at least one policy recommendation to hand over to G20 leaders.

This is precisely what was done through advocacy to get the buy-in to the policy recommendation of the Youth Road Map 2025, which aims to broaden access to education and reduce youth unemployment. A 2025 agenda for education and ending youth employment had been around since 2015, but it lacked traction, which is why the Saudi Y20 team created the plan.

Y20 worked with other engagement groups on many issues, including COVID-19.

The Saudi Y20 created “open call” to give everyone access to ask questions and share ideas via a short video. The organizers found out that the more access they enabled, the more engaged the youth became.  

This summit was about young people having a voice and this voice being included in decision-making processes. It was also about values.

All in all, the Y20 was uplifting, because it showed that the participants truly cared about the future of the world. The values were clear as were the priorities: Make the world a better, fairer, more inclusive and more sustainable place.

  • Cornelia Meyer is a Ph.D.-level economist with 30 years of experience in investment banking and industry. She is chairperson and CEO of business consultancy Meyer Resources. Twitter: @MeyerResources
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