This year I had the incredible experience to represent New Zealand at the Youth 20 (Y20) Summit in Sydney (include link) from July 12-15. The Y20 is the official youth engagement program of the Group of 20 Forum (better known as the G20). This is the first time that New Zealand had been invited to the G20 and associated engagement forums, summits and discussions, and as such we had a lot to learn....
So what exactly is the Y20?
The Y20 is a platform for young people to communicate with world leaders about the issues that are important to young people - both raising concerns and proposing solutions. The Y20 is a year-long exercise to build the capacity of G20 youth to understand and contribute to the G20’s agenda, but more importantly providing a framework for G20 youth to take ownership of the solutions they generate and to be accountable for actioning these solutions. 120 delegates from around the globe took part in this year’s summit.
This year the key themes of the summit were growth and job creation, global citizenship, and sustainable development. I had the privilege of representing New Zealand on the growth and jobs committee, while my counterpart represented us on the sustainable development committee.
The invited guests of the summit; New Zealand, Myanmar, Singapore, Spain and the African Union were each allowed two delegates at the Y20, while the permanent nations were entitled to five delegates. Given this, the challenge was on to ensure the invited guests made as much impact and noise as those countries with five delegates.
What was the role of New Zealand's representatives?
The role as one of New Zealand’s representatives began in January after an extensive selection process. Over the following 6 months we were to conduct a nationwide consultation with young people from urban and rural areas, minorities, and youth with disabilities to ensure that we could accurately represent the voice of young New Zealand on the global stage.
In the build up to the summit we had worked with the delegates from around the world to create a set of recommendations that were presented to the G20 Sherpa’s in their June meeting. As this meeting was before the actual Y20 Summit we needed to collaborate online, working through a voting system to work out which recommendations would be presented.
The top recommendation that came out of this process was focussed around youth entrepreneurship and encouraged the Sherpa’s to ‘reduce or delay start-up costs for young entrepreneurs by offering fiscal incentives for youth-run start-ups, and reducing bureaucratic hurdles to setting up, financing and expanding start-ups.’
The second recommendation included recognising a need for strong migration and immigration reform. Deliverables include removing policies that impede youth mobility; easing access to work and academic visas via mutual recognition of diplomas/professional qualifications, easing occupational licensing, easing distortionary housing policy, and allowing foreign students to search for employment for up to one year after graduating.
The third and final recommendation deals with the escalating issue of youth unemployment. In a global society where some nations are seeing levels of unemployment above and beyond 20%, both job protection and job creation deliverables are being suggested. This includes protection for interns through minimum wage standards and asking employees to explicitly lay out work demands and learning opportunities through formal training at the start of the internship agreement.
To see all of our recommendations that were delivered to the G20 Sherpa’s please click here (http://y20australia.com/news-and-media/y20-australia-2014-delegates%E2%80%99-declaration#downloadable-files)
What happened in Sydney?
Upon arriving in Sydney we had half a day to relax and get to know one another in person before getting down to the nitty gritty. We were treated to a boat cruise around Sydney harbour getting up close to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House, some of the most iconic structures in the world. We were then taken to an island in the centre of the harbour and treated to a traditional Aboriginal welcome to the country, this was very cool. Despite the fact I have travelled to Australia more times than I can count and have even lived in Sydney before, this was actually my first experience being exposed to a traditional welcome.
Over the course of the next 3 days we engaged in a number of high level plenary discussions and interactive panel sessions based around the key themes of the conference; growth and jobs creation, global citizenship and sustainable development. The Y20 planning group brought in experts in all these fields from across the globe to ensure what we were learning was worthwhile.
Afternoons generally consisted of closed door sub-committee discussions. This was the only time during the conference where media, invited guests, or anyone that wasn’t a delegate was not permitted to sit in on the discussions, and there is good reason for it. While these sessions ran for about 3 hours I quickly learned that it was the times outside of the committee discussions where the real work got done. Throughout the evenings we were lobbying and being lobbied to consider other delegates viewpoints and support them on their recommendations.
We were hosted at incredible dinner events at the Museum of Contemporary Art, a theme park on Sydney’s North Shore, and an amazing bar overlooking Darling Harbour. It was at these events between mouthfuls of steak or sips of wine that the real diplomacy took place. Even after these evening events (designed to relax us after a busy day) negotiations ended up taking place well into the night. My earliest finish for the evening was 2:00 am but I did hear about some delegates crafting their recommendations until 4:30 am!
What were the results?
On the afternoon of July 15 we had finally reached a consensus by the majority of delegates and voted to approve the final Y20 Communique.
Our declaration can be viewed in full here (http://y20australia.com/files/manual_files/y20-australia-2014-delegates-declaration-300714.pdf)
Our key recommendations included improving economic incentives to youth employment and investment, enhancing rural area economic development, coordinating public and private sectors to promote access to capital, fair labor markets, labor mobility, discussion of possible mobility barriers for youth, encouragement of e-learning and internet access, political and social engagement, promoting food production systems, access to efficient, secure and sustainable energy sources and implementation of disaster risk management adaptation measures.
What happens next?
It is awesome to see that our recommendations are not just a token list that won’t have any outcome. The Australian Government has paid huge attention to our recommendations, holding meetings with the Y20 Chairs and pledging that they will do their bit to ensure that the youth voice is heard. These recommendations make up a number of different suggestions from civil engagement groups including the Business 20 (B20), Civil Society 20 (C20), Think Tank 20 (T20), Labour 20 (L20) and of course the Y20.
I am proud to have contributed to this discussion and look forward to seeing what the G20 Leaders make of it during the Leaders Summit in Brisbane this November.
-Toby Jordan International Connector Millennial Catalyst, New Zealand