About two months ago I randomly received an email in regards to the G20 Youth Summit, otherwise known as the Y20. The email was inviting me to be part of the delegation that would travel to China to represent the United States in this conference of youth diplomacy. I was partially confused as to why I was chosen, partially excited, and partially scared. However, as I conclude my last day in the conference I cannot have imagined a better real-life exposure to politics, power, and diplomacy at the world stage.
During our conference, delegations from 22 different countries were tasked to work together on 5 key issues impacting our world today to create a communiqué, an official announcement or statement, for our leaders to read when they meet at the official G20 summit this September.
With that goal in mind we met with the Vice-President of China, Li Yuanchao, who told us that, “our governments take the opinion of young people very seriously because you are going to be in our positions very soon.” He then spoke about the importance of China holding the presidency of the summit and the ideas behind the Forbidden City.
Every country was also tasked with giving an “ignite speech” where they spoke on topics ranging from oceans to the future of the Y20. One of the speeches that stood out to me the most was from Wafa Taftazani, a delegate representing Indonesia. Wafa spoke about the importance of future technology in places like Indonesia that has thousands of remote islands and said: “we must connect the dots between our urban and rural communities to ensure equal access and opportunities for everyone.”
However, the real work of the conference began when we started having committee discussions. I participated in the Social Justice and Equal Opportunities roundtables and it did not take me long to realize the drastic divide amongst the countries in the room when dealing with this issue. During the roundtable we addressed issues of gender, immigration, education, refugees, and the most contentious LGBTQ issue. Countries like Saudi Arabia and Russia strongly opposed the propositions to ensure equal rights to the LGBTQ community made by Germany, Canada, and the EU amongst others. Eventually, we negotiated on wording of the communiqué, issues of relevance, and how to make all of our suggestions fit into one page.
On the final night of the conference, we debated until 8 o’clock in the morning on the issue of LGBTQ and on how the final draft of the communiqué would look. Unfortunately, after a long and frustrating battle we were not able to mention the LGBTQ community because we did not reach consensus on the issue. While I was extremely disappointed about this matter, I realized that this is the reality of our world today and that sometimes compromises cannot be reached.
This experience also made me understand how religion, cultural customs, and other factors are so different for each and every country that it makes it hard to agree on common ground. Lastly, there are things in the United States that we take for granted which other countries wish they could have. For example, when talking about access to higher education, countries like the US and UK were focused on expanding opportunities for people to attend college while South Africa was referring to infrastructure that would help students be able to get to the colleges themselves.
As I am getting ready to leave back to the United States, I cannot be more grateful for this experience and being able to say I now have new friends across 20 different countries. At the end of the day while we were not able to achieve each and every thing that we wanted, we reached compromise on most things and helped create a communiqué that helps empower youth and address global issues for a better tomorrow.