If you’ve visited this blog before you’ll know that this past June’s G8 and G20 summits weren’t the only official international meetings going on in Ontario; and that President Obama, Prime Minister Harper and the other world leaders weren’t the only decision makers hard at work . You wouldn’t have seen these other diplomats on television, nor would you have read about them in your morning paper… but delegations of promising youths from the G8 and G20 nations were busy observing, discussing, and negotiating the same international issues of concern at MY SUMMIT 2010 as their heads of state at the “real” Summits.
Ambassador Jacobson, Public Affairs staff, and U.S. Mission staff in Canada would like to thank the Canadian government and Global Vision for extending an invitation to the United States. We are all grateful for the unique opportunity that will hopefully springboard these seven potential future leaders into fulfilling careers. The students left the Summit inspired, and they made us proud.
Ambassador Jacobson sat down with the U.S. delegation on the final day of the Summit. Despite the whirlwind nature of the G8 and G20, the Ambassador left energized after talking to the group of professional young Americans. Just like the official Summits, the student delegations came together to discuss a variety of issues and put together a summary of their points of agreement. Many of the students told the Ambassador that it was small changes – like the wording of the communiqué – that mattered in the end, and that the informal relationships they developed with the other delegations outside of the workrooms helped them work out issues back at the table. Ambassador Jacobson agreed, sharing from his own experience how the personal relationships that develop through hallway conversation are often where the real diplomacy happens. “When you’re dealing with someone you agree with on 80% of an issue, how do you resolve the other 20% without causing hard feelings?” he asked the young ambassadors. Though each delegation brought its own nation’s point of view to the Summit, the delegates from all countries shared similar outlooks on several key issues such as climate change and food security.
The G8 and G20 American delegates chose one member of their group to represent their views on Summit Issues with President Obama. That resulted in one really cool perk for the nominees: new profile pics!!!
President Obama with Lesley Dudden. Photo credit: Government of Canada
President Obama and Jordan Sanderson during a G8 photo-op. Photo credit: Government of Canada.
HEAR IT FROM THEM!
Thao Anh shakes hands with a member of the U.K. delegation.
Last month I had the unique opportunity to represent the United States at My Summit 2010, the official youth summits of the G-8 and G-20 held in Canada.
As a Youth Delegate at the G-8 Summit, in addition to having the chance to listen to thought-provoking lectures from guest speakers on the four main themes of terrorism and nuclear non-proliferation, food security, maternal and child health, and climate change, I also got to participate in a negotiation session with Youth Delegates from seven other countries. As an aspiring diplomat, the highlight of the G-8 Summit for me was being able to witness and participate in the intense debate during the terrorism and nuclear non-proliferation negotiation session.
Though I had a great time participating in the negotiation process, the G-8 Summit was not all work! The event was so memorable for me because I got to meet and befriended with extremely accomplished youths from all over the world. From the meeting with Governor General Michaëlle Jean, to the cruise trip on Muskoka Lake to the bus rides to the Muskoka Heritage Place, I was afforded with the opportunity to network with youths who are not only actively involved within their local community, but also shared my passion for international affairs.
Although My Summit 2010 only lasted for five days, I am very grateful to have had the honor of representing American youths at both the G-8 and G-20 Summits. While there is no guarantee that the leaders will implement any of the recommendations we made in our communiqué, I am confident that through our well-verse knowledge and undisputed passion, we asserted to these leaders that the international youth community has much to contribute to the policymaking process. As a collective group, we spoke loud and clear that we will use a combination of our knowledge, creativity, and networking ability to commit ourselves in solving global challenges.
Read more from Thao Anh at her blog.
Melissa Greenaway (in the gray suit) poses with American delegates.
When I first arrived in Toronto for the G8 and G20 summits, I had no idea what to expect. Yet by the end of the first night, after a wild ride upon wayward buses, shuttles, and planes with two Americans, one German, and the entire Japanese delegation, I knew that, if nothing else, I would make invaluable connections with many amazing individuals. As I spent the first days haggling over language on food security, the true challenges of crafting international agreements arose. Each country had an agenda, and though we agreed on many things, we were forced to compromise on many others. I felt a huge sense of accomplishment after we finalized our communiqué, and even though I did not get to meet personally with President Obama, I felt extremely lucky to be in such close proximity to him during both summits.
At the G20 summit, we all felt extremely privileged to be so close to the twenty most influential leaders of the global economy. As an economics major, I was particularly intrigued by the decisions made at the summit, and how they came about. Though we did not hear any of the negotiations, we were allowed to sit in on Prime Minister Harper’s last press conference and the leaders’ photo shoot, clearly showing the importance placed on the youth of the world by the G20 leaders. At the end of the summits I felt empowered to do more, to help more, to motivate others to create change in the world and to let their voices be heard. As was said time and time again, we youth delegates are leaders of today, not tomorrow, and the summits allowed us to present our growing talents to a world waiting for us to step up.
- Jordan and Danielle Geneux appreciating their VIP status.
The highlight of the trip for me was the opportunity to meet with the G8 leaders at the Deerhurst Resort in Muskoka, Ontario. After passing through numerous security barricades, the seven other delegates from the G8 nations and I made our way to the leaders’ press and negotiating rooms. It was incredible to see the actual room where the G8 leaders discuss and negotiate the G8 communiqué, very similar to what the youth delegates accomplished at MY SUMMIT 2010. Soon after, we were shuffled into to a room filled with press, translators, aides, and of course, the G8 leaders. I had the great fortune of being able to speak freely with President Obama about my background, and the importance of MY SUMMIT 2010 and the general mobilization of youth in the United States. We were also able to present our respective leaders with a copy of the youth communiqué, one that was prepared by all of the G8 delegates and thematically resembled the official G8 communiqué (terrorism and non-nuclear proliferation, climate change, food security and maternal and child health). President Obama was particularly impressed, and said he looked forward to reading the delegates viewpoints on the controversial issues. And finally, to conclude the afternoon by sharing a laugh with President Obama, Chancellor Merkel of Germany and Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom, will undoubtedly be one of the most surreal experiences of my life!
Garrett Harkins, Jordan, and Thao
My experience at the G-8 and G-20 Summit was both defined and made meaningful by the connections I formed with other young professionals from around the globe. The opportunity to engage with so many future decision makers regarding the most pressing issues of our times was a unique experience that has both enhanced my understanding of international diplomacy and my empathy for the perspectives of other citizenries. As a Pickering Foreign Affairs fellow I am currently on track to enter into the United States Foreign Service upon graduation and it was invaluable to both observe and participate in the G-20 dialogue as I continue to prepare for my eventual career. Understanding how politics, state interests, and national identity affect decision makers at the highest level I know that I have gained valuable insights into the mechanics of international policymaking.
Lesley Dudden and the other chosen delegates wait for Heads of State at the G20.
Wow. It is hard to believe how much time has already passed since My Summit. When I heard about this program I was not necessarily sure what it would entail; when I was selected I was excited, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
Participating in the negotiations at the My Summit G8 portion was one of the most real things I have ever experienced. In classes and other simulations I have encountered negotiations always centered on presenting the point of view of some other country against a fellow student doing the same. Actually sitting with students from around the world discussing issues directly affecting their countries and them personally really drummed home the reality of issues such as Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Terrorism, Food Security, Maternal Health and Global Warming.
One of the most exciting parts of My Summit was the opportunity to engage with government officials and other people who work directly with the issues we were discussing during the summit. For the welcoming dinner at the G20 portion I was fortunate enough to get placed at a table with the mayor of Toronto and the President of TD Bank (who was our speaker that night). Listening to them speak and getting to hear them talk even more over dinner was truly inspiring.
Without a doubt the highlight of my experience, however, was when I got the opportunity to meet with President Obama during the G20 summit. Meeting with the President was truly mind blowing. Even now when people ask me about it I do not quite know how to describe the experience. One second I was standing watching the Saudi King walk into the room and meet his delegate (who was standing next to me) and the next second President Obama was standing in front of me, shaking my hand and addressing me by name. When he heard I had studied abroad in Turkey he quickly moved us down the line and introduced me to the Prime Minister of Turkey (insisting that I practice my Turkish on him). It was really nerve racking. Later he introduced me to Rahm Emmanuel. Before I got my head wrapped around being in the presence of all the leaders we had reached the end of our visit and I was put back on an elevator back up to the rest of the group.
My Summit was truly a once in a lifetime experience. I developed friendships with young leaders from 20 different countries as well as my own. Canada is truly a beautiful country and its citizens were very cordial and excited to be hosting us and this monumental event.
Patrick Short with Mr. Paul Tergat, U.N. World.
My Summit 2010 was created to empower youth to make a difference and express their views. Through this summit, we were connected with other young leaders from across the globe to meet, network, exchange ideas, and forge cross-cultural bonds. Throughout the G8 and G20 Youth Summits, we heard from a variety of experts on many different topics from Climate Change to International Banking to Child and Maternal Health. At the end of each keynote, we were given the opportunity to ask our own questions to the speakers, opening up the floor to an inundation of ideas, critiques, analyses, and discussion. The atmosphere was thick with enthusiasm. Everyone seemed eager to learn, discuss, and attempt to solve such complex issues. My Summit 2010 provided an incredible opportunity to hear from renowned and experienced speakers on such important and ever-evolving topics.
While there were many different standpoints and views on these complex issues across country lines, the youth shared a particular optimism and spirit of change that often transcended geographical and cultural boundaries. According to one youth delegate from Brazil, he had an unfavorable outlook toward the United States before the summit. Within only a few days at the summit, however, he found himself among friendly and outgoing U.S. Delegates, altering his perceptions forever and forming lasting friendships. Interactions such as these were at the very core of the youth summit. I found myself interacting with Chinese youth leaders, Mexican businessmen, Canadian climate change activists, and English law students in the same conversation. International barriers were erased as delegates from across the world learned together, laughed together, and even watched soccer together. If everyone had the chance to form international relationships such as these, we would find ourselves conflicting less, collaborating more, and ushering in a new international community.
Danielle Geneux (center), Melissa and Lesley ham it up for the camera.
Being selected as a United States junior delegate to the G8 and G20 Summits was truly a most rewarding experience. The knowledge I gained and ideas I developed will undoubtedly benefit me as I work towards my future goals. Throughout the trip our delegation was responsible for representing the United States and, in particular, the opinions of our country’s youth. We discussed and debated the very same issues the G8 leaders were negotiating, and ultimately supplied them with a communiqué outlining our opinions and suggestions for the themes. During the G20 portion of our trip we had the opportunity to listen to experts discuss financial responsibility and our roles in establishing a stable global economy. While the professional aspects of the trip were as valuable as they come, it was the personal relationships I developed that solidified the entire experience as a success. It is remarkable to see that despite cultural differences the youth of the world share innumerable similarities.
Global Vision and the Canadian government were extremely gracious throughout the entire trip. While much of our week was consumed with deliberations and lectures, we found time to partake in some leisure activities. Canoe rides in Muskoka, outings in Toronto, and sightseeing bus rides with an impromptu tour guide were among the highlights. In addition to the leisure activities our delegation had the wonderful opportunity to meet with David Jacobson, the United States Ambassador to Canada. We also got to watch the leaders of the G20 countries take their “Family Photo.” I still find it hard to believe that I was in the same room as some of the world’s greatest leaders. I couldn’t have asked for a better trip and feel truly fortunate to have experienced all of this with my fellow US delegates, as well as the other delegates from around the world.