Y20 Summit gives platform for voice of global youth

October 18, 2020
The three-day virtual Summit of the Youth 20 (Y20) engagement group of the G20 closed Saturday. Y20 Chair Othman Almoamar speaking during the online ceremony about both the communiqué and its preparatory work.
The three-day virtual Summit of the Youth 20 (Y20) engagement group of the G20 closed Saturday. Y20 Chair Othman Almoamar speaking during the online ceremony about both the communiqué and its preparatory work.

RIYADH — The three-day virtual Summit of the Youth 20 (Y20) engagement group of the G20 closed Saturday. It is one of eight official engagement groups under the G20 umbrella. The Y20 Summit brought together a diverse range of speakers including Y20 delegates from around the world, the UN Secretary-General, senior executives from leading corporations, NGOs, academic institutions, leaders from major intergovernmental organizations and pro-youth celebrities.

During each day of the Y20 Summit, the participants explored a different key theme that has been a focus of Y20 delegates throughout the year, and that complements the work of the G20. The daily themes were Youth Empowerment (Thursday, Oct. 15), Future Fit (Friday, Oct. 16) and Global Citizenship (Saturday, Oct. 17) and match the themes of three working task forces that met throughout the year.

Speaking during the online ceremony on Saturday about both the communiqué and its preparatory work, Y20 Chair Othman Almoamar said: “Within the Y20, we have completely changed the game this year. We looked at how to be innovative in a time when COVID-19 has created more restrictions than anything we’ve faced before.”

He noted that the “really tough advocacy work” of the delegates had resulted in at least one policy being accepted by the G20. Speaking to what he termed “one of the most resilient generations ever...the future torch-bearers”. He added that “we need to make sure that young people actually have a voice and are heard at the tables of decision-makers”, concluding that “you cannot wait for the world to come with their changes, you need to change the world yourself.”

Earlier in the day, in her keynote speech, Saudi Arabia’s Y20 Sherpa Sarah Alkhedheiri noted that “nobody becomes a global citizen — we simply all are already global citizens.”

Speaking about how young people can become a “community of active global citizens” she urged young people to “take action — start where you are with what you have, and build from there.”

Alkhedheiri concluded that the Y20 delegates have “shown us the perfect example of active global citizens from all around the world.”

Triple Olympic Gold winner Usain Bolt took part in a video Q&A with young people from around the world. Bolt noted that “young people don’t have a voice” and urged that we “focus and believe in them, build them up, to make sure the world will be in safe hands.” He noted the importance of young people gaining a good education.

As with the first two days, leaders from the United Nations spoke on Saturday. In a session on sustainable recovery, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, executive director of UN Habitat, noted, “One small step is to envision a better normal."

Hiroshi Kuniyoshi, managing director and deputy to the director general, directorate of external relations and policy research, UNIDO, spoke of his concern that “almost 80% of youth employees are employed in informal jobs — zero hours contracts, temporary jobs. They don’t have any social protection and the COVID-19 crisis is forcing the majority of young people to become further disempowered and disenfranchised.”

The summit was the culmination of work by the Y20 throughout 2020. The work of the Y20 commenced with a Y20 Inception event in Riyadh in March, which launched the group’s plans to be an active and impactful platform between young leaders and the leadership of the G20.

The Y20 working taskforces prepared several white papers that explored key issues in more depth and developed a set of recommendations that G20 leaders should take to mitigate specific negative effects that COVID-19 is causing young people globally, particularly relating to education and the labor market.

Day 1 Summary

During Day One, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, said, “As the world strives to recover better [from the COVID-19 crisis], young people have a central role to play.”

He added that “the United Nations is strongly committed to standing with you and building equal partnerships with young people. We are here to listen, learn and support you every step of the way in shaping a better future for all.”

Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN secretary-general's envoy on youth, said “Young people bring innovation, creativity and a new way of doing things”.

She highlighted that 408 million young people live in refugee camps with no access to education, employment, or the Internet; 350 million children and young people are not in education; and 75 million young people are unemployed.

She urged participants to “use our privilege, our voice and our access to these platforms to speak on their behalf and bring light to the challenges that those people are facing.”

Day 2 Summary

Day Two of the Y20 Summit was focused on the Future Fit theme. In a keynote address, Henrietta Fore, executive director of UNICEF, said: “As we prepare for the G20 discussions, UNICEF calls on governments to safeguard their budgets and reallocate precious funds for education, training, skills and digital learning to the most marginalized. Being fit for the future means that we have to speak with one voice — UNICEF, Y20 members and all of our partners.”

She added: “So let us call on global leaders to reduce the digital divide, and make sure that every child can access learning and skills, no matter where they live.”

During a session about future entrepreneurs, Stephan Kuester, partner and head of ecosystem strategy at startup Genome LLC, said: “It is your time as the Y20, as the youth of today, to take entrepreneurship forward. It’s never easy, but it’s never been easier. That said, I also hope that we would see a reboot of the startup world that is more inclusive, that reaches many more clusters around the world, that is not as concentrated as it is today.”

Y20 Communiqué

The Summit concluded formally with the Y20 Communiqué being handed by Y20 Chair Othman Almoamar to the Minister of Education Dr. Hamad Bin Mohammed Al Shaikh, for him to pass on to the G20. The communiqué was written by Y20 delegates from every G20 country, further to a year of their work developing practical policy recommendations for the G20 leaders on issues of significant importance to global youth. Its key policy recommendations to G20 leaders included the following:

• Reform educational frameworks for upskilling the young workforce;

• Develop an entrepreneurial mindset through accessible resources;

• Representation, participation and inclusion in decision-making bodies;

• Environment sustainability and combatting discrimination. — SG

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