G7 Youth Summit: Advocating for inclusive growth for Canadian youth

On Friday May 26 and Saturday May 27th, the leaders of the G7 countries will gather in Taormina Italy. It will be their first in person meeting with this group for four of the seven leaders. The world will watch as the tone is set for the collaboration of nations as the leaders negotiate to reach an agreement with the publication of the Final Communique.


The Canadian Delegation at the Y7 (from left to right) Waabishkigaabo (Will Landon), Sébastien Daviault, Heather Evans and Miguel A Rozo.

What is the G7?
The G7 is a forum for dialogue at the highest level attended by leaders from some of the most industrialized economies. The G7 countries; Canada, France, United States, Great Britain, Germany, Japan and Italy, represent 10.3% of the world’s population (World Bank, 2015) and 32.3% of the world’s GDP (OCED, 2015). The European Union (EU) attends the G7 but does not chair or host Summits.

Each year, the Presidency of the G7 is held by one of the member countries, rotating annually. Canada will host the G7 Presidency in 2018, directing the mission and focus for the summit and all additional programming (ministerial meetings, working groups and global dialogues).

Italy currently holds the G7 2017 Presidency and has directed the focus of this year’s efforts towards the overarching mission to ‘build on the foundations of renewed trust’.  As citizens are becoming increasingly skeptical of their government’s ability to deliver on issues, the Italian Presidency is urging governments to adopt policies aimed at meeting their citizens’ expectations.

This year’s summit has three main pillars of focus ; Citizen Safety, Economic, Environmental and Social Sustainability, and the Reduction of Inequalities, and Innovation, Skills and Labour in the age of the Next Production Revolution.

Youth G7 Summit (Y7) 
Delegates from the G7 countries (as well as the EU) under the age of 27 were invited to represent the youth of their jurisdictions and negotiate a Final Communique to be shared with their leaders prior to each G7 Summit. This event is known as the Youth Summit (Y7).

The motivation of the Y7 is to provide actionable and specific recommendations for G7 leaders, reflecting the perspective and priorities of the next generation of leaders.

Italy is currently struggling with a high rate of youth unemployment (40.3%, more than double the OCED average of 14%),  (OCED, 2017). As manufacturing is a key driver of the national GDP (~ 15.4%, World Bank 2017)  and a sector at high risk of automation, considering the future of work and looking to labour policies from a youth perspective were important to the G7 Presidency.

The entire G7 Youth Summit (held in Rome, May 9-11) was focused on the final pillar, “Innovation, Skills and Labour in the age of the Next Production Revolution”. The key priority areas were Production Innovation, Knowledge-Based Capital and Enabling Infrastructure and The Future of Work and of Welfare Systems.

The diversity of approaches G7 countries take to encouraging a supportive ‘climate for innovation’ led to several engaging discussions. The challenge of combatting the negative externalities of technology’s increased influence in the workforce and lives of citizens cannot be ignored. On this point, all delegations aligned on the necessity to craft and implement complementary and forward-looking policies.

Canada’s role in the Y7
Canada currently purports to have an innovation-friendly political climate (as seen with “innovation” being mentioned 262 times in the 2017 Canadian Federal Budget). Many recommendations, such as investing in STEM education and computer science, as well as investing in new businesses and supporting female entrepreneurs, has been included in the national budget.

That said, there are many areas of improvement as well as opportunities for Canada to lead. For example, the government should provide assistance for individuals looking to update their skill sets by offering retraining programs, and support shifts in the labour market through adjusting employment insurance (EI) eligibility requirements. In addition, to address growing inequality, which is likely to be exacerbated by increases in automation, implementing new taxation models to strengthen social benefits to achieve more inclusive growth.

It is also important to note that this year’s Y7 was a monumental first - Canada sent its first Indigenous delegate to represent the perspective of the Indigenous youth across Canada at this global advocacy event. First Nations are playing an increasingly impactful role within the international arena, particularly now as the world faces pressing issues such as environmental degradation. Now more than ever, the voice of Indigenous peoples is important. Recognition at the international level is a step in the direction to recognize the right to nationhood, sovereignty, and self determination, many which are guaranteed by treaties. The continued participation at the international level by indigenous peoples can strengthen bonds and move towards correcting the historical wrongdoings of colonization.

What’s Next?
Global leaders are seriously considering the implications of the New Production Revolution, and looking for solutions to the challenges facing current and future generations. International diplomacy, standards and national policies are incredibly complex to establish and implement, but it’s important to note the work many are doing to help usher our populations into this new era with as little friction as possible.

The entire Y7 Communique can be found here

Looking to get involved?
The Canadian Delegation to the Y7 was selected and supported by the Young Diplomats of Canada(YDC). For more information, take a look at our website.

Geeks vs Wonks: What Canadian Startups can Learn from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Spring Meetings

Each April, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings convene thousands of government officials, journalists, private sector executives and academics from around the globe for a week of discussions on global issues, ranging from the world economic outlook to poverty eradication and aid effectiveness. One group that’s largely missing from the guest list? Canadian startups.

It’s no secret that the relationship between startups and policy makers is complicated. Fast-growing startups offer the highest potential for job growth in Canada, and the government has increasingly introduced immigration measures, research and finance policy tailored to support promising startups. Just last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Wealthsimple and OneEleven in Toronto as part of his continued mandate to encourage innovation in Canada. However, knowledge transfer opportunities between the governors of the global economy and the innovators of today and tomorrow tend to be one-sided, with startups schooling the public sector. This year’s IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings demonstrated the importance of fostering synergies between entrepreneurs and policymakers.

Both groups share a commitment to globalization and a dependency on the United States

The IMF was conceived at a UN conference in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, United States, in July 1944 in an effort to build a framework for economic cooperation to prevent future competitive devaluations like those that had led to the Great Depression of the 1930s. A core responsibility of the IMF is to provide loans to member countries experiencing balance of payments challenges. Implicit in this mandate is maintaining global consensus on the importance of multilateral cooperation, globalization through the lens of mutual and sustainable economic growth, reduced global poverty and inequality, and opportunity for all.

Much has been written of the new United States administration’s ideological rejection of globalization, and ensuing impact on automation, jobs and income inequality. The IMF is facing an existential threat - how does it evolve to continue operations when its single largest donor, the United States, may halt funding as a rejection of the core principles underlying the IMF’s operations.

Compare this with Canadian startups’ respect for pluralist economies driven by diverse individuals and dependency on the United States. Canadian startups rely on the United States as a customer base, a training ground for junior talent, and a source of experienced management talent. Furthermore,  Canadian startups overwhelmingly find exit opportunities in the United States. Between 2010 and 2015, 70% of the 183 Canadian companies that were acquired found US buyers. Canadian startups embrace globalization, yet find much of that global reach concentrated in the United States, as does the IMF.

What can Canadian startups learn from the Spring Meetings?

  1. The tech industry and enabling ecosystem’s reputation as being more risk averse is one that can be shed. The notion that Canada is an innovative country with a reputation for being risk-taking among the World Bank partners was constantly echoed during public sessions and private meetings alike. Canada is viewed as an international leader in proposing innovative financing mechanisms, and as a country that punches above its weight in both convening international conversations, and driving global conversations. There is a recurring refrain in media and private conversations alike that Canada’s business culture, risk capital, and individual tolerance for failure are all overly conservative, hindering startup success. This perspective was nowhere to be found at the Spring Meetings, and it’s time for the Canadian startup ecosystem to shed that reputation as well.

  2. Women and girls aren’t a problem to be solved, they’re a demographic to engage. The Canadian tech ecosystem has made meaningful strides in improving gender balance and access to opportunities for women and girls. BDC and MaRS recently announced the initial closing of a women-focused fund, as part of BDC’s pledge to inject $50M into women-led technology firms. Although Canada has a higher percentage of female partners at major venture capital (VC) firms than the United States - 12.5% vs 7% - the numbers are still paltry and this discrepancy remains throughout the startup ecosystem, with similarly low percentages of female board members, startup founders, members of management teams, mid-level leaders and technical employees. The Spring Meetings heavily emphasized the importance of holistic solutions and building a narrative of “what we’re for, not what we’re against” to mobilize action and build partnerships. Most importantly, a critical message was repeated across numerous sessions - to truly drive change, conversation needs to be focused on how to give women and girls the authority and agency to act, as the people best equipped to enact meaningful change will be women and girls.

  3. The artificial intelligence (AI) wave is one that Canada can catch. The IMF Spring Meetings were bookended by two sessions on innovation’s impact on the economy, reflecting a thematic focus on AI, innovation and its impact on jobs and income inequality. Canada has a clear opportunity to take advantage of AI’s transformative potential. Pioneers in deep learning and related AI techniques are largely Canadian - Geoff Hinton, Yoshua Bengio, Yann LeCun, and Richard Sutton have all been supported by  the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) and that funding continues, with a March announcement of a Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy to commit $125M to develop three Canadian AI institutes that are already among the best in the world. Canadian political leaders understand that skills training is crucial to support workers in fields that will be automated in the near-term, and that maintaining a blended focus on technology and humanities best positions students for the jobs of the future that will be created due to AI advances. The Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence was announced in March to bridge industry and academia, ultimately in an effort to “propel Canada to the forefront of the global shift to artificial intelligence”.

At their core, the Spring Meetings are focused on equipping countries with the tools to empower individuals to escape poverty, realize their potential, and build a more prosperous global economy - fundamental principles that Canadian startups are aligned with.

Letter to the future from the Executive Director of Young Diplomats of Canada

Originally published in Global Compact Network of Canada

Tell us about your role and how you are contributing to the society:

I am the Executive Director of the Young Diplomats of Canada (youngdiplomats.ca) a federally incorporated non-profit, non-partisan, and youth-led organization. Our operations are focused around our core mission of building Canada’s next generation of global leaders through capacity-building and sending delegates to the highest level of diplomatic engagements. We are focused on carving out meaningful space for young people to have seats at the tables where critical policy discussions occur (G20/G7 Meetings, World Bank/IMF Annual Meetings, etc). Ensuring the youth lens is applied to global decision-making is the cornerstone of the work we do.

I also sit on UN Habitat’s Youth Advisory Board where I help advise UN Habitat on youth-led initiatives and work on promoting the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, both domestically and abroad.

Presently, what do you like about Canada?

There are many things I like about Canada, such as its embrace of diversity, which is evident in its heartwarming response in the face of the current state of divisive politics around the world. Noteworthy, too, is Canada’s natural beauty, from coast to coast and its current stance on protecting the environment. Furthermore, having been blessed to work alongside incredible social justice advocates through my role at Young Diplomats of Canada, I am encouraged by the dedication of many Canadians to defend basic human rights and who work tirelessly to achieve a more inclusive and better society. Although much work remains, Canadian youth advocates from various communities, including indigenous and LGBTTIQQ2S youth are my source of constant inspiration, and are the reason I am optimistic about Canada’s future. 

Your Letter to the Future:

At the start of this year, which has been plagued with many uncertainties, it is critical more than ever to promote social inclusion and to protect the vulnerable state of democracies around the world.

Now and in decades to come, Canada must not be complacent nor should it take for granted that our society will continue fostering acceptance of all cultures, religions, beliefs and those most vulnerable and marginalized – including refugees, immigrants, indigenous people and the LGBTQ community. Canada must continue its zero tolerance on racism, hate and fear, and be the voice of reason globally to call out divisive politics and fear mongering. 

Canada is also blessed to have such wealth in both natural resources and land, which puts greater responsibility on our shoulders to be global advocates for the protection of the environment and to promote sustainable living. Within the current turbulent political context, it is imperative that we work even harder to advocate for the global agreements related to sustainability, including the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. Although these are ambitious goals, adhering to them and ensuring global cohesion regarding these commitments will be integral to the prosperity of future generations.

Lastly, loosening borders and promoting labour mobility is an important policy Canada should advocate for going forward. From the youth perspective especially, ensuring young people have opportunities and are not obliged to engage in precarious work is an important foundation for our shared future. With wealthy nations around the world closing their doors to their neighbours, many of whom are fleeing persecution, we are witnessing the next generation being robbed of opportunities. It is ludicrous that capital mobility is unprecedentedly free but labour mobility is being more and more infringed upon. I hope Canada stands up to this and demonstrates the positive power of an inclusive and diverse society globally. 


Olivia Labonté
Executive Director
Young Diplomats of Canada

Arctic Assembly 2016

Carmen Bennett

More than 2000 delegates from 50 countries attended the fourth annual Arctic Circle Assembly, held October 7 to 9, 2016 in Reykjavik. The Assembly brought together policymakers, Indigenous representatives, scientists, business leaders, environmentalists, academics, and citizens from an international community that is increasingly devoted to the future of the Arctic. Session topics included environmental issues, development, research, infrastructure, security, health, shipping, resources, tourism, and innovation.

Arctic states and Indigenous communities were present, as were a number of non-Arctic states with evolving interest in the region. Specific sessions, for example, were led by delegations from South Korea, Singapore, Switzerland, and France; others featured speakers from Japan, China, the Netherlands, Germany, and the UK. Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, addressed the Assembly on opening day.

International interest in the Arctic is on the rise, evident in terms of the growth in participation at this Assembly, and also in terms of those seeking observer status to the Arctic Council. As the U.S. is nearing the end of its Council chairmanship (Finland assumes this position in 2017), Admiral Robert Papp, U.S. Special Representative to the Arctic, spoke about the need to look to the future and to focus on cooperation and leadership moving forward. These themes resonated in the majority of sessions and speeches that followed.

Increased interest in the Arctic has largely been driven by awareness about climate change. Former Icelandic President Ólafur Grímsson (co-founder of Arctic Circle) presented UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon with the first Arctic Circle Award, which recognized Mr. Ban’s leadership in promoting a global agenda to address climate change, citing the Paris Agreement and the advancement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals as key milestones. Ban Ki-Moon’s address to the Assembly can be read here.

While understanding and addressing climate change impacts is essential, we must also recognize that the Arctic is multidimensional; we need to consider the many diverse issues, interests, and opportunities in the region. As an ocean surrounded by continents, the Arctic comes with an exceptional set of challenges. Activity in the ocean is guided by international law, while the surrounding continents are embedded with the particular interests of states and the often competing values of populations. Participants stressed that cooperation among researchers, governments, northern communities, and businesses is key to the international community’s shared understanding of these issues, and to more effective domestic and international responses.

Jane Harman, President of The Wilson Center, noted that many American citizens do not naturally consider the U.S. to be an Arctic state. Ms. Harman suggested that increasing awareness within the U.S. (particularly among young people) of the many complex issues, and of America’s position in the region, is critical for addressing challenges now and in the future. Arguably, this statement also holds value in the Canadian context. While the North is undoubtedly embedded in Canadian geographical and cultural identity, we might not automatically consider what that means in terms of our proximity to, and relations with, other Arctic states. On a continental level, we identify as North American; less-often do we look at a top-view map and consider that our borders are actually closer to Russia, Greenland (Denmark), and Iceland than they are to Mexico.

Canada’s position in this region is unique, and we have a distinct role to play moving forward. Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, stated that the North captures our imagination like no other region; it is ‘a part of our future and a place of extraordinary potential’. In the Arctic, Ms. Goldsmith-Jones stated, ‘Canada needs to work with all of our partners, even those we fundamentally disagree with’.

Stephen Van Dine, Assistant Deputy Minister for Northern Affairs, reported on policy developments and ongoing work in Canada’s North. Mr. Van Dine highlighted that Canada’s experience has been different from that of many other countries, with respect to its long-term focus on land claims resolutions, devolution, and development of co-management institutions. Canada’s complex governance environment, he stated, has given rise to the partnerships and institutions that will enable us to move forward.

Ms. Goldsmith-Jones and Mr. Van Dine both cited the U.S.-Canada Joint Statement on Climate, Energy, and Arctic Research. In addition to the Statement's ‘four goals’—i.e. ‘conserving Arctic biodiversity through science-based decision-making’; ‘incorporating Indigenous science and traditional knowledge into decision-making’; ‘building a sustainable Arctic economy’; and ‘supporting strong Arctic communities’—Mr. Van Dine emphasized that Canada’s work in the North includes investment to support specific initiatives, including: Inuit housing, Nutrition North Canada, the National Inuit Suicide Prevention Strategy, strategic environmental assessments, and ecoENERGY and climate change adaptation programming.

Mr. Van Dine and the Honourable Monica Ell-Kanayuk, Deputy Premier of Nunavut, also spoke in a session devoted to mental well-being in northern communities, during which they discussed some specific issues being addressed in Canada’s North. Coverage of these speeches is available at arcticcircle.org.

Realistically, development in the Arctic should not be considered a dirty word; long-term development will be necessary to meet present and future needs. Aaja Chemnitz, Member of the Danish Parliament for Greenland, highlighted that any such activity needs to consider a human dimension and development of human capital. The more we can think about development in economic and ecologically sustainable terms, the more opportunity will exist in the long-term. This may include, for example, infrastructure to better enable search and rescue in Arctic waters; infrastructure that will allow off-grid communities, such as in the Northwest Territories, to phase out reliance on diesel for electricity and heat; reliable communications technology and infrastructure; institutions to support the provision of resources and services; procedures for safe scientific research and responsible resource development; and provisions to support sustainable tourism.

At present, we have an opportunity and responsibility to focus more fully on preparation, safety, and education with respect to polar activity. Such preparation is already occurring in critical areas. For example, the International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (the Polar Code) comes into effect in January 2017. Implementing such measures at this time is essential, recognizing, for instance, that a limited number of ships already navigate polar waters, and maritime activity from Arctic and non-Arctic states is expected to diversify in the long-term. Preparation and cooperation is crucial to ensure any such activity remains safe for people and the environment.

Additionally, it is important for younger generations to become engaged and involved now, recognizing that the Arctic will be a changing region for a long time to come, not only in terms of climate, but also in terms of international interest, opportunities for economic investment, and human security. Attendance from young participants at the Assembly has grown, though is still lacking. While a number of student groups from the U.S. were present and active in session dialogue, by comparison, I came across few young participants from Canada. It was promising to see that a specific youth-led breakout session featured an international panel of young people, including one Canadian student, who shared their priorities for the region (video available here). It would be even more promising to see a youth-led panel incorporated into the plenary sessions in years to come (this has been discussed, though not yet confirmed).

It is reassuring that we can expect more youth involvement in Arctic dialogue moving forward. As Admiral Papp stated, while it is important to celebrate our achievements during the first 20 years of the Arctic Council, ‘we should rather be focused on where we want to be in the next 20 years’. Indeed, the Arctic we are working towards is the Arctic of future generations. We are being given an opportunity to test the limits of human cooperation, and, as a number of Assembly participants stated, in the Arctic ‘we want to be on the right side of history’.

More Information:

The Arctic Circle Assembly is held annually at Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center in Reykjavik. More information, including videos, photos, program details, and registration is available at arcticcircle.org. The Arctic Circle also organizes smaller Forums, focusing on specific areas of Arctic cooperation. The next Forum will be held in Quebec City in December 11-13, 2016.

Author bio: Carmen recently completed a Master’s in Public Policy at King’s College London. Prior to this, she worked as a communications professional in Vancouver, helping to develop and deliver strategic communications, consultation, and public engagement strategies for clients in the public, private, and third sectors. Carmen holds a BA in International Relations from the University of British Columbia, as well as a qualification from the Public Relations Certificate Program at Simon Fraser University. She was raised in Kelowna, BC.


IMF/WB Annual Meetings 2016: Washington, DC Co-joint Article

Isabelle Duchaine
Cerina Lee
Daniel Sorek
Nicholas Schiavo

World leaders agree: free trade is a good thing. Immigration is a good thing.  Innovation is a good thing. Infrastructure, economic growth, and investment are all good things.

But despite this consensus and the existing data, the global elite - Presidents and Prime Ministers, finance ministers, central bankers and policy experts -  are having an awfully hard time convincing the public. 

Held in Washington at the beginning of October, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Annual Meetings are a yearly opportunity for world leaders to discuss the future of the global financial system, poverty levels and capital markets. Our team of five delegates attended on behalf of Young Diplomats of Canada (YDC) - a national, non-partisan, non-profit organization that promotes the leadership of young Canadians through international delegations, research projects, and advocacy initiatives.

With other participants ranging from the former Prime Minister of Australia to the Minister of Finance of Sierra Leone to the Governor of the Bank of England, our delegation of young Canadians – with diverse backgrounds in health policy, international space law, public policy and international finance – stood out from the crowd. The difference was not only due the decades separating us from the average attendee, but the sense of urgency we placed on tackling global challenges.

Throughout the conference, speakers characterized two major threats to global economic (and political) stability:

      The slowdown in global growth
      The rise of anti-globalization movements

On the first front, the IMF is struggling with how to manage a slow-growth economy when interest rates are at historic lows.  Anemic recovery from the 2009 global recession (Canada’s growth hovering around 1.4 per cent), has been driven largely by gains in China and other emerging economies: growth that is now slowing. Meanwhile, anti-globalization movements are rallying public sentiment against refugee resettlement, immigration, and free trade.

But while global leaders were big on talking points and detailed about the need for fiscal investment, they were close-lipped on how to improve the current anti-globalization climate. They paid little attention to the populist crowds outside the walls of Bretton Woods institutionalism.

With its message of citizen-level outreach and focus on consultation, Canada’s official delegation stood out from the crowd. In sessions on managing a low-growth economy and infrastructure, Finance Minister Bill Morneau gave a few spoilers about the upcoming federal budget, highlighting how infrastructure - especially productivity-enhancing infrastructure such as high-speed rail– can capitalize private investment and boost growth.

Most convincingly, he raised the importance of ensuring that “everyday” Canadians aren’t left behind by globalization, suggesting that governments balance longer-term projects with initiatives with shorter runways, such as community housing projects.

On the trade file, Minister of International Trade Chrystia Freeland emphasized how community-level consultations will help inform the government’s position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, although the level of impact that town hall-style meetings will have on overall trade policy has yet to be determined. 

As Canadian youth, we have a number of suggestions:

Ensure that vulnerable groups aren’t left behind – not only globally, but at home. Although Canada doesn’t face the same levels of income stratification as our peer countries, we need to offset the consequences of disruptive technologies and trade deals on Canadians in affected industries.

Rethink how we develop our workforce - Rapid technological transformation means that Canadians can’t rely on the skills learned in the classroom decades ago. Instead of frontloading our learning to the first 25 years of our lives, we should be developing new skills and adapting to technology throughout our careers.

Stop dismissing populist movements as ‘fringe’ groups – our own Canadian experience with separation movements shows that ignoring disenfranchised citizens jeopardizes national unity. You may not agree with why someone voted ‘Leave’, but understanding the root causes of the anger embroiling modern political sentiment is the first step to realizing change.

Show, don’t tell, success stories – Developing global public policy isn’t about coming up with the best ideas. It’s about ensuring an increasingly diverse group of stakeholders are engaged in the process, and committed to supporting implementation.

As Canadians, we are uniquely positioned to remind our colleagues and neighbours around the world of the progress they stand to achieve while demonstrating empathy and a desire to accommodate their genuine concerns. It’s time for us to share our stories with the world.

New Look, New Horizons for YDC

New Look, New Horizons for YDC

You may notice a few changes around here. The fresh, clean look for YDC’s website is both the product of many hours of dedication, and an effort by our organization to better define our future as Canada’s premier international youth leadership organization.

The new youngdiplomats.ca and new name for our publication the Young Diplomats Journal emphasize our key activities and also expresses new focuses for YDC: research and advocacy.

Canada’s pension plans should focus on emerging-market infrastructure

Max Townsend
Originally published in The Globe and Mail on February 9, 2015.

When the World Bank and International Monetary Fund held joint annual meetings last fall, the gathering focused on a vision for the global economy moving forward. As a third-year Queen’s University Commerce student, attending the meetings as a member of the Young Diplomats of Canada, I came away from the meeting with two key conclusions.

First, Canada – and all developed countries – has a bigger role than ever to play in shaping the global agenda for development. Second, infrastructure should be viewed as a key investment opportunity in developing nations, with significant upside for all involved parties. And Canada’s pension plans could play an important role.

Four of Canada’s largest pension funds, including the $234-billion Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), manage multibillion-dollar infrastructure portfolios, with the CPPIB’s amounting to approximately $13.5-billion. The recent financial crisis and subsequent turmoil in global stock markets, has led many funds to look for stable, long-term assets. The demand for these assets is much greater than the supply in the developed world, forcing pension plans to look elsewhere. This comes just as many international organizations, such as the World Bank, have been pushing for more private sector investment in emerging market infrastructure.

Private investment in foreign infrastructure projects is a long-term solution to many of the issues facing developing countries and could lead to less dependency on foreign aid. In 2013, Canada contributed $5-billion in foreign aid through targeted projects managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD). Using private money, particularly from pension funds, to make some of these infrastructure investments could lessen the reliance on DFATD funding and increase opportunities for other types of investment for the developing countries.

For example, the infrastructure assets most targeted by large Canadian pension plans include toll roads, airports, water and sewage networks, as well as telecom towers. Those are many of the same projects that developing countries need. When a nation emphasizes the creation of infrastructure such as passable roads, reliable electricity and improved water supplies, its business climate becomes more appealing for local and international investors.

While historically there has been reluctance to invest in infrastructure throughout the developing world due to a lack of strong political and legal institutions, the development community has emphasized change. It understands the concerns of the private sector, and has committed to finding ways to make the developing markets less risky and more attractive to institutional investors. Only by doing this will the development community be able to achieve lofty economic growth and prosperity goals.

When investing in the developing world, it is vital that investors and multilateral organizations gauge the associated risks. Many of the targeted countries are rife with geopolitical challenges that could quickly destabilize a project. A better understanding of the risks and rewards for private sector infrastructure investment in developing nations could lead to new solutions for many of Canada’s large pension plans, while reducing the foreign aid bill that is funded by taxpayers. Although economic growth does not guarantee an increase in human well-being, it is certainly regarded as a key driving force to improving lives.

There is more at stake than just development for less fortunate countries. Canada too benefits from this kind of investment, through potentially better returns for our pension plans and less taxpayer money taken up with foreign aid.

As a young Canadian, the fall meetings opened my eyes to the countless alternatives that should be considered when facing the systemic issues experienced by many developing nations. While investing in infrastructure is but one option, it gives me hope for the future of both Canada’s development agenda, as well as the success of our global neighbours in this increasingly interconnected world.

Max Townsend is a student at the Queen’s School of Business.

The Future of Supranational Health-Trade Governance

The ultimate goals of public health, ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being across the life course, are both a priority and a global challenge requiring international cooperation. Undoubtedly, the repercussions that global trade may incur on public health are of practical importance to the WTO’s work. This awareness resonated across the discussions at the 2014 Public Forum. 

Canada’s Young G20 Leaders Call for Real Jobs Solutions

Robert D. Onley

Originally published in The Huffington Post on November 18, 2014. 

The recent remarks by Bank of Canada’s Governor Stephen Poloz, that young people struggling to find work should consider “working for free,” were highly controversial. Particularly so for nearly 50 percent of the world’s population under the age of 30, many of whom are struggling to find honest, paid work, just to survive.

Ultimately, Poloz’s statements are not part of the solution, and that is a problem.

On November 15 and 16, the G20 world leaders convened in Brisbane, Australia to discuss global economic issues. One major agenda item this year was the youth unemployment challenge. It is high time for real action.

Currently, the rate of youth unemployment is 14.5 percent in Canada. That is, more than 411,000 young people under 25 were unemployed this past spring. In contrast, among Canadians aged 25 to 54, the unemployment rate stood at 5.8 percent.

The pronounced difference between the two percentages is quite alarming. Moreover, young people are also more affected by economic recessions because firms initially respond to financial distress by stopping recruitment rather than dismissing experienced staff.

Youth are almost more likely to take on contract work and take part in unpaid work experiences. It is essential to not only improve employment but to also promote decent employment since unpaid work leads to inequality.

Young people also face a higher risk of unemployment when compared to older workers, even under optimal economic conditions. This is the case since there is often a delay between the end of their academic career and their first job. The numbers of youth unemployment are on the rise globally, and Canadian youth are no exception.

This past July, the Young Diplomats of Canada sent a delegation of Canadian youth to attend the G20’s youth engagement group conference, the 2014 Y20 Summit, in Sydney, Australia. At the Y20, these bright, young Canadian leaders engaged with other G20 youth representatives to discuss and prioritize additional strategies to reduce youth unemployment.

Online negotiations preceding the Y20 allowed delegates to align on priority focal points including:

  • supporting youth entrepreneurship,
  • improving labour mobility,
  • protecting youth jobs, and;
  • promoting decent employment.


At the conference, these priorities were further discussed and fleshed out. The delegate’s official declaration and the Y20 Final Communiqué can be read hereY20 delegates gave serious consideration in determining the Y20 perspective and the global voice of the youth, which, as mentioned, stands at nearly half of the world’s population.

This weekend, G20 leaders should levy the same attention to half the planet.

The Young Diplomats of Canada and the Canadian Y20 Delegation, in collaboration with our global partners, call on the G20 leaders to adopt the Y20 Final Communiqué as a commitment of the G20, in whole or in part, and to pursue the following key policy objectives to help solve the problem of youth unemployment.

At the national level and in order to prevent the realization of a “lost generation” and stimulate the national and global economy, the Canadian Y20 Delegation calls upon the Government of Canada to:


  1. Embed entrepreneurial learning into all levels of provincial and territorial education to encourage youth entrepreneurship across Canada, especially for young women and girls.
  2. Increase accessibility of federal and provincial government grants and services for young entrepreneurs by making basic information easily accessible to applicants.
  3. Incentivize entrepreneurship through mentorship and coaching and stronger child-care services to promote greater gender equality in the Canadian workforce.
  4. Encourage a Canada-wide free-trade agreement between provinces to ease interprovincial trade barriers and standardize regulations.


At the global level, the Canadian Y20 Delegation urges G20 leaders to:


  1. Improve economic incentives for employers hiring youth in full-time positions or in structured and paid internships through collaboration between governments, banks and the private sector.
  2. Promote political and social engagement by developing and strengthening mechanisms through which youth can participate in and influence decision-making processes. This includes institutionalising youth engagement forums at the local, regional and national levels, including youth representation in public policy deliberations.

The solution to the problem of youth unemployment is part of the greater economic action plan that Canada and other nations are undertaking. To Canada’s credit, at the federal and provincial level there have been some youth-specific programs targeted at reducing unemployment in the demographic, such as the Ontario Youth Employment Fund or Canada’s Youth Employment Strategy. However, more must be done.

As Canadian young leaders, we urge the Canadian representatives — our Prime Minister and finance minister — to make genuine coordinated commitments with other G20 nations to attempt to solve this problem.

The stakes are high and the time for global leadership on youth unemployment is now.


Robert D. Onley, J.D. is the previous Executive Director of the Young Diplomats of Canada and a Co-Founder

The 2014 Canadian Y20 Summit Delegation: Max Seunik, Olivia Labonté Claire Glossop, Moses Gashirabake, David Lawless

The New World Forum: Two days of shattering silos at the OECD

How are technological innovations shaping global futures? What could the next industrial revolution look like and who and what might bring it about? Have the eurocrisis and the rise of nationalist sentiments (and political parties) crushed the dream of European central governance? How can the emergence of a middle class in Africa contribute to stable and sustainable growth? Is the nationstate, generally speaking, losing its capacity to protect citizens from economic turbulence and what are the implications for global governance? 

Mass Atrocity Prevention in Canadian Foreign Policy

Mass Atrocity Prevention in Canadian Foreign Policy

Recent episodes of mass killing in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Syria, and Iraq demonstrate that mass atrocity prevention is a pressing global policy problem. This paper will: Assess the current state of Canada’s policy framework towards mass atrocities; Analyze Canada’s policy framework in light of global best practices; and, Make recommendations to improve Canada’s ability to prevent and respond to mass atrocities.

Y20 Policy Paper: Sustainable Development Portfolio

Y20 Policy Paper: Sustainable Development Portfolio

Canada supports the goal of sustainable development: to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.[1] Through a range of domestic and international policies, Canada is committed to advancing sustainable development as outlined in goal number seven of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

Y20 Policy Paper: Growth and the Jobs Creation Portfolio

Y20 Policy Paper: Growth and the Jobs Creation Portfolio

As a G20 engagement group, the Y20 is also considering the growth and jobs creation priority from a youth lens and is particularly concerned about youth unemployment.  Cognizant of the domestic and global nature of economic growth, this briefing will outline Canada’s economic growth agenda domestically and within the G20. Couched in this context, we will consider the youth perspective and Y20 policy recommendations.