The Role of Youth in the 2018 Charlevoix Summit

Each year, the G7 is preceded by a year of meetings with local stakeholders from each member to engage with their expertise on key issue areas. Know as engagement groups, they represent the interests of business (B7), civil society (C7), labour (L7), women (W7), science (S7) and more at meetings usually held in the host country. During the 2018 Canadian presidency of the G7, nine official engagement groups convened, each advocating its own core objectives and priorities. Among them, young people were among the most valuable resources available to the G7.

In the lead-up to the 2018 Charlevoix Summit, the Young Diplomats of Canada hosted the Youth 7 (Y7). They brought together youth delegates from all G7 countries and the European Union to discuss and form policy recommendations on April 16-17, 2018. The Y7 is the main opportunity for young people to influence global policymakers and G7 leaders. Participants assume the role of heads of government or ministers within the youth delegations and produce a final communiqué, which they then present to the G7 leaders. The 2018 Y7 Summit included the negotiation and formation of the Y7 Call to Action for the leaders' attention, with recommendations to address three themes on the Charlevoix agenda: the future of work, gender-based violence and climate change. Each recommendation or call to action was later reflected in the 2018 Charlevoix G7 Summit Communiqué.

On gender-based violence, the Y7 advocated for an "empowered Special Advisor to the Head of Government for Freedom from Sexual Assault, Harassment, and Gender-based Violence & for Sexual Health" to report on gender-based violence of all forms, online harassment, and modernizing sexual and reproductive health curriculums by 2024. The intention was to appoint this special advisor in each G7 government to coordinate their efforts. Although the appointment of these advisors did not become part of the communiqué, the G7 summit released the Charlevoix Commitment to End Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, Abuse and Harassment in Digital Contexts, the first document of its kind, which promoted coordinated efforts.

On climate change, the Y7 recommended phasing out microplastics in cosmetics and other harmful materials with ambitious targets. At Charlevoix the G7 leaders took unprecedented and definitive action with the first G7 Ocean Plastics Charter. They committed to act on a resource-efficient lifecycle management approach to plastics in the economy by working with industry to reduce the use of plastic microbeads in rinse-off cosmetic and personal care consumer products, to the extent possible by 2020, and addressing other sources of microplastics shortly.

Finally, on the theme of the future of work, the Y7 called for data privacy to be an extension of the human right to privacy. Young people made a bold, audacious goal because they hoped to build more inclusive technologies that respect such those rights. The G7 leaders did not mention extending human rights to absorb a breach of privacy from technology, but their Charlevoix Common Vision for the Future of Artificial Intelligence placed personal data privacy at the core of its strategy.

The drive of 32 young people in consultation with thousands of others in G7 members mobilized policy recommendations that were reflected in the four Charlevoix Summit documents, leading to concrete commitments made by the G7 leaders. Young people may not often be at the table, but their efforts to engage in international diplomacy are relevant and influence change.

Written by Sarah Mariani 

Mariani is an analyst with the G20 and G7 Research Groups and an executive member of the Young Diplomats of Canada.