As Canadian delegates to the Y7, we had the privilege in representing Canadian youth interests, needs, and concerns in the formal youth contribution to the G7 process. Since the Y7 values of inclusion, diversity, and equity should be matched with the value of transparency, we have produced this report to outline the delegate experience (and the challenges) of the Y7 Summit.
First, we identified the gaps in our diversity: Where does our knowledge, experience, and privilege give us expertise? What do we lack in knowledge or experience, and could this disadvantage others? From there we took an Indigenous consensus building approach and were able to identify the delegates who would best serve each theme of the Summit, and which population groups were necessary for us to consult in our youth consultations.
We engaged in pre-Summit negotiations online using Slack with all other Y7 delegates. As we completed expert and youth consultations, we were able to direct the pre-Summit negotiations in an informed way that included Canadian interests.
In Summit negotiations, each delegate advocated for Canadian interests under all themes. In the final day of the Summit and after having an opportunity to discuss the recommendations with the G7 Sherpas, head delegates identified the priority recommendation from a list of four that were submitted from the themed negotiations.
With the aid of the YDC team, the Y7 Call to Action was released and all Y7 delegates will advocate for it leading up to and following the 2018 G7 Summit.
Consultations for gender equality involved policy makers, civil society groups, and youth (including those who are LGBTQ+). The Canadian delegation strategy on this theme was to take leadership on progressive, inclusive, and feminist policies.
We were successful in advocating for those policies partly because the Canadian government has already taken concrete actions towards gender equality and thus serves as an example. However, we had to be careful not to project our values onto other Y7 delegations.
Climate Change and Environment
The policies our delegation pushed for reflected ambition and boldness: we asked our G7 leaders to save all bodies of water through immediate action on plastics, innovative protective mechanisms as well as an international accord on the sustainable management of water, as well for a clear roadmap for decarbonizing the G7 economies.
The choice to prioritize the protection of water over decarbonization was a difficult but strategic one given the current international political context and the momentum for action on plastic pollution.
Future of Work
At the Summit, Canada together with the members of the future of work group devised one key policy recommendation that eventually became Canada’s top priority: to have data privacy recognized as a human right.
The recommendation was audacious in acknowledging that human rights should comprise privacy that includes the full ownership of personal data, even when data would be used and modified for profit. The Y7 believed there is no reason for anyone to be a second-class citizen when it comes to data privacy.
Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity
During the Y7 2018, it was evident that successful efforts were made to meaningfully and critically engage with inclusion, diversity, and equity. From an organizational standpoint, the Summit created a space where all delegates could remain true to their own perspectives; Indigenous culture, history, and realities were discussed at length with Indigenous people, who had the opportunity to lead how those discussions and how they were represented; there was gender parity amongst all delegations; and delegates truly reflected a diverse set of life experiences, identities, and skills. These organizational features translated into what was produced from the Summit, that most importantly being the Call to Action. In negotiations, ideas of non-binary gender identities, or the realities of racialized, Indigenous, and marginalized people, were by no means second guessed, ignored, or downplayed. We all recognized this as being a unique--and quite promising--trait of our generation.
The Canadian delegation also thought it was of foremost importance to recognize our privilege as well as our duty to represent the voice of Canada’s youth who did not have a seat at the table. Indeed, while the Y7 delegates were individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences, we recognized that international exposure and post-secondary education seemed to be a common denominator amongst all delegates. Many times, it was emphasized that the people in the room were carefully selected and represented the “cream of the crop” of their countries’ youth.
International youth engagement indeed presents a conundrum: it is assumed that a certain level of skills is necessary to partake in it, but that same selectivity leads to participants representing a relatively narrow segment of society. We tried to address this both before and during the summit, by consulting with a wide array of stakeholders and by asking ourselves how our policy recommendations would affect vulnerable populations, most notably through a GBA+ approach.
With the disconnection of the global elite highlighted as a potential cause to recent key political events, it seems more urgent than ever to break the social silos in which diplomacy traditionally takes place. There is no group better than youth to address this issue creatively and inclusively, especially since the future of international cooperation as well as our societies’ cohesion are at stake.
Role of Youth in Policy
Another theme that came up time after time around the Y7 Summit was the role of youth in policy. Seeing such high levels of political engagement at the Y7, as a formal engagement of the G7, the delegates felt a sense of empowerment. Indeed, we observed many foreign delegates commenting on how surprised they were at the level of engagement demonstrated by our policy makers.
During our delegation’s interactions with key individuals and organisations, we presented ourselves not only as passionate students of a certain topic, but also as individuals with unique insights from our youth perspective. We stressed that young people are also leaders of today and we see things differently than other generations. One comment that was made was that among the group of Sherpas, there were more named Peter than there were women. Meanwhile, there were more female than male head delegates among the youth delegates. There is a generational gap, especially in international relations and policy; having youth perspectives and inputs during the decision making process is essential in ensuring a smooth transition of influence to the leaders of tomorrow.
The Canadian Y7 delegation would be remiss to not mention the distinctive structure and methodology of the Y7 Canada Summit negotiations. The Summit team incorporated “Design Thinking” as part of their vision for Y7 youth diplomacy. The methodology that flows from this is largely used for product development in the start-up and tech scenes, but proved beneficial in our negotiations as well. Design thinking, in fact, steered us to work more collaboratively instead of adversarially. This was beneficial given that, after all, the intent of the “negotiations” was to provide strong, consensus-based solutions to the G7 leaders, rather than to merely advocate for our national delegation’s positions all the way through.
The Summit’s discussion structure included three key components: (1) pre-Summit discussions online via Slack; (2) in-Summit open plenary thematic discussions and breakout duo group work sessions; as well as (3) in-Summit head delegate discussions focussing on refining and final structuring. The bulk of the negotiating transpired among the theme delegates as part of the second structural component. Broadly, the theme delegates from each of the G7 countries were tasked to agree upon four future vision statements that were each followed by a “S.M.A.R.T” action (i.e. policy recommendation) which we wanted G7 countries to achieve by 2024. S.M.A.R.T is the mnemonic acronym that offers criteria to guide the setting of objectives, in this case being: specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound. In the development of these future visions and S.M.A.R.T. actions, the members of the three thematic working groups partook in three separate negotiation sessions in which we had four major instances where we huddled to form consensus.
The first set of negotiations entailed the presentation of each delegation’s theme priorities. Using the traditional post-its and flip charts approach, each delegate then aligned our individual priorities on a graph based on two factors: importance/relevance and urgency. From there, together, we reviewed the graph to decipher what were four collective priorities considered by all delegates. These collective priorities were determined based on where the post-its were placed on the graph. When we discerned the main priorities, we then voted on the final four as part of the first consensus round. For example, in the future of work group, the final four priorities selected were: social security, lifelong learning, positivity and opportunities of future technology, and inclusiveness and accessibility. This working group initially had nine priorities, but these were eventually whittled down with the help of the graph plotting exercise.
Equipped with the four priorities, the working groups then formulated a future vision statement for each priority during a brainstorming session in which, initially, each delegate again made suggestions using post-its and affixed them onto four separate chart papers, each connected to one of the four agreed-upon priorities. Eventually, the post-its on each sheet were clustered based on similarities and a second consensus round was issued in order to agree on the future vision focus for each of the four priority areas.
We then separated into pairs and assigned ourselves to one of the priority areas to formulate a statement describing the future vision, based on the post-it contributions placed on the chart paper. After some time, the pairs later presented the draft future vision statement in plenary and solicited feedback from other members of the working group. This led to a third consensus-seeking vote to confirm the future visions developed for each of the four priorities. To take one example from the future of work group, under the priority of “lifelong learning,” the following future vision statement was developed:
“We, the youth of the G7 member countries, believe that, in light of the 4th Industrial Revolution, people of all ages need to be provided with a lifelong access to quality education with up-and reskilling opportunities and a special focus on creative and critical thinking, soft skills and entrepreneurship.”
As part of the second round of group negotiations, which occurred on Day 2, delegates individually developed several S.M.A.R.T. action ideas for each future vision using the post-it method. Then, the duos took the commentaries and formulated draft statements. Again, in pairs, we presented the draft S.M.A.R.T. action statements in plenary and solicited feedback. With this feedback, we went back again in pairs and created a final draft statement to be voted on.
With the third and last round of negotiations, working groups partook in a final discussion and agreed on the second draft of the S.M.A.R.T. actions. As an example, for the future of work’s priority of “lifelong learning,” the S.M.A.R.T. action developed was: “We urge G7 member states to launch national re- and upskilling schemes for individuals whose jobs are particularly at risk due to technological disruption. A common framework of standardized skills for the future of work should be agreed upon by member states [...].” After, the groups then went into a final consensus voting period on the document draft which was later presented to the head delegates for deliberation.
The well-thought, very organic and collaborative methodology implemented for the Y7 negotiations was very effective. Most international summits, such as the G7, employ structured debates and rules of order that in many instances are time-consuming, and may not be fruitful in getting creative juices flowing or building a team atmosphere necessary to ideate collective solutions. Often, this translates into rigid, hierarchical and often adversarial ways of consensus building. The Y7 Canada Summit demonstrated a novel, step-by-step approach to policy development that allowed for greater interactivity and constructive consensus-building that should be considered for other summits and high-level engagements.
Larissa, Head Delegate
Being of Indigenous and African diaspora ancestry, it makes me angry to not see my culture or identity embodied in bodies at national and international decision-making tables. As a woman, it makes me frustrated to see the disproportionate dominance of male power-holders upholding patriarchal systems. Identifying as an activist and being an involved community member, I am tired of our needs, concerns, and interests being criminalized and reduced to dehumanized headlines. As a young Canadian, I am apprehensive that politicians and CEOs do not take our environment and our future seriously enough.
Now, being a mother to a beautiful, thriving one-year-old daughter, I can’t just feel- I need to act.
This is why I applied to the Y7 Summit. After contemplating for several days, an overwhelming sense of responsibility to my predecessors who created the opportunities I enjoy today, to my people, and to my daughter overcame me and I applied half an hour from the deadline. As I reflect on my experience with the Y7 Summit, I could not hold more gratitude in my heart for the guidance I received that day.
Serving as the Head Delegate of the Y7 Canadian Delegation has been deeply rewarding on many levels. As an anti-racism policy and Indigenous researcher, the Y7 Summit offered real-life experience where I had the opportunity to advocate for and negotiate policies in a space where we could actually influence national and international commitments. This experiential learning has given me a significant advantage as I now apply to policy jobs, fellowships, and competitive programs. Even as the Y7 Summit ended- and eventually following the G7 Summit- I have opportunities to be involved in high-level political events and meetings; I have even been invited to Paris this November to speak on the Y7 Call to Action! The process not only of creating, but of promoting the Y7 Call to Action has in itself presented valuable opportunities to educate the public, draw attention to the issues behind our policy recommendations, and meet with all levels of politicians and stakeholders.
For me personally, the most rewarding aspect of the Y7 experience was having the opportunity to speak on issues Indigenous, Black, and other marginalized communities face within Canada and other G7 member states. And not only speak, but to see these issues influence and become embodied in the text of the Y7 Call to Action. For example, consciousness of the diversity of gender identities and sexualities, and the unique adversities some may face, the Call to Action explicitly vocalizes those issues in the Gender Equality recommendation on gender-based violence. As another example, the Climate Change and Environment recommendation on water protection was developed on the backs of arguments, knowledge, and concerns raised by Indigenous water advocates. Environmental racism and water insecurity disproportionately affect women, Indigenous, and racialized people, and with 99% of all Canadian freshwater sources not being protected by any policy or legislation, I have great confidence that we can enact equitable change through our recommendation.
You’d always rather ask yourself, “Where would I be now had I not applied?” rather than “Where would I be now had I applied?” Had I not applied to the Y7 Summit, I would not have my most significant professional experience to date. I would not have a new international network of amazing friends. The voices of the people I advocated for may not have made it to the negotiating tables. There are so many "wouldn't have" circumstances had I not overcome my self doubts and applied for the Y7 Summit, so if there is anything I want to close this reflection off with, it is always, always, apply.
Aaron, Future of Work Delegate
The Y7 Canada Summit was a very formative experience that allowed me to be at the frontend of diplomacy and acquire a taste of what it’s like to be a diplomat. It led me to experience the day-to-day interactions and responsibilities of a diplomat: carrying out consultations, developing and advancing national priorities, relaying back information on negotiations to other members of the national delegation, negotiating ideas and wording, finding common ground with foreign delegations, advancing priorities formally and informally in bilateral and multilateral settings, networking, working with lobby and interest groups, media relations, site visits, etc. Being a Y7 delegate undoubtedly allowed me to wear all sorts of caps and this was by far the most valuable part of this YDC experience. Once one takes on the position, you realize in no time that diplomatic work can be fruitful but extremely arduous and tiring; a good diplomat, after all, has to quickly grok a wide variety of challenging subjects, hold intelligent conversations about them, and figure out creative ways to provide for both sides’ interests. As a diplomat, you’re always on the go and have to ‘be ready’. It’s exhilarating.
The pre-consultations we undertook as members of the Canadian delegation were valuable and memorable part of my experience. It showed me the importance of the issues we were dealing with for everyday Canadians and that these issues were very “real”, in the sense that there were stakeholders who had a vested interest in ensuring certain issues were being discussed at the table. Of course, many of us realize that these matters always impact people in some way or form, but as delegates we were able to obtain a vastly different perspective when we heard very personal stories of how young people were struggling to find employment, indigenous people were unable to meaningfully gain from the technological dividends, etc. This makes the task of a delegate all the more important and critical, and indeed onerous.
Some of the other highlights of my experience as a Y7 Canada delegate also included calls and meetings with high-level contacts, such as the G7 Policy Team, Ministers, Canada’s G7 Sherpa, among others. The meeting with the G7 Policy team was particularly eye-opening as we had a chance to gain an insider understanding of the inner-workings of international policy negotiations – i.e. what sorts of topics were being discussed, what were points of agreement and contention between countries, how member states were able to circumvent points of contention to appeal to broader areas of agreement, etc. One case in point was climate change. A key tactic Canada used in finding agreement with the US specifically was to focus on the health of oceans rather than on climate change as a whole. Canada appealed to the US reminding the country that it had been recently affected by major weather storms and many US cities are situated on the coast, making ocean protection a national security issue. Yet there were still areas that proved conflictual as Canada holds the social and economic empowerment of women in high regard, whereas the US wishes to focus especially on the economic domain.
Negotiations were a final area of learning and growth for me. Albeit tedious and exasperating, it taught me the importance of linguistics, semantics and language in general. While focus on content tends to be important, words individually carry a whole lot of meaning and choosing the right word can be critical in international negotiations. It can also give a sense of where an individual is coming from and, consequently, we can come to understand how national experiences shape positions. And while it may seem trivial, what we call for or propose through the use of specific words is extremely important and knowing which words to include that convey a sense of importance or urgency to an issue (i.e. "cooperation" versus "agreement") is something we all need to be trained on (at the same time, we must also realize what words have been left out of a text, and why). Negotiations at the Y7 have taught me that words shouldn’t just be thrown around. And especially in an international negotiation context, they hold a lot more weight and, of course, considerable repercussions.
Caroline, Climate Delegate
After living abroad for more than two years, I applied to the Y7 as a way to get involved and exercise leadership in public policy discussions in Canada. The experience turned out to be much more.
Partaking in the Y7 gave me hope in our collective future, and also empowered me to believe that my voice, and the voice of youth, deserves to be heard. Discussing the most pressing issues of our time with a group of diverse, brilliant, but also extremely grounded, fun and kind youths, and preparing to do so by consulting by different stakeholders representing diverse sectors of Canadian society was more than just about policy or international relations - it was a human experience. We shared our honest hopes for a better future and worked together, without judgment and in a collaborative spirit, towards change that we deeply believe in. The whole process was intense and extremely work-intensive, but I am certain that every single delegate who was there would agree that it was one of the most amazing experiences of both their personal and professional lives.
Negotiating on climate change and the environment in a context where certain head of states are in denial of global warming was not easy, but I am proud of how hard our climate theme group fought for what we believe in. As a Canadian, it was particularly important for me to leave space for Indigenous perspectives, especially on the topic of water protection, as their communities suffer disproportionately from water contamination, even if not all G7 countries are home to Indigenous peoples.The shared sense of responsibility we have towards the future of nature and of our planet, as well as towards the future of the vulnerable populations - women, people of colour and Indigenous peoples - who already are most affected by the environmental crisis is something I wish all current policy-makers would see.
Youth diplomacy is an exercise that I feel extremely privileged to participate in, and I do believe that international policy-making is an extremely exclusive process. I was happy to realize that this is something the Organizing Committee, Young Diplomats of Canada and my fellow delegates were also conscious of, as illustrated by the consultations that were held prior to the Summit as well as our focus on thinking of the consequences of our policy recommendations on vulnerable populations and the people who did have a seat at the table. I cannot wait to see how we continue to improve how we address this important consideration in the future, and this is something I will be personally thinking about a lot.
I am looking forward to see how our G7 leaders will act on our recommendations, which we put so much thought, effort and passion into. While the outcome remains to be seen, the one thing I am sure about after this experience is that only good things can come from more youth participation in the public policy process. I had always told myself that I would run for office later in my career, but I now feel a sense of urgency to do it as soon as possible. More than ever, I feel empowered and responsible for our collective future.
Chris, Gender Equality Delegate
I applied to the Y7 mainly because I wanted to meet, network, and learn from youth leaders from across the world. I must admit that I had low expectations for the impact that our summit will actually have on the G7. However, I was pleasantly surprised and inspired by the dedication of the youth, the YDC team, and Canadian decision makers to make our voices resonate at the G7. It was without a doubt the most well-organised and empowering event I have ever attended.
One moment that particularly stuck with me was during a discussion on data collection to address gender equality. My understanding had been that the government should collect data on "diversity" factors so that we can implement policies to ensure that marginalised groups are empowered. However, the delegates from several European states responded that such a notion is inherently discriminatory and that we should take a colour/religion/etc.-blind approach instead. I had no idea that this policy was the case in many European countries and this made me question my own stance towards equality, affirmative action, and data collection. Moments like these, when my entire perception of a topic is challenged, is when I learn the most. The Y7 provided plenty of these wonderful moments.
Back in high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do. Even now, that is still the case. Yet, the Y7 summit opened my eyes to the opportunities within IR, policy, and politics. Interacting with the cohort of brilliant young professionals working in those fields taught me more than any university textbook or lecture could. I am now carefully considering diplomatic services as a career, a thought I never would have had without this experience.