DELEGATION REPORT: 2017 WB-IMF Annual Meetings

Executive Summary

This October, Young Diplomats of Canada (YDC) sent five leaders to Washington DC to attend the World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings and Civil Society Policy Forum. While there, the team had the opportunity to learn about the most pressing issues facing today’s global economy and the most significant challenges and opportunities concerning the 2030 sustainable development agenda. In these conversations, they were honoured to represent Canadian youth and present their thoughts and questions to experts from all sectors.   

The delegation spent five days attending sessions at the Policy Forum, the World Bank and the IMF. At the IMF, they attended a number of sessions on the future of the labour sector, which included sessions that focused on the technological innovations that will change labour markets, the skills needed to adapt to these changes, and the socio-economic impact of these innovations. Delegates attended sessions arguing the importance of liberal arts, artificial intelligence (AI) and Automation, and what these topics mean for young people today.

At the World Bank, a number of themes emerged throughout the meetings, which included financing for development, the role of women in ending poverty, and contributing to the Sustainable Development Agenda. The 2030 Development Agenda is an aspirational set of goals, targets and indicators that for many countries, even Canada, seem out of reach. During the meetings, delegates gained a much better sense of the practical challenges and effective solutions that have developed since the goals were set in September 2015.

While in Washington, the delegation was also able to set up 11 bilateral meetings. They met with World Bank and IMF staff, Canadian representatives, as well as individuals involved in the third sector. At the World Bank, they met with Dr. Mohieldin, the Senior Vice President of the 2030 Development Agenda, United Nations Relations, and Partnerships. Dr. Mohieldin provided them with insight into some of the challenges in achieving the development agenda.  They also discussed Canada’s role in addressing these current gaps. They also met with Laura Tuck, the Vice President of the Sustainable Development Agenda, with whom they discussed current environmental challenges and the Bank’s approach to solving such complex issues. At the IMF, they had a chance to meet with policy advisors, as well as director from Finance Canada, to discuss the future of labour, given technological innovation.

Furthermore, the delegation met with the Hon. Marie Claude Bibeau, Canadian Minister of International Development and la Francophonie, and hosted a live-streamed session. The delegation also had a chance to learn about Canadian relations with the Americas during their meeting with the Ambassador, Deputy Ambassador, and Canada’s ambassador to the Organization of American States. Similarly, in speaking with Globe and Mail Correspondent, Adrian Morrow, the team had the chance to learn more about American politics and Canada’s connection to them, including a discussion on NAFTA.

Outside of these formal institutions, the delegation also had the chance to meet with John McArthur from Brookings Institution, Ryan McMaster from the Gates Foundation, and Priyanka Divecha, from International Youth Leaders Assembly. All meetings  provided unique and valuable insight into the sustainable development agenda and Canada’s role in achieving these global goals.

Key Forum Sessions

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“AI, Automation and Work: Is this time different?”

James Manyika is Director of the McKinsey Global Institute. During the panel “AI, Automation and Work: Is this time different?”, he spoke about McKinsey’s approach to determining the extent to which the labour market is affected by automation, both now and into the future. Between 1993 and 2007, one third of productivity growth can be attributed to automation, and given the positive impact on GDP, this trend is likely to continue. The North American continent is particularly in need of growth in automation, due to an ageing population and lack of a promising labour market. According to Manyika, Canadians are becoming more reliant on productivity rather than labour market growth to continue driving GDP upwards and improving quality of life. Regarding the “future of work”, McKinsey’s approach involves breaking jobs down into tasks and activities, rather than looking at specific jobs as a whole. They analyzed over 800 categories of jobs involving over 2000 activities, and they looked at 18 different capabilities that would be required to do those jobs (thinking, logic, fine motor skills, grasping something, etc.), and what they found was that today, only 5% of jobs are 100% automatable, and 60% of jobs are only 30% automatable. As automation continues to grow though, we will need to rethink income sources and economic systems, and we will also need to invest in infrastructure, human capital development, education, and life-long learning. Although there will still be work for everyone from policy makers to manufacturers, we need to stop resisting the inevitable, and begin creating effective change to make sure we manage these transitions smoothly - if we want to avoid the jarring societal shock that happens when technology leaps forward and we are not ready for it.

“Augmented Intelligence: Human + Machine = Amazing”

The interesting thing about the recent technology revolution has been its ability to tackle different problems across different industries using the same methodology. Smart machines that have been taught to detect differences in data sets, outliers and unique targets represent opportunities in data analysis and data mining that could yield new information. This was further emphasised and highlighted in the Augmented Intelligence session hosted by the IMF, session where attendees were presented with a storytelling piece on IBM’s Watson, a smart computer that is capable of filling multiple roles within different sectors. Watson was first developed to compete against reigning Jeopardy champions Kat Jennings and Brad Rutter, in a bid to build the world's first smart system. Having won the competition, Watson was further developed and “taught” to become a researcher and expert on virtually any topic. It was taught to conduct literature review on the latest oncology treatment, saving physicians time. It was taught to navigate the Internet and resources to identify a user's favourite recipes, it was taught music, language, history, navigation, and education, to name a few. Watson was developed to learn algorithms and patterns that could then allow it to make recommendations and decisions on future queries.

The session presented at the IMF was highly relevant and a good indicator that older institutions are ready to take part in the conversation on technology. However, these conversation and discussions cannot be complete without the applied researchers who are involved in the development of these systems. Providing a grounded and academic perspective on the future of AI and machine learning is equally as important as the storytelling aspect. Without an understanding of the scientific method involved in experimental work or an understanding of the fact that Watson is currently an isolated event (not a mass production project) we are left with an unproportionate picture. Mass production of smart machines or Watsons is far off into the future. We are currently discovering an ability to influence and direct machines towards large databases, with the intent of extracting and identifying new information. This new information will allow us to make better decisions, more informed strategies, and in the long term, solve some of our most difficult challenges.

“Catalyzing Women’s Financial Inclusion”

We know that increasing women’s financial inclusion is not only the equitable action, it makes economic sense. This session began by noting that if India achieved gender parity, it is estimated that its GDP would increase by 27%. Despite this, there is a need for better data in order to evaluate the gender gap, and advocate for closing that gap. Tessy Vasquez Baos, an Economist with the IMF Statistics Department, presented data from the Financial Access Survey, which is the first global database gathering gender financial data. Using the case studies of Peru and Brazil, she explored some of the emerging trends in economies with more inclusive growth. Inez Murray, CEO of Global Banking Alliance for Women, expressed the need to look for other ways to gather this information in order to create policies that focus on more inclusive growth.

“Challenging Business as Usual: A Conversation Between Jim Yong Kim and Hamdi Ulukaya”

On the first day of sessions, the delegation took part in a conversation between the President of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim and Chobani’s Hamdi Ulukaya, where they discussed the public and organizational policies that led to the success of his business (and guide his current philanthropic work). Both noted that the rise of social enterprises have created a generation of entrepreneurial leaders actively challenging the notion of “business as usual.” They focused their discussions on three key policy issues: microfinance, income inequality, and forced displacement. Ulukaya noted that the Small Business Administration loan he received to start his business was absolutely essential. Access to capital for entrepreneurs (particularly females in developing nations), was also a big theme at the meetings. Ulukaya has received much public attention for how he treats his employees. He is especially aware of income inequality and has examined countless companies where the business was thriving but its employees were not reaping the full rewards of their labour. It is for these reasons that his plants pay workers approximately twice the minimum wage of the surrounding area. Recognizing that a living wage alone might not be enough to ensure the shared prosperity of the company and its employees, Ulukaya has made approximately 10% of the company available for profit sharing. Finally, while Ulukaya has dedicated much of his philanthropic efforts in tackling forced migration around the world, his business efforts are most intriguing. During the session, he urged corporate leaders to think beyond a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy and instead focus on doing what is ethical,  not what is strictly necessary. He critiques businesses that he perceives are doing far too little to solve some of the world’s most complex problems.  

“Pass or Fail: Are Countries Doing their Education Homework?”

The promise of education is being realized by far too few around the world and the panelists recognized that there is still much work left to do. Three themes framed the conversation: accountability, leadership capacity, and funding. First, Claver Gatete, Rwanda’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, outlined his country’s approach in implementing strict accountability standards that impact students, parents, teachers, and the broader community. While these ideas are rooted in older scholarship and may not necessarily be sustainable, it is important to note the cultural and development differences between Rwanda and Western education systems. Wendy Kopp, CEO and co-founder of Teach for All, was a welcomed voice on the panel, as she discussed building up the leadership capacity of teachers and local communities. Often overlooked, sustainable education systems require thoughtful leadership that focuses on whole-system change to ensure that all students have access to quality education. Finally, Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International and Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Indonesia’s Minister of Finance spoke strongly about the importance of funding. It is clear that education around the world isn’t being adequately funded and until government budget allocations, like Indonesia's, become the norm (the recommended 20%), good education outcomes will be increasingly hard to achieve.

“Place for Liberal Arts in an Algorithmic World”

The impact of advanced technologies on labour markets was a hot topic at the annual meetings, and the importance of STEM education was reiterated throughout the week. Less common however, was the discussion on where humanities and social sciences fit into today’s labour market. Scott Hartley, an author and venture capitalist, took the opportunity to speak about this divide.

Having studied social sciences at both Stanford and Columbia, Scott does not fit the characteristic profile of someone working in the tech sector, yet he has worked at Google, Facebook, and number of other Silicon Valley ventures. How? Diversity of thought is an asset at any organization; for companies that design machine-to-human or human-to-human technology, it is just as important to have sociology majors as it is software engineers.

The jobs of the future will require us to ask the right questions, work with machines to make ethical decisions as well as logical ones, and to bring human thought to a complex world. STEM education may sit on a pedestal today, but Scott envisions a future where HEAT (humanities, engineering, arts, and tech) is on the pedestal of tomorrow.

“Towards 2030: Trends, Opportunities, Challenges and Policies for Inclusive Growth”

The future of growth will not be like the history of growth. In the past, labour markets in developing countries have followed a predictable pattern of movement from agriculture, to manufacturing, to organized services; this model of industrialization to deindustrialization has held true for decades - but today’s economy is breaking the cycle. With increased automation, countries are beginning to deindustrialize sooner, leading to a rapid-reduction of low-skilled jobs and an increase in the demand for high-skilled labour - thereby creating a crippling labour gap. Not only does this lead to a decline in domestic productivity and economic growth, but it also tends to magnify inequality, allowing the wealth of few to grow at the expense of others. This is where the discussion of inclusive growth is most relevant.

Dani Rodrik from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard opened this discussion, and other leading experts weighed in, drawing on their experiences with international development. Ricardo Hausmann from Harvard emphasized the importance of continued education and government engagement with workers across sectors. James Manyika echoed his thoughts, but emphasized the importance of trying to close the gender gap in today’s labour force - especially in developing countries. Lastly, Gayle Smith from the ONE Campaign underscored the role of overseas development assistance in providing education. The verdict was that inclusive growth is absolutely possible, but first we must recognize that the solution to inclusive global growth, for women, for the impoverished, and for the unemployed, takes collective effort and perseverance.

“Youth Dialogue: A World Without Work”

The importance of youth voices and perspectives was highlighted throughout the IMF and World Bank meetings, particularly when discussing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It was apparent that youth contributions and opinions mattered in the overall conversations, and that there was a strong desire (across all levels) to include young leaders of tomorrow. The unanswered question that remained however, was how to include them. The Youth Dialogue session was an excellent panel discussion on the future of labour, technological impacts and how young people can adapt to the changing work landscape. Interestingly, one of the SDGs is to ensure decent work and economic growth, as such it came as no surprise that the Annual Meetings were keen on engaging young people.

The Youth Dialogue session touched on a number of issues. Scientist turned entrepreneur Komal Dadlani touched on the importance of recognising opportunities. The founder of Rekindle Learning Rapeland Rabana echoed this sentiment, but also highlighted against becoming an entrepreneur for the sake of it. Lee Rainie, Director of Pew Research Centre, touched on the changing hiring landscape, while Professor Enzo Weber highlighted the urgency needed to solve the youth unemployment crisis, noting that “when you can’t get a job the first time, it will consistently follow you.” Although the panel was efficient at highlighting the key issues surrounding youth employment, what was missing was a call to action or a potential roadmap for the future. This was mentioned seldomly, only through a presentation of a smart computer named Rachel, capable of conversing with users from an emotional perspective. Machines will come to dominate, and play a role within the future of work, but how that might look like or how this would impact youth employment still remains an unknown factor.

 

Meetings Attended

David Hart and Rebekah Young - Advisors, Canada Office, International Monetary Fund

Antoine Brunelle-Côté, Finance Canada’s Director of International Policy Analysis

One of our first meetings was with Finance Canada’s office at the IMF. We met with Rebekah Young, David Hart, and Antoine Brunelle-Côté to discuss the Canada’s role as a G7/G20 country. We learned how the Canadian office is involved in macroeconomic issues and fiscal policy development, but we also learned how they advocate for gender equality, climate policy, and inclusive growth in the work of the IMF. For many years, the IMF was a “closed-door” institution, laser-focused on monetary policy. Only in the 1990s did it begin to change. New issues came to light that originally were out of their purview, and it became increasingly clear how these institutions needed to adapt and evolve in order to remain relevant.  It was really interesting to discuss this transformation with the advisors and hear them address where the World Bank and IMF still need to develop and shift.

Jennifer Loten - Ambassador and Permanent Representative at the OAS, Government of Canada

The Organization of American States (OAS) contributes to building a stable foundation for the Inter-American Human Rights System in support of diversity and pluralism. Ambassador Loten and her team support multilateral action in the Americas to advance global sustainability goals, promote democracy, and foster economic growth and opportunity. Our discussion covered three realms: diplomacy, healthcare, and gender equity.  In the area of diplomacy, we learned that Canada is able to set up meaningful conversations that matter with other countries based on our values. Our ability to connect with nations, facilitate dialogue, and advocate for results-based management and operations are some of our key strengths in the OAS. Canada’s role within the Pan-American Health Organization is also important, as we not only have a lot of money invested in treatments for vaccinations, violence against women, and mental health, but we play an essential role in the strategic management of the funds and resources themselves. Finally, Ambassador Loten advocated for gender equity (particularly in positions of leadership), and outlined the advantages of an approach to governance that respected the richness of experience that comes from both men and women. This conversation gave us a great deal to think about and we took home several insights that will inform both our professional and community work.

John McArthur - Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development, The Brookings Institution

We met with John McArthur and Krista Rasmussen from the Brookings Institution to discuss Canada’s role in international development and the 2030 sustainable development goals (SDGs). Our conversation started out discussing their latest article entitled “Even Canada needs breakthroughs to reach UN global goals”, which points out that despite our advanced level of development, Canada is still not fully on track to accomplish any of the SDGs. Over the course of our discussion, we touched on the fact that when ranking their priorities for government spending, Canadians put international aid at the bottom, and when you combine that with negative perceptions of foreign aid, increased military spending, and other socio-political factors, it’s not surprising that we haven’t reached the internationally agreed-upon goal of contributing 0.7% of our GDP to international foreign aid. There’s no question that Minister Bibeau, Prime Minister Trudeau and many others in government are contributing their voices towards multilateral cooperation and foreign aid, and this is a very important factor to consider.  However, we are also still in need of more precise metrics to measure our progress towards the SDGs. Moreover, the Canadian government needs an effective way of informing the public of the benefits of foreign aid, in order to get the necessary resources. Our final question for the Brookings team was on youth involvement, and whether our impact was real or minimal. The response was extremely positive. We were told to always engage and participate, and that the first steps towards creating effective change is having a seat at the table. Debates will happen, and people will disagree with us, but it’s up to youth to challenge the beliefs of decision-makers, since the SDGs require support from every age group. Furthermore, by 2030, it will be us who have the decision-making power. As members of the youth community, we create our own future, so it’s up to us to take every opportunity we get to have our voices be heard, because the more we do, the more we gain the ability to contribute, rather than remaining marginalized characters.

Laura Dorling, Marie-Eve Desrochers, and Umesha de Silva - Advisors to Christine Hogan, Executive Director for Canada, Ireland, and the Caribbean at the World Bank

At the World Bank, we had the opportunity to connect with three of Christine Hogan’s (Executive Director for Canada, Ireland, and the Caribbean at the World Bank) advisors at the World Bank - Umesha de Silva, Maria-Eve Desrochers, and Laura Dorling. Going into the meeting, we wanted to answer two questions: (1) what is Canada’s role in global development at the World Bank? and (2) what is the role of youth and how can young people become more involved?

Answering the first question, we learned that Canada is a key partner in bringing together the public and private sector - both in terms of capital and capabilities. As the World Bank has become increasingly focused on using disruptive technologies in international development, the role of the Canadian private sector has grown exponentially. With that, Christine Hogan’s office looks for technology and products that can be utilized in developing countries, and specifically in World Bank projects. For Canada, being proactive on this front is also being impactful - something invaluable in and of itself.

When it comes to the role of youth, we heard a diverse array of answers that were echoed at other meetings throughout the week. Namely, youth should actively send suggestions, push leaders to think critically about issues that matter, and be patient, but persistent. These actions have a greater impact than most young people likely realize. Our greatest takeaway from this meeting came with the last comment from Marie-Eve: “Just by being here, being interested, and being engaged, you will have an impact.”

Laura Tuck - Vice President for Sustainable Development, World Bank

Our objective in meeting with Laura Tuck was to learn more about how the World Bank Group approaches sustainable development, what its priority areas are, and Canada’s role in climate change and resilient infrastructure. Ms. Tuck urged us to carefully consider how we define “sustainable development” and note that banks’ priorities for the last 2 years have focused on: Agriculture; Climate Change; Energy and Extractives; Environment and Natural Resources; Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience, Transport and ICT; and Water. That being said, approximately half of her department’s efforts are focused on climate mitigation and response and adaptation out of sheer necessity (i.e. the bank’s responses to natural disasters). It is here that Canada and our Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, the Hon. Catherine McKenna, are great partners with the World Bank Group. Our country’s leadership on issues like carbon pricing and blended finance ensure that we are doing our part to create a more resilient and sustainable world. However, there are still policy-based and political challenges that remain. How do we navigate the tenuous line between closing down coal plants and protecting the workers of that industry? Our meeting confirmed that we do not possess the answers to these questions - yet. However, with the use of technology, metadata, and analytics, Ms. Tuck assured us that the World Bank Group, in partnership with developing and developed countries, are actively working on projects that support the broader economic, environmental and social resilience of communities around the world.

Mahmoud Mohieldin - Senior Vice President for the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, World Bank

Mahmoud Mohieldin described the three key areas of the Bank’s work: finance institution, data knowledge and implementation, and how each of these areas connect with his work on the 2030 Development Agenda.  In discussing the role of the bank as a financial institution, he spoke about the need for private sector involvement and to desegregate financing.  He highlighted private-public partnerships as being an area where the Bank can be doing much more. When he spoke about implementation, he focused on the need for localization of the goals, and the case of Colombia in particular, where each community is assessing their own needs at a grassroots level and considering the SDGs in deciding where to invest. When we asked him about Canada’s role in achieving this agenda, he spoke about the opportunity for Canada to set an example through its plan for financing the SDGs, that other countries can use as a template.

The Honourable Marie Claude-Bibeau - Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, Government of Canada

We had the chance to meet with Minister Bibeau to discuss Canada’s international development work. During the live-streamed meeting we asked her about Canada’s feminist international development policy and heard about the gap Canada is filling through its support of sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR).  She also spoke about Canada’s efforts to include youth in its development policy, particularly in Africa, where there are 200 million people aged 15-24 - it is essential for development, peace and security that these young men and women have equal chances of opportunities.

Priyanka Divecha - Program Coordinator, International Young Leaders Assembly

We spoke with Priyanka Divecha to learn more about the International Young Leaders Assembly, which is a program she is involved in, which unites youth from all over the world. The program is similar to Young Diplomats of Canada’s delegations in some ways, but its structure is more complex, as it encompasses youth from all corners of the globe. It was great to hear more about the program, as it seemed like an excellent opportunity that some of us may be interested in pursuing in the future. She also discussed the complexity of involving young people in these types of events. She spoke to us about her own experience at the ECOSOC Youth Forum, where they had a discussion around the participation of youth and whether it is tokenizing, as well as the possibilities surrounding young people and their involvement in the organization.  

Ryan McMaster - Canada Relations Lead, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

During our meeting with Ryan McMaster, we discussed Canada’s International Assistance spending and the gaps that currently exist. We discussed the role of private, public and nonprofit sectors in working to fill this gap, the progress that has been made, as well as what still needs to be done. Ryan was able to provide us with a unique perspective, drawn from his experiences working directly with the Canadian government, the CSO community, and private sector partners. The common thread through the conversation was that there is a lack of political will within Canada to support international assistance.  Ryan also spoke about the Gates Foundation’s work in supporting innovation and technological solutions to development challenges, particularly in the health sector.
 

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Delegate Reflections

JASON

My application to attend the World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings was important for two reasons. First, the invitation represents the culmination of two years of professional growth in policy work pertaining to all orders of government. I could not pass up the opportunity to wrestle with the policy issues that impact the sustainability and overall prosperity of the developing world. Second, as a community-minded individual already representing organizations like the World Economic Forum's Global Shapers and the United Nations Association in Canada (UNA-Canada), my hope was that the trip would expand my social network in ways that facilitate greater collaboration in finding solutions to the world’s complex problems.

My interdisciplinary background and professional consulting experience were invaluable at the Annual Meetings. The World Bank Group has learned that governments alone will not be able to meet the conditions set by the 2030 Agenda and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Therefore, there is a great need for the bank to leverage private sector capital (both operationally and financially) in concert with the public sector and civil society organizations. It is my hope that my interdisciplinary research will uncover the key leadership characteristics needed for these partnerships to build capacity and sustain their system-level innovations.

The biggest benefit I received was mentorship and support for my research in meetings with extraordinary individuals from Canada and around the world. They advised me on potentially joining the foreign service, ways in which my policy knowledge could be leveraged within government, and broadened the potential applications of my work. I hope to promote this opportunity to the International Relations program and broader graduate student community at my home institution so that they can apply to this competition themselves. The University of Calgary is filled with diverse and talented individuals (many of whom I’ve taught), who should pursue this opportunity to represent their country on the world stage.

MERYAM

Coming from an academic and scientific background, it was such an interesting and illuminating experience to learn about Canada’s foreign policy role and the importance of data for validating results. As a graduate student and a follower of the scientific method, data has always been paramount to forming conclusions, as such it was exciting to see institutions such as the World Bank and IMF highlight the importance of data in driving decisions. I am excited to see the role that technology will play in solving some of the world’s toughest challenges, especially with regards to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). After meeting with Vice President of the SDGs, Mahmoud Mohieldin, I believe that it is important for Canada to contribute in the success of these goals, not only from a national level, but to also lead by example and encourage international involvement and active participation.

Taking part in these sessions, I was able to observe female executives and their experiences. As Christine Lagarde noted: “a sense of humor and some confidence has helped me along the way”. Gender dynamics within the professional workplace was particularly important to me, and I believe highlighting the inefficiencies related to bringing more women to senior leadership positions is necessary. Having spent sometime researching and writing about the “leaky pipeline effect” that most professional women face, it was interesting to observe them thrive in the field. Diversity is paramount to the development of global policies, and all professionals (i.e., policy makers, law makers, academics), should be invited at the table when developing respective guidelines.

Finally, it has been a great learning experience overall, being able to meet with other delegations from across the globe. Learning about other people's hopes, aspirations and obstacles has given me the opportunity of experiencing this conference from a global perspective.

ERIKA

My motivation in applying to participate on this delegation was to ask questions around the 2030 Development Agenda and Canada’s role in achieving it. After working in the international development sector for a few years I am all-too familiar with some of the challenges of implementing the goals. I wanted to attend the meetings to raise those difficult questions. What I found during my experiences at the Bank was pleasantly surprising. Much of what I wanted to raise was already on the table. At a few points during our trip, we heard Bank staff, among others say, the Bank is not what it was in the 1980s. The World Bank Group is keeping up with where the world is going, with a critical eye on how it can contribute to shaping the world for the better. It was reassuring to see that climate change was the theme of many conversations; that the role of women and girls was brought up time and time again; and that innovative financing was on the top of everyone’s minds. I was also pleased to find that in representing youth voices, our participation felt meaningful and valued.

This experience will, without a doubt, greatly impact my future goals and career ambitions. My time in Washington has already opened up unexpected doors for me and I’m confident that it will continue to do so. To have the chance to sit in a room with experts from every corner of the world was an incredible opportunity. Through bilateral meetings and sessions, I had the chance to discuss my research interests and receive guidance and mentorship from global leaders.

Now it’s time for Canada to fit itself into these development efforts so it can continue to act as a leader on the global stage. It is essential that youth are involved in this process. My message to other Canadian youth would be to continue to engage globally, push Canada to do the same, and to demand a seat at the table. Your voice matters and the experts want to hear from you.  

BEN

The World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings were a one-of-a-kind experience that I am extremely grateful I was able to participate in. I have been deeply involved in startups, tech, and entrepreneurship for my entire professional life, so the public sector was something that was completely foreign to me. I’ve always been interested in global issues and youth involvement, but I never officially studied political science or international development, so when I heard about Young Diplomats of Canada, I saw it as the perfect way to gain firsthand insight into the public sector, increase my knowledge and understanding of global issues, and drive youth involvement. The other major reason that I was extremely motivated to apply was that I’ve come to believe that to truly effect positive change, the strongest and most effective means of doing so comes from cross-sectional partnerships between public and private sector.

The experience was everything I had hoped it would be and more. Not only did I learn way more than I had even thought possible, but having these side meetings and really spending time with these prominent civil servants was extremely inspiring. I look forward to taking the lessons learned both from them and from the larger panels or talks, and applying them to my professional life.

My biggest takeaway was the sheer volume of work that still needs to be done to achieve gender parity, and more specifically, what the economic factors are in this situation. I always knew that gender equality was something that needed to be worked on, but the IMF, World Bank, McKinsey, and others gave talks that truly broke down each and every aspect to make it absolutely clear how urgent an issue it is. Since returning home, I have spoken with several female entrepreneurs in Toronto, and look forward to working with them on some initiatives to increase women’s involvement in entrepreneurship. There was several other meaningful takeaways around subjects ranging from climate change to artificial intelligence, but I think the another topic that was extremely impactful was around youth involvement. We were treated with the utmost respect from everyone we met with. Our voices were heard, our opinions were acknowledged, and I felt that we were given much more than just a seat at the table. It is extremely uplifting to know that these prominent political figures have no illusions about what the future holds, and that over the next 20 years, it will be us who will be gaining the decision-making power, and it will be up to us to continue on the missions that they have started now, like the 2030 sustainable development goals. I hope to return to the annual meetings and go to other global political events in the future!

GRANT

As someone with a keen interest in economic development, public and private markets, and international affairs, the opportunity to attend the annual meetings of the World Bank (WB) and IMF quickly caught my eye. It is one thing to follow the work of an institution from afar, but it is another to be present and see things firsthand - I applied to be a YDC delegate for precisely this reason.

Attending the annual meetings was an incredible personal and professional development experience. In the past I have had the chance to engage with trade organizations, political bodies, and academic institutions, but never all at the same time on the world stage. See, the annual meetings provided an unparalleled forum for discussion and networking: I attended roundtables hosted by world experts, met with the best and brightest Canadians in Washington, and had dinners with other youth delegations from around the globe. Before travelling to Washington D.C., my scope of experience and interest had largely been limited to Canada, but my perspective and interests have since expanded to an international scale.

As far as takeaways, I learned three things: in international development, the secret to getting ahead is getting started; for young people, simply being at the table is half the battle in having your voice heard on the world stage; and for Canada, our global reputation as a trusted, respected nation is something to be proud of and build on in all that you do.