The Young Diplomats of Canada (YDC) delegation to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Spring Meetings of 2019 travelled to Washington, DC to partake in the official meetings as well as attend events as part of the Civil Society Policy Forum (CSPF). Further, the delegation had the opportunity to engage in fruitful bilateral discussions with a variety of actors, including state representatives, Canadian missions to international organizations, and a number of teams and groups at the World Bank and IMF.
Over the course of the week, the delegation split their time between discussing the burgeoning issues of today and the important role youth have to play in enacting lasting change during informative bilateral meetings, while sitting in on a variety of panels dealing with topics ranging from the future challenges of fintech’s implementation in capital markets to discussions about the economic and social impacts climate change and sustainability. A favorite panel discussion was at the IMF, between Pinelopi Goldberg, Chief Economist of the World Bank, Laurence Boone, Chief Economist of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and Gita Gopinath Chief Economist of the International Monetary Fund who discussed gender inequality. From this session, there was a clear takeaway that regardless of which economy or country one comes from, there is still work to be done. An overarching theme tying together all the delegation’s experience was the importance of diversity in international cooperation, bringing different perspectives and strengths to the table when crafting solutions to the issues at play.
Key Sessions Attended
The YDC delegation started their time in Washington D.C. at the Canadian Embassy by meeting with Jennifer Loten, the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Canada to the Organization of American States (OAS), and her team. She shared with us the reality of her work, the different diplomatic challenges she has to face, and discussed the dynamic between representative at the OAS. She and her team were kind enough to exchange with us on different ways that the youth is and could get involved in the OAS. The team also gave us insight into the upcoming events and votes that were relevant to their work.
The delegation had the chance to meet with Dr. Maryse Robert, a Canadian from the province of Quebec that now acts as Director of Economic Development at the Organization of American States. Dr. Robert offered a great insight into her tenure, and what led her to be there, and also discussed the practical challenges of multilateral diplomacy. She answered the different questions we had on upcoming challenges in fund contribution, and the different ways for the Organization to ensure economic development with a limited fund. Dr. Robert also discussed The Young America Business Trust; a nonprofit international organization that works in cooperation with the OAS, to promote social and economic development of young people around the world.
The delegation ended the first day by meeting with Brett Hamsik, Economic Policy Advisor, and with Bryan Koontz, Border and Law Enforcement Officer at the State Department. This meeting allowed us to exchange on Canada-US diplomatic relations and economic development, but also to observe the dynamic at the US State Department. This meeting led us not only to ask questions, but also to answer many. The meeting became more than being solely on Economic Policies and Border Security, but also about the place of youth in politics, global American politics and the challenges mainstream media pose in their work, and about the changes in Canadian legislation and the implication for the US.
Day two marked the first official day of the Spring Meetings and our bilateral meeting with Christine Hogan, the Executive Director for Canada, Ireland, and the Caribbean at the World Bank and a few members of her team. We began the meeting discussing the diverse constituency she represents and her impressive, yet diverse career path that lead her to the World Bank. Emphasized themes of the discussion included post-crisis adaptation and resilience building, alongside the existing continuous efforts towards risk mitigation. We were happy to see the strong female representation in the room and thoroughly enjoyed the enriching discussion with fellow Canadians.
The team started day three off with a bilateral meeting with Katie Ross, an Associate at the World Resources Institute Climate Program. The Climate Change focus at this meeting was a topic of interest for many of this year’s YDC delegates. The discussion began with an overview of the World Resources Institute; its presence world-wide, donor funding and the seven major concerns it deals with, which include: climate, energy, water, oceans, cities and forests. Ms. Ross illustrated the importance of reducing emissions on a global scale, rather than on a country-specific basis. She put emphasis on the fact that long-term strategies to reduce emissions through a variety of tools were most effective in reaching the criteria illustrated in the Paris Accord. The discussion briefly touched on different countries involvement in the Paris Agreement that is causing some doubt in the 2030 target. To conclude, Ms. Ross provided a very interesting perspective on climate change and was very frank about the cruel reality it poses to many parts of the world. The delegation thoroughly enjoyed this meeting; some delegates were even interested in possible future careers at the World Resources Institute, particularly in Ms. Ross’ area of expertise.
The delegates started day four by meeting with Assistant Director Paul A. Cashin and his team who manage the Asia-Pacific department for the IMF, focusing on India, China and Japan which are currently contributing to 2/3 of global growth. We began the meeting by discussing each country at length, touching on their strengths and weaknesses. Common themes amongst the countries were population augmentation, increased contribution to global GDP, youth unemployment rate, and the informal labour market linked to gender inequality. However, the region becomes more challenging due to the broad disparities existing between India and Japan. Each team member specializing in a certain region of the Asia-Pacific concluded that demographics is the single biggest challenge facing the region at this point in time. Dr. Cashin and his team were very knowledgeable and incredibly generous with their time. To conclude a fascinating discussion, the YDC team was able to grab an excellent photo in front of the Spring Meetings 2019 sign at the IMF.
On day 5, the delegates had the chance to attend back-to-back meetings with two divisions of the Pew Charitable Trusts, a Trust that uses evidence-based, nonpartisan analysis to solve today’s issues and challenges. The first meeting, with Pew’s Environment portfolio, focused on international oceans issues. The issues discussed ranged from the preservation of oceans mangroves to the human and economic challenges posed by illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. In the second meeting, with Pew’s Government Performance program, program analysts from Pew discussed their work on a variety of areas including retirement security, student loans, and state fiscal health. Delegates were able to ask questions on the future of work and its implications for pensions and student loans, and how states and localities took a variety of responses to municipalities experiencing fiscal distress.
On Saturday and Sunday, the delegates participated in a range of Spring Meeting seminars. The highlight of the weekend was an event on inequality, hosted by Christine Lagarde and featuring the chief economists of the World Bank, the IMF, and the OECD. In addition to the academic rigour and thoughtfulness the economists brought to the table, the gathering was historic for the fact that it was the first time in history that the chief economists of all three institutions were women. This data point may be stretched to serve as an indicator of future trends in gender equality and diversity in the workplace, and was an optimistic note upon which to end an inspiring and eye-opening week.
I was initially drawn to the YDC after hearing extremely positive feedback from a former delegate of the organization. I proceeded to follow YDC on various social media platforms and always admired the amazing opportunities it presented to young Canadians. Eager to participate myself, I applied for the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington and was honoured to represent Canada abroad. Currently studying global governance, economics and public policy, I found the Spring Meetings to be a perfect opportunity to apply my studies in a practical manner. The entire experience was a privilege, and I am extremely grateful to have had such an enriching experience so early on.
The week began with a bilateral meeting with the Canadian mission to the OAS. The ambassador and permanent representative of Canada, Jennifer Loten, as well as other present representatives, gave many words of wisdom regarding potential career paths and how they arrived at their current position in Washington. As a student interested in a future in the Canadian foreign service or an international organization, I found this opportunity extremely beneficial in determining next steps for the future. The numerous bilateral meetings throughout the entire week broadened my perspective regarding job prospects in my areas of interest for when I graduate.
Currently researching climate change and migration, I was particularly interested in this year’s focus on climate change, featuring various panels and discussions highlighting differing perspectives from smaller, more vulnerable states affected by climate change compared to fiscal giants that are less involved and affected by its impacts. Moreover, I believe our delegation had a tremendous opportunity to discuss and share the youth perspective on climate change with important officials at the IMF, World Bank, as well as PEW Charity Trusts and the World Resources Institute. It was very apparent that climate change is on the agenda and the week gave hope for the future.
My highlights included the friendly encounter with Managing Director of the IMF, Christine Lagarde and Canadian Finance Minister, Bill Morneau. Furthermore, I was particularly fond of the strong female leadership we saw throughout the conference and bilateral meetings. We concluded the week with a fascinating panel consisting of chief economists of the IMF, World Bank and OECD, all currently represented by women, discussing the future of gender and economic equality.
To conclude, the Spring Meetings were certainly enriching, educational and gave a reassuring outlook on future global cooperation towards a common goal of climate change mitigation, economic and gender equality and embracing and dealing with the technological future that is rapidly approaching.
I would highly recommend this opportunity to anyone interested in monetary and fiscal policy or a career in the Canadian foreign service. The YDC is a phenomenal non-profit organization which provides youth with the opportunity to expand their specific skillset through real-life experiences in a variety of different realms while allowing delegates to advocate for Canadian youth both at home and abroad. I can attest that representing Canada internationally as a youth leader is a unique experience and I am extremely thankful for the learning opportunity it provided, for the valuable connections I have made in Washington, as well as within this year’s delegation which stretches across Canada.
When I first applied to be a YDC delegate, I didn’t really know what to expect. As a delegation representing Canadian youth at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund 2019 Spring Meetings, I was wondering how welcome we, our ideas, and our perspective would. I was convinced of the importance of our presence there but was eager to see the reactions of bankers, industry leaders, and government officials upon meeting us. I recognized the occasion to attend the WB and IMF Spring Meetings as a remarkable opportunity, but I had no idea how much of a learning experience it would be for me, and most importantly, not necessarily in the way that I anticipated.
As a delegation, we had to make choices from the beginning, even before being on the ground in Washington D.C. Where would we put our focus as a delegation? With the support of the YDC organization, we had significant leverage for a privileged access to organizations, funds and WB/IMF officials that gave us the option to arrange bilateral meetings with them, but, on the other hand, the Meetings offered many interesting talks with specialists from all over the world that we could attend as well. We succeeded in making these not mutually exclusive, and I think that the choices we made, the fact that we organized ten bilateral meetings, and also attended to nearly all the talks that were of interest to us, made for a charged, but memorable week.
From my point of view, participating in so many bilateral meetings was the most essential part of the week. These meetings really gave us a chance to learn as a delegation, but also an opportunity to discuss ideas, and challenges of interest to us, with different officials. I was surprised to see how interested and eager to exchange with us these officials were. It was also interesting to observe firsthand the place and role of Canada amongst all of these organizations. All these meetings provided me with a profound understanding of the ideology and workings of the various organizations, their reality and challenges, and it also gave me a valuable glimpse of the dynamic of foreign affairs and international work. This privileged time with all these remarkable individuals provided us with the opportunity to lead these meetings, and to see all the questions we had answered, but also to receive advice on different ways to get involved or to reach our goals.
Throughout the week, I read, listened and talked, about a panoply of different issues. The World Bank and the IMF talks covered a great variety of subjects from important innovations in technology, crisis and emergency funds, types of assets, inequality, gender, climate change, to the way to approach projects and to solve issues. I heard many inspiring speakers and the Meetings allowed us to have a proximity that offered the possibility to discuss and exchange with them. Our attendance in Washington D.C. gave us the occasion to be heard and the event, the YDC organization, provided us with the setting to have a voice to the right individuals. This is easily one of the most valuable elements of the week. “You have to be there to have an impact,” said Kristalina Georgieva, CEO of the WB, when discussing the importance of being on the ground and working in fragile States. This statement also applies in the resolution of global problems, and that is why our presence was essential if we aimed to achieve anything.
I will say that it was a privilege to be part of a delegation as passionate, qualified and interesting as the one that attended the 2019 Spring Meetings. Valuable relationships and friendships were built over the week, and I definitely get the feeling that our mutual passions and interests will make our paths cross again in the future. I could not have hoped to live this experience with anyone else.
On a final note, I was surprised to leave Washington D.C. more hopeful than I first arrived. To see all these experts, officials, and leaders in their fields urging for change and involved provided me with an inspiring image. However, the desire to act will not change the situation, and we must see a real and tangible change to achieve anything. If this does not happen, I know that our delegation, the youth, will force this change and that we will not be alone in this endeavor.
I currently work as an Associate at Longview Communications and Public Affairs, where I focus on political risk assessment, corporate financial communications and government relations. My work and understanding of the financial sector inspired me to apply to the Spring Meetings at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Additionally, as a Canadian youth interested in politics and government relations, it was important to me to attend these meetings to build relationships and ensure Canadian youth voices were included in the conversation.
Being a representative from Calgary, Alberta, I frequently brought a Canadian perspective that focused on our country’s supply and demand of energy. One of my key interests was understanding the broader, North American knowledge of Canadian energy. The bilateral meetings were an opportunity where I was able to discuss this topic and learn from high-level officials.
There were many takeaways from both the Spring Meetings and our bilateral meetings, but what I found most valuable was the opportunity to meet with high-level officials, such the Ambassador of Canada to the Organization of American States. In our bilateral meetings, senior officials were very interested in hearing the Canadian youth on a variety of topics. These themes included environmental impacts, the encouragement of more youth voices at summits, and gender inequality.
This experience provided me the incredible, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet a variety of senior officials within the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Organization of American States to name a few. Not to mention, the chance to work alongside other Canadian youth, pursuing a common goal on behalf of our delegation. One of the reasons I believe our delegation was so successful was due, in part, to the diverse backgrounds and perspectives we each brought. I definitely recommend this opportunity to any Canadian youth, the experience was invaluable.
Maha Ali Khan
With the onset of globalization and exponential technological advancement, the 21st century has brought increasing complexity to issues we face as members of an international community. However, these same factors have brought with them an enormous potential for both collaboration between nations and the scale on which we as individuals can be part of making change. This was a concept I saw echoed over the course of our engagements during the Spring Meetings.
As an accounting and finance major, my academic focus was a deeper understanding of not just technical concepts and applications, but how the daily work and operations of businesses and institutions alike contributed to the global economy and capital markets. Through internships at KPMG LLP in as an auditor specialising in financial institutions and a rotation in global tax, I gained exposure to accounting and finance in practice on the international stage. As an Analyst within the Global Middle Office at BMO Capital Markets, I have built on that knowledge. Coupled with a strong interest in international governance and law, I have also taken a special interest in the regulation and global cooperation when it comes to this post-2008 financial crisis space. While it was the idea of engaging with world leaders and pioneers on topics like these that initially pushed me to apply to be a YDC delegate, I was incredibly glad to see that - in addition to discussions more grounded in the core financial and economic topics that form the basis of the Spring Meetings - there was also a host of events that explored the economic and financial dimensions of issues like gender equality, sustainable development, and resilience building. These were complemented by the insights provided by those we met with during our bilateral meetings – from a variety of backgrounds and fields, tackling a broad set of issues from many different angles, with a common goal of shared economic prosperity.
One session in particular that stood out for me was Sir David Attenborough’s one-on-one with Christine LaGarde, the Managing Director for the IMF, the topic of which was balancing nature and the global economy. Sir Attenborough noted the grave consequences that would result from inaction on climate change and preservation issues – after this somber moment, Ms LaGarde asked us if we had hope, and Sir David was amongst the first to put up his hand. “And why?” He said, “Because young people understand these situations better than they have ever done in my life time. And young people today are saying to those of us who’ve got hands on power: ‘Do something and we will support you’. That’s why I have hope.”
As a young person, the overall message was very impactful to me – one of caution and realism as we go into the future, but also one of optimism tempered with a focus on solutions and engagement. The opportunity to attend the World Bank and IMF Spring Meetings has been an incredible opportunity to learn and broaden my horizons, and to grow through engaging with the ideas and perspectives of my fellow delegates. As a young individual interested in advocacy and international affairs, I am thankful to the YDC team for creating this platform and highly encourage other youth to get involved.
Michael Sarty – Head Delegate
It’s one thing to read about foreign affairs, institutions like the World Bank and the IMF, and global leaders like Christine Lagarde and Gita Gopinath – it is another thing entirely to be thrown into that world and experience it in person. That was the opportunity afforded to myself and the five other delegates representing the Young Diplomats of Canada at the 2019 World Bank / IMF Spring Meetings. Now, having spent a month reflecting on the experience, I can say with confidence that our team thrived in this challenging environment.
Our schedule consisted of the Spring Meetings themselves (the seminars that were open to Meeting participants) and bilateral engagements on the margins of the Meetings. My personal favourite seminar was “Debt Vulnerabilities and Development Needs in Lower-Income Countries”, which featured Ministers of Finance from Bangladesh, Chad, and Zambia, as well as representatives from key international finance institutions. As a student and practitioner of policy, when I attended the seminar I was struck by how little I knew about public debt and the financing needs for development. The seminar underscored just how important public financing is to development, and the tangled web of actors who play a crucial role in the financing process, from private institutions to large multilateral lenders. Since attending this talk, I have sought to augment my understanding of this issue by taking a public finance course online.
The bilateral meetings were a tremendous opportunity for personal engagement on a variety of key issues. Depending on our interlocutors (a group which included representatives from the Organization of American States, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the State Department), our discussion topics could range from Canadian foreign policy to poverty reduction strategies in sub-Saharan Africa. I think my personal favourite meeting was with representatives from the IMF. Their command of the challenging breadth of monetary and fiscal issues facing the nations for which they were responsible (India and Japan) was formidable. I was also struck by how the senior economists (the Missions Chiefs) stepped back during the meeting to allow their younger, junior economist colleagues take the lead in providing an overview of their countries’ key issues. It is impressive and reassuring to see significant international institutions like the IMF prioritize the development of their junior officials.
I was also deeply impressed by the capabilities and experiences of my fellow Young Diplomats of Canada delegates. I did not know what to expect going into the Meetings, particularly given that we all came from various backgrounds (government, private, academic) and were only meeting in person the night before the Meetings began (or, in Shannon’s case, the morning of the Meetings!) It quickly became apparent that all that didn’t matter, as everyone in the group was hard working, passionate, and amicable. It was inspiring for me to work alongside such a talented group of individuals who were willing to give up their own time and money in order to participate in the Spring Meetings. I am deeply grateful for having worked so closely alongside them.