Early Childhood Education is a Human Right

Economic inequality is one of the defining challenges of our time: leading to millions of premature deaths, the polarization of political ideologies and unequal pay for women, indigenous people and racialized individuals. Before a baby is born, her/his chance of being on the wrong side of inequality, and the poverty it entails, is already increased.

To help understand the issue, 27 leading economists from the Institute of Research for Public Policy and the Canadian Labour Market and Skills Researcher Network, examined Canada's strategies for addressing economic inequality from the 1980’s to 2016. Similar to other studies around the world, they found that one of the most successful solutions for reducing economic inequality was early childhood education. Yet this is out of reach for 175 million children globally, nearly half of the worlds pre-primary school-aged children.

In the short-term, access to early childhood education helps reduce the gender wage and gender career level gap by providing mothers the opportunity to reenter the workforce. In the long-term, access leads to reduced economic inequality and prepares the next generation to tackle future challenges by increasing their chances of success at higher education levels.

Access increases success in future education attainment levels for children from low-socio-economic demographics by developing their noncognitive skills. By improving skills such as attention and social behaviours, children are more likely to graduate from secondary school, attend University and less likely to commit a crime.

A comprehensive study by the American Educational Research Association, discovered that access alone led to an 8.1% decrease in special education placements, an 8.3% decrease in grade retention and an 11.4% increase in secondary school graduation rates. This translates into an increase in lifetime earnings of approximately US $689,000 and a decrease in the average cost to the national economy of US $262,000 per individual.

Despite the overwhelming evidence of both social and financial benefits to society, early childhood education remains inaccessible around the world, including within our own G7 states. If the G7 states are serious about combating long-term economic inequality, they must shift the conversation from reactive symptom relief to long-term prevention, ensuring that access to early childhood education is a human right for all, not a privilege for the few.

Mélanie Rodriguez, Canadian Head Delegate to the Y7

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.

Whether in politics, in diplomacy, or in society, the fate of our country is inexorably linked to the active engagement of young people from all walks of life


Canada is blessed to have a long legacy of dreamers, activists, and leaders who sought to improve the world and keep this country’s promise to leave future generations a Canada that makes us all proud. I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to contribute a small part in this important work in my time as Advisor for Media Relations and Outreach for the Young Diplomats of Canada. I had the unique opportunity to be surrounded with outstanding young Canadians who shared a positive vision for what role Canada could play in the world and how Canadian youth could contribute to its success.

My work allowed me to develop many important skills, but it also made me aware of a crucial challenge. In an increasingly competitive, interconnected, and globalized world, we can no longer afford to leave marginalized youth on the sidelines. Indeed, our country is as vast and diverse as the perspectives of its young people, and YDC is committed to tapping into this boundless source of strength to form Canada's next diplomats. That is why our team focused on finding new ways to include more women, Indigenous, and marginalized voices into the program and into Canadian diplomacy. In doing so, we ensure not only that the program reflects the hopes and dreams of the next generation of leaders, but that it also empowers groups who are not represented enough in the diplomatic corps to share their unique perspectives.

The importance of including youth in politics and diplomacy cannot be understated and it is a lesson that remains with me to this very day. In fact, my experience with YDC has benefitted me in my present role as Communications Specialist for MP Peter Schiefke, who also serves at the Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister Trudeau for Youth. Akin to my experience at YDC, I realized that we still had work to do in order to ensure that we provide young people in communities big and small across the country with opportunities to share their ideas, contribute to policymaking, and give back to our country. With that in mind, I have the honour to work hard every day to serve Canadians and help reach out to marginalized youth in order to make sure that their voices are heard at the highest levels of government. This approach has already yielded significant results and, after more than three years of hard work, we know clearly that when Canadian youth is empowered to stand up and speak out, we all benefit.

Whether in politics, in diplomacy, or in society, the fate of our country is inexorably linked to the active engagement of young people from all walks of life. Despite the important strides that have been made in recent years, there remains a lot of work to be done. Even so, I have never been so confident that we are on the right track thanks to organizations like YDC who strive to create opportunities for marginalized youth from coast, to coast, to coast. After working for the Young Diplomats of Canada and on Parliament Hill, I firmly believe that we will not be able to progress cohesively as a country if we do not ensure that everyone across the country has a seat at the decision-making table — for that is the only way through which we can live up, once more, to the promise of our country.

Written by Raphaël Beauchamp

Edited by Nicolette Addesa

Why Investing in Women is a Winning Solution

By YDC's Delegation to the 2017 World Bank / International Monetary Fund Annual Meetings

If we are going to achieve the World Bank’s Sustainable Development Goals, we need to put women at the forefront. Here are five reasons why:

Hundreds of government officials met with civil society organizations in Washington, DC in October 2017, to discuss issues of global concern, including the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Five young Canadians attended the event as part of Young Diplomats of Canada’s delegation to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund 2017 Annual Meetings.  Among the issues of global concern discussed was gender equality and investments in women.

The empowerment of women and girls is a foundational element of the SDGs.  The agenda will not be achieved with the status quo, and the goals certainly will not be achieved unless we invest in women.  Here are five reasons why:

1. Thought Diversity

Thought diversity boosts innovation and problem-solving, and contributes to increased economic growth and quality-of-life. Gender diversity is one such differentiator, and according to the McKinsey Global Institute’s recent study, if women were to play an identical role in labour markets to that of men, as much as $28 trillion, or 26 percent, could be added to global annual GDP by 2025. McKinsey also mapped 15 gender-equality indicators for 95 countries and found that 40 of them have high or extremely high levels of gender inequality on at least half of the indicators.  Global organizations, both public and private, need to lead the charge on increasing thought diversity whether it is to increase our global GDP, increase quality-of-life, find new innovations and discoveries, or simply because it is the right thing to do.  

2. Girls’ Education Leads to Economic Growth

Global institutions and charitable organizations like the World Bank Group, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and others have been talking about girls education for years, but why haven’t these conversations penetrated broader financial and governmental circles? After all, it is a proven fact that gender gaps in education harm economic growth and result in a lower GDP (ranging from 0.4-0.9% when compared to countries with greater gender parity in education). Both the public and private sector need to understand that not investing in girls results in a huge opportunity cost. Word Bank Group officials estimate that the total missed GDP growth is between 1.2% and 1.5%.

Those who are aware of the macroeconomic argument for investing in girls education often cite that gender gaps have been closing. But 131 million girls are still being left behind. For those interested in tackling global poverty and poor health and economic outcomes around the world - sending girls to school is without question one of the most cost-effective strategies governments, private sector actors, and NGOs can pursue.

3. Investing in Women Means Investing in Communities

While the moral argument for investing in women is clear, evidence shows it is also the responsible economic choice. Women invest an estimated 90 percent of their income back into the household, compared to the 30-40 percent reinvested by men.  When women invest in their households they are investing in good health, reducing hunger, quality education and ending poverty.  In other words, they are investing in the Sustainable Development Goals. In fact, a study in Brazil showed that the likelihood of a child’s survival increased by 20% when the mother controlled household income.  There is plenty of evidence to suggest that when you invest in women there’s a multiplied effect on the return, but women still have less access to finance and less control over household incomes.  To promote investment in women we need more gender budgeting and fiscal policies that support gender equity goals.   

Meet and greet with The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, to discuss the importance of empowering women & girls and Canada’s new Feminist Foreign Policy on October 14, 2017, in Washington D.C. 

Meet and greet with The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, to discuss the importance of empowering women & girls and Canada’s new Feminist Foreign Policy on October 14, 2017, in Washington D.C. 

4. Changing the Entrepreneur’s Profile

Female entrepreneurs currently run 30% of all small businesses and collectively yield $1.4 trillion in sales (2015). And although predictions have been in favour of women leading the charge in entrepreneurship, there still remains the issue of funding. Currently, women receive 7% of venture capital funding, a number both insufficient and unreasonable in meeting the current financial needs of growing a small business.

To move forward with the recently launched Women Entrepreneur Finance Initiative (We-Fi), aimed at increasing the amount of funding for women led-startups in developing countries, or other similar initiatives we need to re-assess what the current profile of an entrepreneur is, angel investors and venture capitalists need to be engaged in many ways: investing in women led start-ups, showcasing the data that supports the increased investment and most importantly increase/create mentorship programs aimed at assisting new female founders into the space.

5. Full Participation in the Labour Force

Simple economics tell us that economies grow when more people are working. In a world where men represent a disproportionately high part of the labour force, it is clear why increasing the number of women can result in faster economic growth. But there are deeply ingrained societal factors, and institutionalized gender biases preventing female participation. Over 143 countries still have a legal differences that restrict economic opportunities for women, with 79 going even further to restrict the types of jobs that women can do.

How can an economy advance when structural impediments are in place? One could argue that women still contribute equally through informal work, given that women invest a considerable amount of time into activities that are not measured, and therefore fill the productivity gap, but this doesn’t account for value that paid work brings to an economy through spending. ActionAid, a UK-based NGO, projects that women could increase their global collective income by up to 76 per cent if the participation gap in formal employment was closed.

Only in the last century have gender roles in the labour force been challenged, and only in the last few decades has the participation gap closed. Societies have increasingly been exposed to alternative norms and activism demanding women’s rights, gender parity, and equal income distribution - a corresponding increase in labour force participation illustrates the results of this. We have seen global growth in recent years magnified by more equal participation and greater labour force inclusion; an indicator that is both attractive and promising should it continue.

Trade in 140 Characters or Less: How the WTO Can Stay Relevant in the Digital Age

By YDC WTO 2017 Delegation

For many members of the millennial generation, the World Trade Organization (WTO) can be considered a problematic organization. Indeed, the trade agreements they promote can increase economic inequalities, lower environmental and labour standards, and protect the interests of multinational corporations. So why did we attend the WTO’s Public Forum, as representatives of Young Diplomats of Canada? At the very least, it was a great chance to bring a youthful perspective to discussions around gender and trade, protectionism, and whether trade can facilitate sustainable economic growth.

The theme of the 2017 WTO Public Forum was “Trade: Behind the Headlines.” While there was significant discussion during the conference on the trade agreements that are currently occupying the headlines - for instance, NAFTA and CETA - there was also a recognition of the contributions made by governments, the private sector, and international organizations to increase trade and improve its effectiveness. The WTO, on the other hand, faced significant criticisms during the conference for its inability to communicate the benefits of trade to a wider audience.

As an international multilateral organization, the WTO’s mandate is to provide a platform for participants to discuss better ways of increasing trade. Its existence enables Member States to better negotiate and implement free trade policies. However, as we discovered during a panel at the Forum on the Legitimacy of Global Trade, the WTO is rapidly losing relevance in a world where trade policies can be altered or targeted with only a few tweets. What does this mean? The WTO has to rethink stakeholder engagement; renew political and digital engagement, and, in particular, target young leaders who are innovating new ways of doing business. 

We have several thoughts on how they could do so:

First, it is essential that the WTO takes a new approach when it comes to using technology for promotion. When the topic of ‘technology’ was examined at the Forum, the discussion was often centred around the ways in which e-commerce could be regulated to benefit small and medium enterprises (SMEs), women, etc. Meanwhile, many senior WTO employees are unable to use social media to promote their own work, much less educating the world on developing issues like intellectual property rights, AI, and automation. Although we may not yet be at the point where classified trade negotiations can be livestreamed, the WTO could tangibly engage with the very start-ups it hopes will benefit from increased trade, in order to create modern education, awareness, marketing and communications programmes that are easily accessible through a range of tech mediums.

Second, the WTO needs to ensure that its public outreach efforts - in particular, the Forum itself - are more than just photo opportunities, and that they provide more effective engagement of stakeholders. Instead of allowing moderators to passively allow panelists to promote their own businesses or programs, the WTO should ensure that Forum sessions actively engage the academics, practitioners, and innovators who are in attendance in a dialogue on relevant topics. This can be done by changing the format of sessions to allow for more active engagement of audience members and increased networking between attendees, while limiting the time speakers are able to present unchallenged. Effectively, public outreach efforts like the Forum should provide WTO staff with the opportunity to actively consult stakeholders on trade policies that are being developed.

Finally, the WTO should ensure that its communications and initiatives reach a range of stakeholders, and not just those who have always benefited from trade. When it comes to trade, Canada has recently been emphasizing the idea of ‘progressive trade’ – that is to say, ensuring women, Indigenous peoples, youth, and other marginalized communities are able to access the benefits of trade as well. The WTO has the capacity to better coordinate initiatives that could support some of these groups, and to ensure that they are represented even within the WTO organizations and on panels that discuss all aspects of trade. As participants at the Forum, it was empowering – but also rare – to be able to discuss some of these issues with Canadian Ambassador to the WTO Stephen de Boer. For trade to be more effective overall, it is necessary that these issues be discussed, and that a diversity of people is involved in doing so.

Of course, many of these recommendations are ambitious for an organization the size of the WTO to adequately implement. These days, it is hard to tell which international organizations will even be around in the coming years. Still, it is our hope that the next forum will have genuine discussions on how the WTO can do better, and not just tweetable soundbites.

Taking the Youth (20) Seriously: Because the World Depends on Us

Photo credits: Bundesregierung / Steffi Loos

Photo credits: Bundesregierung / Steffi Loos

By Morrell Andrews
YDC 2017 Youth 20 Delegate

In June, the Youth 20 Summit took place in Berlin, hosted by the 2017 German G20
Presidency. As one of the official G20 engagement groups, the Y20 saw a total of 31 countries
represented by 73 delegates who brought together the views of youth from all around the
world. Over the course of nine days of meetings the delegates negotiated a range of topics –
from digitalization and climate change, to terrorism and global trade. The end result was a 30-
page Communiqué that spanned eleven complex policy areas of relevance for presidents, prime
ministers, and policy makers everywhere. With youth as the central focus of the Summit, the
policy recommendations presented to Chancellor Angela Merkel on the penultimate day took
on a distinct dimension characterized by shared progressive values, a sense of urgency, and a
forward-looking approach to empower the largest youth population that the world has ever

The same could not be said, however, for the Leaders’ Declaration document that was
released in July after the G20 Summit in Hamburg. Within the final Communiqué, young people
are referenced only five times in total. In every case these references position the world’s youth
as clients in need of educational and work opportunities rather than as critical partners in
solving the world’s challenges. While it is true that young people face an increasingly daunting
skills gap as our economies move toward greater automation and technological sophistication
and that unemployment and precarious work conditions disproportionately impact youth, this
perspective on people between the ages of 14-30 that places youth as mere beneficiaries of
policy is inherently problematic.

World leaders often like to refer to students and young professionals as the “leaders of
tomorrow.” This is both an unproductive and categorically dishonest way to position the
youngest people of the world. At best, it signals that we have significant responsibility to look
to in the future, but not quite in the present. At worst, it legitimizes the push to the peripherythat we often experience in international and domestic politics that results in being told “not

The 2017 German Presidency took meaningful action to better include the younger
perspective by hosting and funding delegate participation during a very successful Youth 20
Summit. By investing resources and incorporating high-level government officials in the Summit
programming, an important precedent was set for future G20 Presidencies, especially for
Argentina as they assume the role of host for the 2018 Summit. Further, Chancellor Merkel’s
90-minute meeting with the entire group of delegates to have a dialogue on the policy
recommendations sent a strong message for the future of the Y20 Summit – that when we look
beyond tokenistic engagement, world leaders and youth can have productive and substantive
conversations about the future of international policy that affects us all.

This was a huge step that bolstered the legitimacy of the youth agenda and advocacy
effort on topics like women’s empowerment, displacement and refugees, as well as the 2030
Agenda for Sustainable Development. As a result of the Y20 Summit, delegates have held
follow-up activities with their G20 Sherpas, heads of government, UN agencies, the media, and
youth organizations.

Where the German Presidency failed to include youth specifically, though, was within
the most high-level segments of the G20 Summit. In the months leading up to Hamburg, a
number of official engagement groups met to coordinate policy recommendations and present
their Communiqués to influence G20 negotiations. Some of these official groups, along with the
Y20, include the Women 20 (W20), Business 20 (B20), Think Tank 20 (T20), and Civil 20 (C20).

The W20 meetings were highly publicized around the world and were attended by high
profile guests including Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, International
Monetary Fund Chief Christine Lagarde, and Ivanka Trump. Throughout the Leaders’ Summit,
the pinnacle of the G20 process, engagement groups received accreditation to disseminate

their policy recommendations to the media, country delegations, as well as other stakeholders
like the WHO, UN, or OECD. The B20 and C20 held a joint press conference during the Summit
and had representatives present to act as advocates of their respective meeting outcomes. This
sustained lobbying effort by stakeholders is hugely influential in the negotiation process and
ultimate outcome document of the Summit.

Notably absent from the entirety of the Hamburg Summit were the youth of the Y20.
Perhaps it is because of this lack of presence that the Leaders’ Declaration only mentions youth
five times, regarding them as clients rather than partners. Young people are committed to
being more than passive actors because the policies that are being written by current
leadership will determine the kind of world that we will live in for many years to come. For this
reason, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement were
articulated as absolute and pressing priorities by the youth of the G20, though leaders only
briefly addressed these frameworks and the Sustainable Development Goals in their
Communiqué. It is disappointing that young people did not have an opportunity to raise a
strong, unified voice about the future we want for ourselves at one of the most important
multilateral meetings of the year.

If the leaders of the G20 really hope to achieve the targets of our ambitious
international and domestic agreements there must be a fundamental shift in understanding of
the role that young people have to play. We are not the leaders of tomorrow. We are the
engaged leaders of the present who are active in entrepreneurship, academia, humanitarian
affairs, peace building, innovation, politics, civil society, healthcare, education, and so much
more. Young leadership is dynamic and adaptive, and brings skills and competencies that other
generations of leaders do not possess. This is a critical time to take action on fighting climate
change, ensuring the global economy works for everyone, and to address the root causes of
insecurity. We need to begin drawing upon the diverse expertise of young people while truly
including them in discussion as well as implementation to ensure that the ambitious agendas
being set are sustained beyond the current political cycle.

The issues that the world collectively faces demands collaboration across ages, partisan
lines, and borders. Governments at all levels must leverage its youth beyond tokenistic
platitudes if they hope to realize a more sustainable, equitable, and peaceful world for all
people, everywhere.

In short, youth need to be taken seriously as critical actors that are central to achieving
international progress – because the future of the world depends on us today.

The Plastic Plague

By Sarin Boivin-Picard
Ambassador to the 2017 World Youth Congress
2017 YDC World Bank / International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings Delegate

In 2015, the world embarked on a new and vital journey guided by the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which were launched across 193 United Nations member states. The 2030 agenda for sustainable development and its ultimate success relies profoundly on positive action and youth involvement around the globe. To that end, the 7th World Youth Congress was held in Hawaii from June 17 to 25 2017. The Congress had one primary focus: Environmental Sustainability and Global Warming. 

Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97% or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree on one fact: climate-warming trends over the past century are almost certainly anthropogenic. In other words: likely caused by human activities. Despite the lack of leadership regarding climate change at the national level under the Trump administration, the state of Hawaii, its political leaders, and constituents decided to take action and to build a framework in order to guide their endeavors and monitor their progress related to their sustainable efforts. The Aloha+ Challenge, a public-private partnership that coordinates across government, private sector, and civil society to achieve Hawaii’s 2030 statewide sustainability goals, was the islands’ way of taking local action and adapting the SDGs to local needs and concerns. Amongst the 17 SDGs, one is specifically directed towards “Climate Action”, but I believe that the remaining goals are closely related. In Hawaii, the Aloha+ Challenge, led by the governor, the four county mayors, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Hawaiian State, aims to catalyze action across all spheres of society. The six goals that the State of Hawaii decided to focus on are: clean energy; local food production; natural resource management; smart sustainable communities; green workforce; education; and waste reduction. The latter was of particular interest to me. Therefore, I chose to join the group that would dedicate the whole week to reflect, analyze and develop solutions to one of today’s most alarming issue: marine plastic debris. 

 This ‘plastic plague’ is a worldwide epidemic. It stems from our modern throwaway culture and the very nature of petrochemicals – the main raw material used in the production of plastics and synthetics. Plastic is mostly a durable commodity which does not obey the natural biodegradation laws, which imposes an extreme burden on the ecosystem to replenish itself. Not only are we homo Sapiens or ‘wise men’ depleting our planet’s oil resources to their absolute exhaustion, we are also cramming our landfills and filling our oceans with a seemingly inexhaustible amount of garbage. A United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) study in 2006 reported estimates of 18,000 pieces of plastic per square km floating on the oceans. At this rate, there will be more plastic in the sea than fish by 2050, especially if the private sector does not contribute more vigorously to cleaning up its mess and if individuals do not alter their consumption patterns. It is indeed a gloomy picture: humans are slowly replacing tuna fish with Pepsi bottles, coral reefs with plastic bags and phytoplankton with nanoplastics. Humans are obsessed with plastic: we wrap it around anything we buy, eat or drink. We use valueless packaging for less than a minute just to leave it to nature to decompose over 20, or even 50 years. Unfortunately, our behaviours and above all our ignorance of their second and third degree consequences are starting to have disastrous effects on our environment.

The Great Pacific garbage patch, located between Hawaii and California, is strong evidence of the noxious effects of human activities, but more importantly of humans’ disposal of non-biodegradable waste. Plastic waste has aggregated in this specific area because of ocean currents that gather rubbish along coastlines and swirl them into the centre. According to UNEP’s chief scientist, the patch is growing so rapidly that is to be visible from outer space. This has led some to term it the world’s 7th continent – its size equivalent to one third of the landmass of the United States or six times the size of France. However, according to many scientists, it is not massive anthropogenic debris that are the most critical issue, but rather micro- and nanoplastics as these materials are likely to be ingested by animals who mistake them for fish or plankton. 

Ocean debris are particularly deadly for sea animals living in already destroyed marine ecosystems. According to a study by Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, more than 90% of the world’s sea birds had eaten colourful plastic items that they mistook for food. For animals highly dependent on the ocean for feeding themselves, this conclusion should greatly concern us as consumers of fish. In 2013, fish provided 3.1 billion people with almost 20% of their intake of animal protein. The declining population rate in seabirds around the globe may in fact be the canary in the coal mine of our unquenchable thirst for plastic.

 For human consumption, it is not the soda bottle cap that is potentially dangerous to our health, it is the plastic found at a microscopic level climbing up the food chain. As these complex polymers become smaller and smaller, they are ingested by fish and later by humans. The story gets even worse as these small particles serve as a magnet for other pollutants such as pesticides and flame retardants. These toxic chemicals increasingly omnipresent in the food we harvest from nature and the water we drink are already present in almost every processed food we consume daily.

The dangerous chemicals of greatest concern include one that has achieved notoriety in recent years: Bisphenol A (BPA) – the industrial chemical used in the manufacturing process of a solid and transparent material called polycarbonate. BPA is also used in the manufacture of epoxy resins that serve as a protective layer inside certain metal cans for food and beverages. According to the US National Library of Medicine, there is growing evidence that BPA may adversely affect humans. The scientific literature demonstrates associations between BPA exposure and adverse perinatal, childhood, and adult health outcomes, including reproductive and developmental effects, metabolic disease, and other health effects. 

Given the degree to which the harmful effects of plastics on human health have already been studied, more concerted global effort to prevent dumping into the ocean is necessary. It is a noble cause to want to clean the ocean from this torrent of plastics, but we must first tackle the source of the problem, not simply its symptoms. However, the best and most actionable solution to our garbage problem is still to drastically reduce our use of plastics and to engage in a collective mind shift regarding the effects of our throwaway culture. 

Besides the unlikely solution of sending big polluters in jail for crimes against humanity, government entities will also have a large role to play in preventing the spread of the plastics crisis. Inflicting serious consequences onto large industrial polluters or heavily subsidizing the R&D in clean technology are possible solutions. However, this will certainly be a tough fight considering the three largest chemical producers had sales of close to 200,000 million USD in 2014.  

 I do believe human ingenuity across the globe will help create and design new solutions to this looming tsunami of trash. Better recycling and innovation in product design are potential solutions. In this sense, every problem is an opportunity for Canada to lead and offer policies that will inspire leaders globally. On the local scale, this is where parents, teachers and young community leaders must come into play. Education plays a crucial role in raising awareness of environmental challenges and shaping the attitudes and behaviors that will make an impact. We must stop debating whether it is a hoax or not and focus on the facts that are already acknowledged. We must teach younger generations science education and denounce supine media coverage. We must emphasize critical thinking and the proper use of evidence within politics and policymaking. We need to make use of the principle of precaution, before we empty the oceans of all their living creatures, sicken our ecosystems and commit environmental suicide. We need renewed environmental laws and rethought priorities. 

The issue is deeply rooted in our consumerist system, a system where the voices of the weak and the voiceless remain curbed. Good and global citizenship is about recognizing the second and third degree consequences of our consumer choices, and in many cases listening to the unheard. The unheard constitute not only the other living organisms with which we share our common biosphere -- our home –but also future generations of mankind. We have to think of how our children will look back to us, and what will they think about the world we left behind for them. This ‘plastic plague’ is not only a matter of justice to our generation of shared life on our planet – it is a matter of inter-generational justice.

As a financier by training, the World Youth Congress has made me come to realize that we should maximize Planet Environmental Health (PEH) growth, not just economic GDP – long term sustainability, not quarterly earnings – and preservation of nature’s capital, not just return on equity invested. The only sure thing is that change starts with oneself. Next time, you’ll know what to answer to the infamous question: “Voulez-vous un sac?” 

I would like to thank the Stevens World Peace foundation, Peace Child International Hawaii, Les Offices Jeunesse Internationaux du Québec (LOJIQ) and Young Diplomats of Canada for their support during the congress. 


G7 Youth Summit: Advocating for inclusive growth for Canadian youth

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The entire Y7 Communique can be found here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What can Canadian startups learn from the Spring Meetings?

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published in Global Compact Network of Canada

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

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

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

Presently, what do you like about Canada?

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

Your Letter to the Future:

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

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

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

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


Olivia Labonté
Executive Director
Young Diplomats of Canada

Arctic Assembly 2016

Carmen Bennett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Information:

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

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


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

Isabelle Duchaine
Cerina Lee
Daniel Sorek
Nicholas Schiavo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Canadian youth, we have a number of suggestions:

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

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

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

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

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

New Look, New Horizons for YDC

New Look, New Horizons for YDC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Future of Supranational Health-Trade Governance

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

Canada’s Young G20 Leaders Call for Real Jobs Solutions

Robert D. Onley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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