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Opinion: The Future of the Y20 Summit

The Y20 Summit, or G20 Youth Summit as it is sometimes known, is the youth engagement group of the G20. World Leaders use the youth engagement group in an attempt to freshen their understanding of the key issues facing young people across the globe and to connect with young people in order to solicit their solutions and ideas to help combat these challenges.

Therefore, annually, the host country of G20 also organises and hosts the youth counterpart. This typically takes the form of a week-long summit in the host country, bringing together young people from across the globe, where those challenges facing young people are discussed and debated. The output of each Summit is a communique, which is then fed back to the World Leaders for their perusal. It’s a genuinely unique chance to influence at the highest level.

Y20 brings together the leaders of the future from across the globe in order to deliberate the most pressing matters affecting young people today. We are the voice of young people for the G20.

Yet Y20 as an entity rarely reaches its outstanding potential for a number of key reasons. Each year, a new group of delegates are appointed by member countries and sent to participate in the Summit. This has the adverse effect of halting the momentum created by the previous year’s cohort and ending the relationships that had been developed over the previous 12 months. It also ensures that preparation for the Summit is never afforded sufficient time, as the preparation time by the host nation and the recruitment process in each country takes well over 6 months, if not more. It takes time to create and develop the mechanisms needed for such a process to be successful.

Moreover, the responsibility for the promotion of the final communiqué rests with the delegates alone, nor is any support to underpin delegates’ work to promote the results of their deliberations provided.

Having represented the UK as Head Delegate for the last two years, I believe there are a number of key changes that could be adopted by G20 Leaders that would address these matters:

-          Ensure that formal contact between Y20 and G20 becomes a cornerstone of the annual G20 calendar;

-          Consider appointing Y20 delegates on a 3-year term;

-          Provide Y20 Leaders with access to the G20 communications function;

-          Support equality of opportunity and increase diversity amongst delegates by underwriting the cost of the travel to and from the Summit.

Furthermore, I believe that the agglomeration of talent, diversity of experiences and united ambition of all Y20 delegates – to affect change – could offer a unique opportunity to empower young people to address the challenges facing their generation, not just with words, but with action. Therefore, I'd like to see G20 Leaders:

-          Sanction a pilot fund to support those Y20 leaders that wish to address societal challenges via the creation of a social enterprise.

The fund would provide seed capital and then access to second stage investment. Corporate support could also be leveraged in order to enhance the financial power of the fund and to provide expertise/experience to the start-ups as appropriate.

About the Author

Ian Mason

Ian Mason, Leader, UK Delegation to Y20 Summit in 2015 & 2016

Ian is an economist, author and entrepreneur. He is the founder of an education company, providing physical and digital learning resources to schools across the UK and globally. Ian was instrumental in the creation and development of Virgin Start Up, the Sir Richard Branson’s not-for-profit company for entrepreneurs. 

Ian was the Leader of the UK Delegation to the Y20 Summit in 2015 & 2016.

Visit Ian's website

Connect with Ian on Twitter: @ijmason

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