Future Leaders Network

Develop. Lead. Change.

G20 Youth Summit Japan 2019 - Emily Campbell

Forty plus authors from across the world crafting a three page document that proposes collective solutions to the biggest challenges of our time is as taxing a task as it sounds. Nothing at the Y20 is black and white. Not even the commas on the final Communiqué which have been moved, debated, omitted, inserted and reinserted many times over– often in adrenaline-fuelled disagreements in the hotel lobby at 2am in the morning. Everything is open to negotiation. Words and their controversial punctuation siblings matter. Words draw the skim-readers’ eye, they can plant a thought from which ideas can grow and spread by way of conversation. Every word is coloured by a conversation behind it. Those conversations breathe life into the Communiqué and it is that dialogue which gives it its substance and character.

My Y20 experience has put all laws, policies and outcomes of fora such as the G20 into perspective- those outcomes which the media is quick to dismiss as ‘bland’ promises or as ‘not really saying much.’ Part of the G20’s promise is that it brings the world’s most powerful to the table, to talk. The truth is that the G20 communiqué speaks volumes. It is even at its loudest where it is silent. What does what it not say, say? Its final content is informed by the debates around it, which gave it its voice and final form. It is this often forgotten behind-the- scenes diplomacy that shapes the final work of art.

A brief glance at media reports of the G20 summit in Osaka reveals that it is the side-line conversations which snatch the headlines. There’s a point to this. At the Y20, I soon learned that side-line conversations are just as important as the discussions that take place around the table. If an idea has failed to garner tract at the table, the side-line offers a space, and time, to drive outcomes, to reassure the sceptical and to goad optimism.

This brings me to advocacy which takes place before, during and after these all-important conversations at the conference or breakfast table. In one discussion, I was pushing for something that was misplaced in a sentence – blame the jetlag or nightlong discussions with my co-delegate that had left me less on the ball than I’d have liked to have been. Afterwards, one delegate said to me that this is what advocacy is- ‘you still raised the point and pushed for it.’ This says something about ‘failure’ too. Though the ultimate goalpost may well be insertion in the final communiqué, goalposts can shift and you can still achieve something even when you miss the aimed for target. When a conversation doesn’t reap the results we had envisioned, we deserve a pat on the back for starting it.

Informing all of this is values. These were not just our own but those of UK youth from up and down and across the country whose views we listened to on Skype, at London City Hall and via survey responses. Each conversation I had with a young person was met with the same ‘I never thought of that’. It was these bright ideas that drove us as a delegation and gave us the values we wore so proudly on our sleeves.

Part of the Y20 Communiqué’s advocacy power is its freedom from national interest. That freedom gives the youth delegation its energy, its promise - its youthfulness. Here was a globally representative group of young people that cared about the protection of fundamental labour rights, that cared about the climate crisis and that cared about the eradication of all forms of modern slavery.

The Y20 was intense, at times frustrating and exhausting, but exhilarating, enriching and inspiring. The Y20 is about give and take. It is a place where nothing is black and white, where compromise and working together is essential to achieve ends that we can collectively call our own. The Y20 dispels the myth we are all-too-often fed that young people are a politically apathetic, rebellious or noisy bunch. The Y20 provides just one snapshot that we do care and together we will shape the future we want for our generation and the next. We are a generation that speaks up and for a future which is fair, inclusive, sustainable- a future that leaves no-one behind.


Emily Campbell

Emily is a Masters student at Sciences Po, Paris in Human Rights and Humanitarian Action. She graduated top of her year in Law with European Legal Studies from King’s College London in 2017. During her undergraduate study, Emily acted as Vice-President of the King’s College London Pro Bono Society and, later, as President of the Human Rights Project. She has worked on policy reform of the UK penal system for women, taught Law in schools across London and is a qualified mediator. She has addressed the European Parliament and the UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights on human rights policy reform in the UK and France.

Emily has worked at the International Criminal Court and currently sits on the editorial board of the Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights. She also devotes time to volunteering with the UN to develop policies for victims of sexual violence in Cameroon. Emily is passionate about human rights protection, particularly the rights of women and girls. She considers the Law to be a powerful tool for social change. Outside of work, Emily enjoys photography and poetry. Currently living in Paris, Emily loves travelling and sampling new cuisines and can’t wait to explore Japan.

Emily has been selected as the Head Delegate of the UK Delegation to the Y20 Summit 2019.