RIYADH (RAHNUMA): The Y20 Summit kicked off on Thursday with speakers highlighting the increasingly prominent role youth can play, particularly in a world reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.
The first day of the summit delivered key messages on the political and social inclusion of marginalized youth, who account for more than half of the world’s population.
Ahead of the G20 Leaders’ Summit, Y20 during its three days will focus on the topics of Youth Empowerment, Future Fit and Global Citizenship.
With just 10 years to go until the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 deadline, it seeks to find fresh impetus and ideas through the world’s youth.
Othman Almoamar, Y20 chair, highlighted the challenges that the coronavirus crisis had presented to the organization of the summit, transforming it from a live event to a virtual one.
“What a year,” he said. “2020 has shifted everything and for us at Y20 that has been the case. We started our plans in 2019 … and we didn’t expect that we would do all this virtually. We had a plan to have everyone (here) but COVID-19 meant we couldn’t do that. I’m sure we all want a refund, 2020.”
Dr. Fahad Almubarak, Saudi G20 sherpa, called youth “the hope for the future,” and said that youth empowerment was always one of the main topics on the agenda for the G20 summit.
This was followed by a brief comment from Antonio Guterres, secretary-general of the UN, from his headquarters in New York.
In the first panel discussion, titled “The Importance of Empowering Youth: The Next 10 Years,” Dr. Badr Al-Badr, CEO of Misk Foundation, and Hussain N. Hanbazazah, director of Ithra, explained the roles that their two organizations played in creating the edition of Y20.
The second panel discussed the topic of “post-COVID-19 opportunities” and why genuine collaboration and integrated solutions were required to provide opportunities for youth to be fully engaged and empowered, particularly as the pandemic has affected the education of 1.6 billion students globally.
“Our youth have been really helpful in helping us to manage the crisis,” said Alvin Tan, Singaporean Minister of State for the Ministry of Community, Culture and Youth and Ministry of Trade and Industry.
“In the early days we faced a lot of challenges with the crisis because it was unknown, but in the last couple of days we’ve had very low digits, single or even zero two days ago, and we had low fatality rates of 0.05 percent,” he said.
“The youth are playing a really important part in securing lives. In having conversations with them, they’re helping us, wearing masks, ensuring social distancing and helping to get the message out.”
In a one-on-one discussion with moderator Edie Lush under the slogan of “Youth Empowerment — How to Empower Yourself as a First Step,” author Jay Shetty addressed young people about how to follow their dreams by focusing on their own strengths and by not feeling that they were constantly in competition with others.
He said the way to do that was by identifying their passions and showing resilience against any obstacles in pursuing them.
The next point of discussion, “The State of Youth Leadership: Addressing Mismatches,” highlighted that in a recent Y20 CCL survey, 65 percent of respondents thought their country would benefit from more youth leadership.
John R. Ryan, president and CEO of the Center for Creative Leadership, US, and Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN’s secretary-general’s envoy on youth, explored the incentives and disincentives for youth to engage in political discourse.
“I would say in certain cases, the incentive really is having no choice, and being pushed as young people to take these positions and do something about our world,” Wickramanayake said.
She added: “Disincentives? A common concern I hear is that most often the existing systems do not really represent young people’s needs, their rights and their pressing concerns. What disincentivizes young people are the systems of exclusion, systems that make the rich ultra-rich and the poor ultra-poor. Systems that perpetrate colonialism and discriminate based on your skin color, that perpetrate sexism, patriarchy and make young women feel like they are secondary citizens.”
Next on the agenda, a panel titled “Getting Beyond Words: Succeeding With Youth Empowerment” called for accepting different and fresh ideas from the younger generation.
To succeed, the panel discussed the need to clear pathways for youth to prepare themselves and be ready to take on the responsibility of inclusivity across nationality, gender and social backgrounds.
Speakers spelled out how skill and capabilities were not enough to empower youth but must be complemented with access and inclusivity.
Equal representation for women was at the front of the agenda.
Salma Al-Rashid, Saudi W20 sherpa, said: “One of the things that the Women 20 (W20) focuses on are policies needed to empower women and girls. We need to ensure that at every point of the decision-making process there is representation by women.”
In the last group panel of the day — “Building Bridges and Breaking Barriers: Youth and the G20”— Saudi C20 chair, Princess Nouf bint Mohammed Al-Saud, and Dr. Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Saudi W20 chair, set out a list of recommendations that will be presented to the G20 summit on youth empowerment and gender equality.
“Within most G20 countries, young people are fighting to ‘break the glass ceiling,’ ‘walk through the door,’ all those expressions we use,” Princess Nouf said.
“But within G20, I think our biggest role is to fight for those that don’t even have a door to walk through. There’s no roof, there’s no door, there’s no building.”
The first day of Y20 wrapped up with another one-on-one discussion between moderator Sebastian Muermann, Y20 head delegate, Canada, and speaker Jose Manuel Barroso, chairman of Goldman Sachs International, former president of the European Commission (2004-2014) and former prime minister of Portugal (2002-2004), focusing on the topic of “Empowered Youth — Tomorrow’s Leaders.”
The second part of the Y20 Summit will be under the theme of “Future Fit,” with a focus on workforce inequality, the growing city-rural gap, and the likely semi-permanent impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, among other issues.