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Exciting news: I’ll be representing the UK at the G7 Youth Summit 2020 in Washington DC!

I have some very exciting news to share! I recently found out that I’ve been selected by the Future Leaders Network to be Head of the UK’s Delegation at the G7 Youth Summit in Washington DC in June!

What is the G7 Youth Summit?

The 5-day annual summit mirrors the official G7 Heads of State summit and its purpose is to make the views of young people, our next generation of leaders, heard by those in the highest positions of power. The G7 is comprised of the seven largest advanced economies in the world: the UK, France, Germany, Italy, the US, Canada and Japan (plus the EU also attends), with the ‘G’ standing for ‘Group of 7 countries’.

The G20 is similar, with 20 countries attending. The G7 Youth Summit convenes delegations from all 7 countries (plus the EU) to negotiate a set of proposals, called a ‘communique’, on the issues that matter most to young people, which is then presented to the G7 Heads of State themselves, with the aim of influencing their decision-making at the main G7 Summit.

Why is it in Washington DC?

Each country takes it in turns to host the annual summit, with the French choosing to host theirs last year in Paris (the main G7 summit was in Biarritz). This year it’s the turn of the US. There was a suggestion last autumn that Trump wanted to host the main summit at one of his own hotels in Florida, but that was rightly seen to be a conflict of interest, so instead it’ll be held at Camp David, outside of Washington DC. The G7 Youth Summit takes place in Washington DC itself, at the United States Institute of Peace Headquarters, from the 1st-5th June 2020.

I’ve been to the US quite a bit, but never to Washington DC, so I’m excited to experience it first-hand and see US politics up close. What’s more, 2020 is an election year in the US so it’ll be an interesting one to watch!

Excitingly, the 2021 summit will be hosted in the UK, so we’ll be taking the baton from the US delegation and will be involved in the preparations for hosting a summit of our own next year. Which is another reason why it’s so important to engage with young people around the UK this year, so they can really get involved in next year’s summit held in their own home country, and really make the most of the opportunities arising from it.

What does the Head of the UK delegation role entail?

I’ll be leading a team of just three delegates, together representing the UK in multilateral negotiations with the other G7 countries. We will each be responsible for a specific policy track and for negotiating different sections of the communique. The four tracks are Education and Jobs; Global Connectivity and Trade; Energy; Peace and Security. When it gets down to crunch time, then I, as Head of the delegation, will go into so-called ‘lock down’ with the other Heads to resolve the trickiest sticking points.

The three brilliant people within my delegation are:

  • Mohamed Abdelrhman: an Economist turned management consultant, whose passions lie in poverty alleviation, and reducing inequality in the developing world.
  • Zoe Martin: a degree apprentice Economist in the Civil Service, currently based in the Ministry of Justice. Previously a full-time football academy member, her resilience to overcome an injury led her to her leadership path, where Zoe’s passion is ensuring that no young voice is ever overlooked, and is willing to go above and beyond to make sure this happens.
  • James Forsey: a Civil Engineer turned consultant, who is passionate about tacking the climate emergency through productive means, especially through leveraging the principles of the circular economy across major polluting industries.

We held a basecamp last weekend to all meet for the first time and kick off our planning for the summit, along with the three equally inspiring delegates for the G20 summit happening in Saudi Arabia in October 2020: Fatima Zaman, Toni Fola-Alade and Lola Olaore. Alongside the creativity and passion in the room, I realised how fortunate I am to be surrounded by such dedicated, self-starting, young leaders who have already made waves in so many fields: from tackling extreme violence in conflict, to empowering young black women in the UK, from implementing the circular economy and sustainability into infrastructure engineering, to poverty alleviation in Africa through economics.

What is involved outside of the summit itself?

This isn’t just about our role in the negotiations at the summit itself, however. We’ve our work cut out over the next three months to consult and understand the views of young people right across the UK, in order for us to represent them and take their priorities and messages with us to Washington DC. We’ll be doing face-to-face and online consultations, pairing the statistics expertise in the delegation for quantitative surveys with qualitative methodologies for more personal interviews and focus groups. Who knew I’d have use for all those qualitative interview skills I learned through researching my thesis last year?! The primary research phase of my thesis (ie. speaking to real human beings) was by far my favourite part of the whole thesis process, so I’m really looking forward to this opportunity to do more of it, in order to understand the views of young people in the UK.

On that note, if you have access to a group or network of young people that you think would like to get involved in our consultations, please do comment below, message me on social media or email us at youth7UK@gmail.com! We’d love to include your opinions and policy ideas in our consultation. It can be a university society, a class, a sports club, an employee network, or an actual youth leadership network like One Young World – please do let us know!

Please do also follow us on Instagram (@youth7uk) and Twitter (@youth7uk) to see how the preparations and the summit go.

After the summit we’ll also share our experiences and the final communique, to help build a support base for the policy proposals we negotiate – so there’s plenty to look out for.

How did I get the role?

I first heard of the Future Leaders Network through a One Young World newsletter back in 2016, and saw this particular opportunity publicised in January this year. I completed the online application and was invited to a 40-minute interview, given by two alumni of previous G7 and G20 summits, so I was able to quiz them about their experiences and impressions. To my delight I was successful, and they even invited me to be Head of the G7 delegation! Their feedback highlighted that the strongest elements of my application were my understanding of the Summits and what successful Pre- and Post-Summit periods looked like (which I attribute to my current role working on UK-EU negotiations, and from previous One Young World summits); my breadth of experience across private, public and third sectors; and my perseverance in pursuing a career within the civil service (something I spoke about last week to Exeter students in fact – see more here and photos below).

I’m particularly excited to channel the negotiations expertise that surrounds me in my work context to help upskill the G7 and G20 delegates ahead of the summits. The main challenge for me will be to adapt from the bilateral negotiations I currently work on, to a multilateral format with 7 other delegations. I’ve some prior experience of attending official EU Council Working Groups with 28 different countries represented (complete with interpreting booths). I’ve also built up good intercultural awareness and communication skills through my language skills and various stints living abroad, including my fantastically international Master’s course, which had 13 nationalities represented by just 24 people in my class.

On a personal note, my career change back in 2016 (leaving the safety net of the private sector, moving abroad to study for a Masters, subsequently joining the Civil Service Fast Stream) was entirely geared around moving into the diplomatic sphere. Over the last 4 years I’ve worked really hard to gain the necessary knowledge, skills and experiences to make that dream a reality. Opportunities like this, to represent my country while learning first-hand about multilateral diplomacy, make all that hard work feel worthwhile and really encourage me to keep stepping forward in this direction!

And on a travel note…

I’m also excited to visit Washington DC for the first time, and I welcome any tips on how to best experience the city. I’ll have a couple of extra days there, so would love to meet up with any friends and contacts based there.

I’m equally keen to hear from anyone with tips or advice on approaching a summit and negotiations like this – please do get in touch!

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4 Comments »

  1. That’s a great thing to do Virginia not to mention a wonderful opportunity. Good to see the UK delegation has a wide area of concern and I’m delighted it includes a fellow civil engineer. Incidentally, the Institution of Civil Engineers in London hosted the Global Engineering Congress ( Oct. 2018) in collaboration with other organisations, including UNESCO, to debate and plan future cities, sustainability and poverty reduction – serious issues and a good grounding for the Youth Summit. Good luck and enjoy !

    Like

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