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My Journey to the G7 Youth Summit 2020: 1 month to go

It’s been an eventful and busy two months since I first wrote about my role leading the UK delegation to the G7 Youth Summit in June. Lots has changed due to the pandemic and it initially looked like the virus might cancel or put most of normal life on hold. Having passed that initial phase, people are finding remote ways to continue working towards milestones and goals, so lots has continued too! In some ways, the lockdown has given me back more time to work on personal projects outside of work, such as the preparation for this summit. In other ways, things have become busier than ever, as we all try to plough on with our plans despite the pandemic.

Mohamed, Zoe, James and I have been hard at work to continue gathering views remotely and best represent UK youth in our upcoming negotiations, so it’s worth an update. Additionally, on top of this excitement around the Y7 summit, I have also recently been promoted at work and moved into a new job within the UK Civil Service, so I’ve plenty to keep me busy!

The Y7 summit goes virtual

The Y7 summit was due to be held in Washington DC in June, and will now instead be held virtually – just like the official G7 Summit. I’m disappointed to not meet the other delegations in person and not participate in traditional multilateral negotiations, but we’re replacing that interaction with weekly negotiations via Zoom, so I actually get to meet and work with the other countries sooner. I’m viewing it as a really valuable opportunity to influence digitally and learn non-traditional negotiating skills that will likely be helpful for the future. The summit is organised by Young Professionals in Foreign Policy and will still include formal presentations, negotiations and votes on the proposed communique, all in the summit week in June. Find out more about the summit here.

The Y7 statement on Covid-19

Shortly after the Covid-19 lockdown was announced in the UK and the US, the G7 Heads of State issued a joint statement on the pandemic on the 16th March. Noting that it was produced at immense speed and without input from a diverse range of stakeholders, we jumped into action with the other delegations to negotiate and publish a 3-page Y7 statement on Coivd-19 containing 6 main policy requests:

  1. Involve young people in tackling Covid-19
  2. Provide universal healthcare & protect healthcare workers
  3. Protect democracy & human rights
  4. Provide quality education through technology
  5. Mitigate the economic impacts on young & vulnerable people
  6. Fight misinformation & make digital services accessible to all

Read the Y7 Covid-19 statement here

Amidst the urgent decisions taken in the global response to the pandemic, it’s now more important than ever that world leaders listen to young people, since all of us will be impacted by these decisions for years to come. So we’re keen to share the statement as wide as possible and help amplify the specific youth concerns around the pandemic and the subsequent fallout. Helpfully, One Young World wrote this article about Ambassadors working on Covid-19 and included myself and Fatima Zaman, as the two Heads of the Y7 and Y20 delegations respectively.

The Y7 and Y20 survey to consult young people in the UK

A big part of the role as the UK delegates is that we are supposed to represent the views of young people in the UK. We had grand plans for in-person consultation events and focus groups in universities, schools, think tanks and corporates like Deloitte, but we’re now taking a more digital approach. It’s arguably a more inclusive approach as it allows us to reach young people right across Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England outside of London, where all 4 of us delegates work. We’ve launched this survey covering the five tracks of the Y7 summit to gather youth views and find out what are young Britons’ priorities in the following five summit topics:

  • Covid-19
  • Peace and Security
  • Jobs and Education
  • Energy and Environmental Sustainability
  • Global Connectivity and Trade

Link to access the survey: https://t.co/Q5sfgu1kbZ?amp=1

Please do complete the survey! It takes between 10-15 minutes depending on how many (optional) topics you wish to answer. Consulting as many people is our goal and it will make a huge difference to our ability to propose policies to the G7 Heads of State that are in the interests of young people in the UK. Please do share with other networks or groups of young people you know, take your pick from the channels below to share!

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 share our survry above, 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.

The Y7 focus groups

There is an option in the survey to add your email address if you’re interested in taking part in focus groups over Zoom. Our first round of focus groups is taking place every weeknight this week, starting with my focus group of Peace and Security tonight. All our sessions this week are fully booked, but do add your email and we’ll be in touch about future opportunities to participate! I’m leading on Peace and Security negotiations for the UK, and some of the topics we’ll be covering tonight include cyber-security, state surveillance, mis/disinformation and fake news, as well as climate security, climate disasters, food security, resource depletion, the disproportionate impact of conflict on women and children, and much more to be confirmed based on the results of the survey. I’ll also host Friday’s focus group specifically on Covid-19.

My pre-summit track negotiations on Peace and Security

In addition to all of that, I’m in weekly negotiations with my fellow Y7 delegates on the issues above, refining the scope of our proposal, developing potential policy solutions, presenting data and views from our survey, and learning about the different countries’ priorities. Meeting at times that work across all time zones (stretching from Japan to the US!) and alongside everyone’s busy schedules has been demanding but proves that virtual negotiations are indeed possible. As we approach the summit, we’ll be drafting and negotiating text to go into the overall Y7 summit communique that will be presented to G7 Heads of State, to influence them as they begin their own summit.

My opinion is that, in the current context, we can’t ignore the pandemic and need to frame our priority issues and proposals within the crisis response that is dominating the minds of the G7 leaders. There’s definitely a debate over whether to press for action on the ongoing crises in the world that haven’t disappeared with the pandemic (eg. the climate emergency, conflict in the Middle East), or whether we should focus our attention on fighting coronavirus and mitigating the negative impact of the fallout on social, economic, political and community dimensions of life. What do you think?

I’m shortlisted for the Rising Star award – please vote for me!

On a related note, I’m so so thrilled to have been nominated and shortlisted in the We Are The City Rising Star award, which recognises successful women in the UK with potential the make an impact across all sectors. It feels amazing to be shortlisted among such a fantastic calibre of other nominees, and I’d really appreciate if you could please vote for me!

It takes just 30 seconds to vote and voting is open until this Friday 1st May: https://risingstars.wearethecity.com/virginia-stuart-taylor-uk-civil-service/

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So it’s been a busy few weeks for me! On a personal note, I’m grateful to have a project like the G7 Youth Summit to focus on during lockdown as I know that purposeless and a lack of momentum or motivation is a big problem for many people at the moment. I genuinely do believe that keeping busy and focusing on projects and goals, no matter how big or small, is key to getting through this lockdown with our sanity intact. Whatever strategy you’re taking to survive this lockdown, I hope you’re doing ok!

And if you’re a young person in the UK, we’d love to involve you in the Y7 too, so please do jump in and have your say through our survey!

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