Voices of American Youth at the G20

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Youth and government officials from the G20, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel (center), at the Y20 Dialogue.

Voices of American Youth at the G20

As U.S. Youth Observers to the United Nations, we’ve traveled the country to learn about the issues young Americans are most passionate about. We’ve represented their voices at the United Nations and high-level events around the world. Recently, we flew to Berlin, Germany, to take part in the Y-20 Dialogue. The Y-20 happens in the lead up to the G20 (or Group of Twenty), where heads of state of 20 major economies come together to discuss issues concerning global economic growth, international trade, and financial market regulation. Over the course of 8 days, young people from all 20 countries gathered to discuss G20 topics and create a position paper that we presented to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

What is the role of youth in tackling the challenges faced by the world today? Globally, there are about 1.8 billion young people under the age of 24. We represent the largest youth generation ever! Moreover, millennials are the largest generation here in the United States. Our generation is particularly unique because we grew up in the digital age: the age in which information is at our fingertips. An era in which we make friends across the world without even leaving our homes. An era in which we use augmented reality to tell stories. Growing up in the digital age means that our future jobs might not even exist today. The global economy is changing rapidly, and in order for us to not just survive, but thrive in the new economy, we need to be a part of the decision-making processes that will directly affect our futures.

Youth and government officials from G20 nations, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel (center), at the Y20 Dialogue.

During our time in Berlin, there was a palpable sense of urgency as young people came together to discuss topics that directly impact trade, financial markets, and the global economy of the future. We gathered in groups to discuss ways to empower women, address climate issues, increase employment in the age of automation, tackle corruption in large institutions, and much more. The energy heightened as diverse perspectives were brought to the table and negotiations for solutions were underway. Innovative recommendations to the 11 topics discussed by small groups were later debated in sessions convening the entire group. These plenary sessions gave us another glimpse into the world of diplomacy, where people representing different countries can find common ground to make decisions that positively impact the world as a whole.

While Y-20 participants came from different countries, backgrounds, and fields, we were all ultimately driven by our desire to make the world a more just, peaceful, and prosperous place for everyone. That common drive allowed us to see past our differences and enabled us to collectively write a position paper that we were proud to present to Chancellor Merkel and the German Minister of Youth and Family Affairs, Katarina Barley. Ultimately, our trip to Berlin reinforced the fact that all countries will need to work together to solve the world’s most pressing challenges, and most importantly, involve young people every step of the way.

About the Authors: Nicol Perez and Jackson Dougan served as U.S. Youth Observers to the United Nations, a partnership between the Department’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs and UNA-USA.

Editor's Note: This entry is also published on Medium.com/StateDept.

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Nicol Perez
Jackson Dougan