By Tegan Keizer
In June 2017, I attended the Youth 20 Dialogue (Y20) in Berlin, Germany thanks to a scholarship from the University of Newcastle and Global Voices. The Y20 is the official youth forum of the G20 summit, bringing together young people from around the G20 to discuss and debate the G20 Leaders’ agenda. As part of the Global Voices program, I also attended a pre-departure briefing in Canberra and drafted a policy paper on a G20 agenda topic.
The pre-departure briefing
In May 2017, I attended a three-day pre-departure briefing in Canberra, organised by Global Voices. There, I met the other Australian delegate for the Y20 and other young people attending conference delegations organised by Global Voices.
Over the course of the three days, we attended meetings at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and the Embassy of the United States. This was a unique opportunity to meet with foreign affairs and policy officials and hear their thoughts on current and future issues impacting Australia and its international relations. We also toured Parliament House and met with Deputy Leader of the Opposition Tanya Plibersek, Senator Penny Wong and Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs.
The conference itself brought together approximately 70 young people, representing G20 member states, as well as a range of international organisations and nations invited by Germany to participate. We split into working groups to discuss and reach a position from the Y20 on the G20 agenda topics. After this, we came together as a group to create a final Y20 Communiqué across the agenda topics. Whilst this involved lots of negotiating, it was also great to see how easily youth across the world reached a consensus on issues that continue to be divisive, such as climate action. The Y20 then presented the Y20 Communiqué to Katarina Barley, the German Federal Minister of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth and Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany at the German Chancellery.
It wasn’t all work though. We managed to find the time for a tour of Berlin, including a boat ride down the River Spree, a trip to theatre and a few visits to local beer gardens. The Australian Embassy in Berlin also hosted the other Australian delegate and myself for an afternoon of Tim Tams.
The application process
The process all started with an online application form. Applications are currently open for University of Newcastle students to attend the UN Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties in Bonn, Germany in November 2017. For this application, students will have to provide a personal statement and a research proposal for a position paper. After the application, applicants are shortlisted for a phone interview with Global Voices. Final applicants are interviewed by the university before a final delegate is chosen.
For those interested in applying, I would recommend:
- In your application, be honest about your passions, background and experiences and link those to the conference. You never know what may speak to person reading your application.
- Use your academic strengths when formulating your research proposal and position paper. I come from a legal background, so I based my research on possible legal reforms.
- Keep it simple. You could quite easily write a book on each of the provided research areas. Stick to something you can easily fit into a 2,000 word paper whilst giving the topic the depth it warrants. I chose one law reform to analyse in depth, though there were dozens potential ones, and my paper was stronger for it.
- If you get to the interview stage, don’t stress! Both Global Voices and the University of Newcastle staff involved are all real people who just want to know more about you and your research.
What I learned
The position paper was a great opportunity to gain experience in writing for a practical, rather than academic purpose. Rather than an academic paper, which spends a lot of time presenting arguments and evidence before arriving at a conclusion, a position paper needs the conclusion to come first and must be written in succinctly and clearly. This is a great skill to bring to the workplace, where the focus is on getting your message across quickly and effectively rather than showing your nuanced understanding of the topic and academic skills.
The conference gave me a new respect for diplomats and skills in negotiating. Attempting to reach a consensus across cultures and languages is difficult. Ideas which are widely accepted across Australia proved to be controversial to others and vise versa. Learning how to work productively with people from different cultures is something increasingly important in our interconnected world.
The greatest thing about any overseas experience is the friendships and connections you create. Not only does knowing people across the world come in handy when it comes to your next trip, it allows you to broaden your way of thinking and opens your mind to new ideas.
The university offers such a great range of international leadership activities. I strongly encourage everyone to get involved in as many of these as possible. They each represent a unique opportunity to develop your skills and learn a little bit more about the world we live in.