Oliver Rieche is a One Young World Ambassador who is passionate about youth leadership and human rights. He is attending the Y20 Summit as Head Delegate for Germnay and is responsible for the final communiqué and the internal communication amongst the delegation.
In the wake of the economic crisis, one dominant view about Generation Y has come to the fore: we are a lost generation. This rhetoric is underscored partially by public opinion, as seen in the well-known “Me Me Me” article by Time Magazine, and through some worrying figures about the position of Millennials in the economy. While under-30s account for 50% of the world’s population, the global youth unemployment rate is an all-time high, with 75 million young people finding themselves without a job.
The OECD suggests that young people are more likely to experience poverty than their parents. It is precisely facts like this that set alarm bells ringing: youth must be included in decision-making. To sustainably address these concerns and the upcoming, complex challenges facing the world, present leaders must listen to the voices and innovative ideas of youth. The Y20 Summit provides a space for this to happen.
From 16 to 21 August 2015, the Y20 is taking place in Istanbul. This is one of the most important global youth summits in the world. Our time in Istanbul will allow us to throw stereotypes and prejudices overboard and instead collaborate across borders. Millennials at the Y20 will bring a youth focus to key issues facing the G20 leaders and formulate sustainable solutions.
This year the negotiations will centre around three main topics: ‘Youth’s contribution to Peace’, ‘Impact of Technology and Innovation on Youth Unemployment’ and ‘Youth and Education in the 21st Century.’ Given this unique opportunity to influence global leadership, intensive preparations involving consultations, substantive policy discussions and lobbying have been our priority for the last three months to ensure that we come up with tangible and inclusive solutions to the global challenges that young people are facing.
Leadership with compassion
A particularly difficult, but unequivocally important discussion, is on a topic which has featured high on the peace agenda of late: that of refugees. The Syrian refugee crisis and G20-LDC (Least Developed Countries) relations have divided opinions. However, despite diverging views on how to help refugees, the Y20 delegates have all agreed on one thing: the world has failed refugees. Instead of embracing those who are fleeing from conflicts and persecution, many people shun asylum seekers with racism, xenophobia and even violence. What is worrying is that this hate speech is finding its way into mainstream media. The anonymity of the internet has allowed hate speech to flourish, as people choose not to look beyond their own backyard.
From a human rights perspective, the global paralysis on the Syrian conflict has created intolerable numbers of refugees and broken lives, while the shadowy menace of ISIS continues to expand towards the doorstep of Europe and the rest of the world. Simultaneously, growing numbers of people are risking their lives every day, crossing the Mediterranean to escape poverty and war in their home countries, with a large number dying in horrific conditions. However, human rights rhetoric falls short in the face of geopolitical and nationalist considerations and a lack of leadership.
The forceful thing about Y20 is that we, the Millennials, will convene to talk about such prickly issues with compassion and human rights at the core of our leadership, rather than the blindfolds of xenophobia and nationalism. Young delegates are already providing options during our preparatory discussions, which revolve around fostering inclusion and tapping into the sheer talent pool and potential of migrants to boost our economies.
The same level of proactivity and entrepreneurial, yet compassionate, leadership has been shown across various themes, such as ending sexual and gender-based violence and the possibility of a declaration on the disarmament of nuclear weapons.
Witnessing this level of commitment is the clearest signal that the above despondency about youth is misplaced. It also shows that today’s youth are willing and determined to bridge the gap between future leaders and current leaders.
In short we have a message: “No excuses”. We have solutions to offer and we want to open up the dialogue for them. Whatever we decide in Istanbul - our commitment doesn’t end there. Head delegates are going to reconvene at the G20 Summit in Antalya in November, in order to present the final communiqué to Mrs Merkel, Mr Widodo and co. and make ourselves heard.
The Y20 Summit offers a chance to minimise the intergenerational gap, as we will, one day soon, take over the leadership. Apart from holding our leaders to account, I hope this summit inspires other young people to get involved in their communities. Do not take the world as it is. You do not need to be a Prime Minister to make a difference. We need to raise our voices and have the courage and integrity to speak up in public about our misgivings in society. Let’s show that Generation Y cares.