Archis Akolkar, University of New South Wales
I had the opportunity to represent Australian youth at the Y20 Summit this year in Tokyo, Japan, as one of two Australian delegates. Rose-Anna has already explained the purpose and process of the Y20, as well as our main topics of discussion. I would like to speak about my experiences as the key Australian negotiator in two of the three priority areas; the ‘Future of Work’ and ‘International Trade’ negotiating streams.
Logistically each negotiation was broken into four stages: ‘Pre-Summit’ where each country submitted a policy recommendation per topic, reviewed others’ submissions and voted informally on our Summit priorities to create a shortlist; ‘Summit Session 1’ where all Y20 speakers negotiated to finalise three overall policy areas for each negotiation stream, based on the importance of global issues and effectiveness of the available solutions; ‘Summit Session 2’ where working groups fleshed out content and wording of all three policy areas; and ‘Summit Session 3’ where we worked together to finalise wording and content of the three policy areas and completed our Youth Communiqué for delivery to G20 leaders. Representing Australia, the policy ideas I was negotiating for centred around increased Wage Transparency for the ‘Future of Work’ negotiation stream and Integrated Reporting for ‘International Trade’, both hoping to drive fair, merit-based and sustainable action based on greater access to information.
This experience was simply phenomenal. As a speaker for two out of the three topic areas, I was heavily involved in discussion over the entire summit. ‘Summit Session 1’ threw me into the deep-end of conflicting interests, differing negotiation styles and personality types, situated within an intense, fast-paced discussion mediated by the committee. Here the logistics of twenty different people fighting hard to individually explain, influence and communicate in an extremely tight timeframe blew me away. From an Australian perspective, I was able to articulate the need for our policy recommendation on Integrated Reporting- taking a holistic, systems approach, rather than a siloed approach, to financial reporting- which was eventually incorporated into the final Y20 Communiqué.
‘Summit Session 3’ was an unforgettable experience in conflicting interests, lowest common denominator actions and human irrationality. Working towards consensus between twenty passionate people of different language, expertise, national interests and life experience backgrounds, was a very long, frustrating, and ultimately rewarding process. Overall the negotiation section of the Y20 summit was a life changing experience, exposing me to the reality of international negotiations, a host of passionate international delegates and Australia’s position as a middle power in the G20. On a personal level, this experience allowed me to identify my strengths in conflict resolution, empathy and persuasive logic that saw me personally requested to join other stagnant groups as a meditator and problem solver.
After negotiations, it was a huge honour to present our Final Y20 Communique to the Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe at Japan’s Parliament House and later to the First Lady of Japan Akie Abe at the Prime Minister’s residence. These experiences provided rare insight into our leaders’ behaviour in and out of the media’s spotlight, with the Prime Minister commenting on how great he found the ‘realistic, pragmatic and implementable’ Y20 policies while appreciating the youth’s ability to work without clouding national interests.
Our Summit experience concluded with a gracious invitation to attend the Australian Embassy in Japan. Here we had the opportunity to meet great Australians such as our former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Ambassador to Japan Richard Court AC, Deputy Head of Mission Greg Ralph and many distinguished dignitaries. This experience was simply breathtaking as we learned more about Australia’s important relationship with Japan, the life of international diplomats and about how international opportunities, challenges and unexpected events are navigated.
Overall this opportunity has been one of the best experiences in my life, filled with both personal and professional development, and one that I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone with interests in international policy and diplomacy. The opportunity to tackle real world issues with such an amazing group of passionate delegates and to be heard by G20 leaders has moved me beyond words. It has left me with an incredibly positive view of future possibilities, a network of global change makers and a renewed drive to continue pushing for a better tomorrow.
Many Thanks again to Global Voices and UNSW Co-op for making the opportunity possible.