In July 2019, three MG20 alumni attended the United Nations’ High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) as official guests of the Japan Y20 delegation and observers with the UN Major Group for Children and Youth. This opportunity arose from connections they made while participating in the 2018 and 2019 Model G20 Task Forces.
Andres Valenzuela, Kiara Ortiz, and Jennifer (Jenn) Zhang are MG20 alumni who first met at the Boston Model G20 Summit in February 2018. In August of the same year, they traveled to Argentina as part of the inaugural Model G20 Task Force, where they collaborated to write a position paper on behalf of the world’s teenagers, that was then submitted to the G20, the Youth 20 (the primary youth engagement group of the G20, also known as the Y20), and various other international organizations, earning a commendation from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In February 2019, Kiara and Jenn traveled to China to serve as Lead Ambassadors for the Beijing Model G20 Summit. In May 2019, Jenn attended the second Model G20 Task Force, held in Tokyo, Japan, where she collaborated again to write a position paper on behalf of the world’s teenagers. Additionally, she delivered a presentation on policy recommendations at the opening ceremony of the Y20.
Andres, Kiara, and Jenn have been close friends since their Task Force in Argentina. While this trip was initially planned as a week-long summer reunion in New York City, it escalated into another foray into international relations when they discovered that the HLPF was being held just a subway ride away from their lodgings.
Held over the course of two weeks at the UN Headquarters and various nearby embassies, the HLPF is an annual forum for ambassadors, leaders of non-governmental organizations, young activists, and other global stakeholders to review progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (commonly abbreviated to SDGs) and discuss improvements. The Sustainable Development Goals are a set of 17 ambitious global goals set by the UN General Assembly in 2015 for completion by 2030. Andres, Kiara, and Jenn attended numerous events throughout the conference and were invited into the UN Headquarters for two days to collaborate with the UN Major Group for Children and Youth (MGCY) on policy papers pertaining to quality education (SDG 4), good jobs and economic growth (SDG 8), reduced inequalities (SDG10), climate action (SDG 13), and peace and justice (SDG16). Andres, Kiara, and Jenn gave input as past teenage youth representatives at the Y20 and pushed for the inclusion of policy recommendations from their Task Force position papers.
Andres’s favorite event was the presentation of the Japanese Agenda at the UN. At this event, representatives from Japan presented how they would achieve the SDGs and their plans for future cooperation. A high princess from Saudi Arabia also spoke and presented the goals of the G20 to be held in Saudi Arabia in 2020 as well as their relation to previous summits. Andres also found a presentation on sustainability in the European Union particularly interesting. Here, the report’s authors explained their positions on topics ranging from trade agreements to spillover effects to chemical wastes. They then presented possible solutions to these issues. Overall, Andres found that all the speakers really highlighted many positive aspects of sustainability in the EU and many ways in which we can continue to improve.
Kiara found the HLPF’s motivation — particularly among the hundreds of youth representatives present — to achieve the SDGs inspiring, but she believed the most eye-opening event was the Ground Level People’s Forum (GLPF). This forum truly engaged with civil society and was held not at the UN, but the People’s Forum on the Lower West Side of New York. The forum’s atmosphere of cultural engagement and emphasis on including minorities and indigenous peoples put global struggles into a new perspective. While the HLPF focused on achieving the SDGs on a broader scale, the GLPF was concerned with regional economic disparities. Kiara joined the working group on education and presented on the importance of increasing the quality of education through a more balanced distribution of wealth within countries.
Jenn’s favorite event was a panel on civic spaces for climate justice and equality. The speakers consisted of civil society leaders on the front lines of implementing the SDGs around the world, who gave riveting presentations on the principles of climate justice and youth climate activism, the importance of including NGOs and civil organizations in government decision-making, and even the role of social media in electoral politics from India to the United States.
Andres, Kiara, and Jenn were introduced to the HLPF and able to participate thanks to the efforts of Vannary Kong, the 2019 United States Y20 delegate. Jenn and Vannary met during Jenn’s second MG20 Task Force in Japan. Through Vannary’s introductions and connections they made at the United Nations, the three MG20 alumni have also been able to join Young Professionals in Foreign Policy, CIVICUS, the UN MGCY, and various other organizations working in international relations. The MGCY is particularly remarkable because of its emphasis on youth engagement; all of its members are under the age of 30, the youngest being 15. Andres, Kiara, and Jenn plan to remain involved in the MGCY over the next several years and are thankful to Knovva Academy for helping guide them into the field of policy-making and international relations.