In September 2022, youth from all of the G20’s member states gathered in Jakarta and Bandung to take part in the Youth 20 (Y20) Summit, a forum where young people debate and discuss the G20 Leaders’ agenda. With the G20 Leaders Summit having just passed, we here at AIYA want to bring a youth perspective to this event. To do this, we interviewed two of Australia’s four delegates to the Y20 Summit, Isabella Notarpietro and Amber Anderson, about their experiences in Indonesia and the foreign policy outcomes they achieved. 

Neighbours Indeed

Even before jetting off to Jakarta for the Summit, both Isabella and Amber had prior experiences with Indonesia and exposure to its culture. Amber had previously done a Bahasa Indonesia course near Semarang and planned to return to Indonesia to study under a New Colombo Plan Scholarship. Although this did not end up happening due to the pandemic, Amber was “very excited to return to Indonesia and use [her] very basic Bahasa skills” through the Y20 Summit.

Isabella had also learnt Indonesian at primary school, and her perceptions of the country were shaped by her studies and also her travels to Bali, a common source of exposure to Indonesia for many young Australians. Through these experiences, Isabella thought that Indonesia was “an interesting place with great cuisine and a key trading partner of Australia” but “didn’t know too much about the culture.” 

Visiting Indonesia for the Y20 Summit, however, challenged some of Isabella’s preconceptions of the country. “Prior to going, I understood that Indonesia was the largest Muslim country…but as soon as we arrived, it became very clear that it is a Muslim country but there is also a very large amount of ethnic, cultural, religious diversity of the culture.” She was surprised at how proud Indonesia was of its diversity and how this permeated through the country’s approaches to government relations and even its foreign policy.  

Making Connections

There were many highlights of the Summit for Amber and Isabella. Both were impressed by the spaces delegates were able to access and the impressive history behind them. For example, Amber said that “a big highlight was having one of our sessions held in the Indonesian Parliament buildings in Jakarta.” She felt honoured that she was able to deliberate policy issues as part of the Summit in that building, an experience she acknowledged was not accessible to every young person. Similarly, Isabella said that her highlight was signing the Communique in the Asia-Africa Building in Bandung, where the ten-point Declaration on Promotion of World Peace and Cooperation was signed as part of the 1955 Asian-African Conference. The Y20 Communique was the first document signed in this building since 1965, demonstrating the value given to youth that permeated the Y20 experience. 

Both delegates mentioned, however, that above all, the highlight of the Summit was connecting with fellow delegates from other countries, particularly the Indonesian delegates. 

“I became close friends with the Indonesian Y20 delegate in my track,” said Amber. “She was incredibly impressive and inspiring, and in my view, made some of the best contributions to our work. I definitely looked up to her, as one of the older delegates with very impressive professional experience.”

Isabella was impressed with the Indonesian delegates’ commitment towards global equality and advocacy on behalf of developing countries. “The delegate in my track, she was a really strong advocate for open source technologies, she works in disaster risk reduction and had a lot of practical experience,” said Isabella. “The Indonesian delegates were really effective at focusing on the need to empower communities and empower countries to address challenges through their own locally-specific and culturally-appropriate means.” Through her interactions with the Indonesian delegates, Isabella came to understand the unequal impacts of global challenges such as climate change on emerging economies, and how important it is that these inequalities are addressed through multilateral forums like the Y20 and G20, accompanied by technology transfer and knowledge exchange. 

Creating the Communique 

For over one week the Y20 delegates and observers met in both Jakarta and Bandung to draft and publish a Communique that addressed the future of youth “with respect to prevailing environmental, sustainability, peace, security, inclusion and equity questions”. An impressive thirteen-page document with clear policy recommendations for the G20 organized around the four priority areas: Sustainable and Livable Planet, Youth Employment, Digital Transformation, and Diversity and Inclusion was the outcome. It was published with an accompanying annex elaborating on the priority area of “Sustainable and Livable Planet”. 

We spoke to Isabella and Amber about creating such a document with so many other global delegates in such a short timespan. “The Y20 delegates were aligned with ‘tracks’ or priority areas, and primarily worked to develop that section of the communique”, said Amber, with delegates drafting their chapter of the communique prior to the actual Summit. Delegates worked together to develop proposals in sub-areas of each track. Amber, for example, was part of the Youth Employment track, and worked on proposals within Skills Development, School to Work Transition and Social Entrepreneurship areas. Isabella commented that this was a very systematic approach to crafting policy proposals, with strong agenda setting and leadership from the Indonesian Delegation.

At the Summit, delegates had opportunities to challenge aspects of each draft proposal, and propose amendments. “Every line of the communique was debated and discussed”, said Amber. Reaching consensus was a significant challenge in itself, noted Isabella, with a lot of time spent on the preamble, particularly regarding the geo-political challenges. Ultimately this meant the signing of the final document was a highlight. “There was power for us in agreeing to a final communique”, Isabella remarked.

Looking Forward 

Both Australian delegates had strong hopes for the G20 Summit mid-November. The Y20 delegates put together a Y20 Statement to present to G20 leaders. “This statement was co-signed by other youth organisations to amplify our message of what matters to the youth”, said Amber. Y20 delegates were especially looking for policy agendas that addressed environmental action and digital transformation, “as these were the areas most likely to be taken up by G20 leaders”, she continued. 

Isabella hopes there would be consensus in delivering a Leader’s Declaration that “crafted global solutions and set a global policy agenda”. “Not delivering on a Communique would indicate that global cooperation isn’t strong”. A key point was that Y20 delegates hoped to see commitments translated into actions. Indeed, the G20 Bali Leaders Declaration was released on 16th November, and can be found in its entirety here

Isabella and Amber commented on the tangible outcomes spectators and youth should expect. Isabella hoped to see “translating COP26 commitments into action” through partnerships, just energy transitions, addressing systems and social inequalities, and reskilling- not just as a technological challenge but also as a social challenge. “We need to see strong policies and consensus-building on phasing out unabated coal, we need to see momentum on this continue considering the Ukraine-led energy crisis”. 

Amber also prioritised action on environment and climate change, in line with the priority area ‘Sustainable and Livable Planet’. “One key outcome to look for would be to include the recent UN Resolution recognising the right to a clean, sustainable environment to become embedded in national constitutions, and operationalised in global law and frameworks”. This will drive action on climate change and sustainability. 

A Call to Youth 

The Youth 20 Summit highlighted the important role that the world’s young people can play in international affairs. “Young people are going to inherit the state of the world from current leaders, so we need to be involved in decision-making processes,” said Amber. Isabella urgently noted that young people don’t appreciate how international relations impact their own lives on a daily basis. Domestic policies are looked at as something local, but there are a lot of global processes that are impacting that process. 

“Looking at our own impact, a lot of challenges we face are shared by global youth, and the solutions also need to be global and taking into consideration how we can work with global youth and their skills to solve these global challenges” Isabella declared. Amber noted that “youth have the passion and skills to contribute. Current leaders need to do more to make space at the table for youth to have our voices heard in national and multilateral forums”. 
So we need to play an active role in giving input into policies, and our voices need to be heard. “Young people are often referred to as ‘future leaders’, but in reality, we can be leaders in the present”. There are a number of organisations Australian youth interested in influencing domestic and international affairs can join. These include Young Australians in International Affairs, the Australian Institute of International Affairs, State Youth Councils, Raise Our Voice, Young Diplomats Society, Oaktree and of course the Australia-Indonesia Youth Partnership among other youth-led bilaterally focused organisations. We at AIYA highly encourage young people to look out and apply for these opportunities regardless of experience level. The Y20 has been a successful exercise and demonstration in youth leadership, and we thank Isabella and Amber for sharing their experiences and insights.

Written by Hirzi Putra Laksana and Kate Langley.