The J7 Summit: Youth Participation or Youth Isolation?
This post represents the fourth in a series from the ongoing G7 summit being covered on the ground by the Global Leadership Initiative's team. Please check in regularly to keep up to date with the latest news and analysis from the summit.
Media Centre – G7 Summit. Three weeks prior to the G7 summit in Germany a youth summit entitled the Junior Seven (J7) was held on May 6-14, 2015 in Berlin. The aim of the summit was to bring together forty-two young people to discuss the issues that the G7 leaders would later deliberate. Funded by the German host government, the aim of the summit was to be part of Angela Merkel’s embrace of civil society in the lead up to the G7 summit at Schloss Elmau.
The intentions of the J7 were to ask young people to address the serious global issues that affect them, and then report their findings to Merkel and representatives of the other G7 governments. However whilst this dialogue intended to enhance youth participation, it suffered from a number of failures that have left those involved isolated from the summit process.
Whilst those involved in J7 were given the opportunity to present their conclusions to Angela Merkel, the representatives of the other G7 governments were not present. Being held a month earlier than the actual summit, and in Berlin, has meant that the J7 perspectives have been left isolated from the spotlight. Media coverage outside of the German Federal Government’s webpages has been basically non-existent. Moreover, in terms of actual presence in Schloss Elmau, the voice of younger people was either limited to those few young people protesting or from the only NGO youth-based organized event, conducted by One, Bono’s anti-poverty initiative.
If the G7 governments were genuinely interested in youth engagement with politics and the summit, then the J7 should have been held alongside the G7 and based in a location closer to Schloss Elmau, which would have allowed for interaction between the summit leaders and those members of the J7 that had been working on, and discussing, the global issues that affect them. In addition, by pairing the J7 with the G7 would have facilitated media engagement with the J7, thus increasing their voice and potential impact.
Whilst the J7 summit suffered from a certain degree of isolation in terms of participating in the G7 summit process, both Angela Merkel and the Federal Minister for Youth Manuela Schwesig deserve credit for championing a dialogue with younger people and embracing their participation. Perhaps in the future the other G7 leaders might also be as forward thinking as the Germans have been, while making the additional effort to better integrate the J7 into the broader process of G7 policymaking.
The G7 team: Garrett Wallace Brown, Hugo Dobson, Mihaela Gruia, Dominik Hatiar, Lucy Pedrick and Greg Stiles – Global Leadership Initiative, University of Sheffield. For more information on the Global Leadership Initiative and to keep up to date please click here.