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Dispatch From an Alum: Attending My Summit 2010 at the G-8 and G-20

August 5, 2010

By Thao Anh Tran

Last month I had the unique opportunity to represent the United States as a Youth Delegate at My Summit 2010, the official international youth summits held alongside the G-8 and G-20 Summits in Canada. Unlike previous G-8 and G-20 Summits, this year the Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, invited his G-8 and G-20 counterparts to send a delegation consisting of 7 university-level youths who have demonstrated a passion in international affairs to discuss and negotiate on the same themes as the leaders.

At the G-8 Summit, in addition to having the chance to listen to thought-provoking lectures from guest speakers on the four main themes of the Summit: terrorism and nuclear non-proliferation, food security, maternal and child health, and climate change, I also got to participate in a negotiation session with Youth Delegates from seven other countries. As an aspiring diplomat, the highlight of the G-8 Summit for me was being able to witness and participate in the intense debate during the terrorism and nuclear non-proliferation negotiation session. With an experienced negotiator serving as our moderator, all the Youth Delegates from eight different countries took turns to express our views about issues relevant to the topic. Though there were plenty of disagreements along the way, I was amazed at how respectful we were to one other and we really took the time to listen to everyone’s opinions. After extra working sessions that lasted until midnight, I was very proud of our end product: a realistic communiqué that encompassed youth ideals and included everyone’s voice. Through the negotiation process, I learned that in order to conduct successful diplomacy, it was important to always maintain respect and be willing to compromise on thorny issues. Our overall interests are better served when all participants feel that they have a stake in the process.

Though I had a great time participating in the negotiation process, the G-8 Summit was not all work! The event was so memorable for me because I got to meet and befriended extremely accomplished youths from all over the world. From our meeting with the Canadian Governor General, Michaëlle Jean, to the cruise trip on Muskoka Lake to the bus rides to Muskoka Heritage Place, I was afforded with the opportunity to network with youths who are not only actively involved within their local community, but also share my passion for international affairs.

Since the G-20 was held in Toronto immediately after the G-8, I also had the opportunity to participate in G-20 related events. I met Canadian government officials and leaders of the financial sector, where we engaged in discussions about the recent global financial crisis and the road to recovery. Additionally, I along with the other Youth Delegates part of the U.S. Delegation, were surprised with a meeting with Ambassador David Jacobson, the current U.S. Ambassador to Canada. This unannounced meeting really thrilled us all as moments before we had observed the leaders’ family photo, which included President Obama and all the other G-20 leaders. Ambassador Jacobson was kind enough to let us share our amazing experiences with him and spent a significant amount of time responding to our questions about the negotiations that took place at G-20, the Foreign Service, and his work in Canada.

Although My Summit 2010 only lasted for five days, I am very grateful to have had the honor of representing American youths at both the G-8 and G-20 Summits. While there is no guarantee that the leaders will implement any of the recommendations we made in our communiqué, I am confident that through our well-verse knowledge and undisputed passion, we asserted to these leaders that the international youth community has much to contribute to the policymaking process. As a collective group, we spoke loud and clear that we will use a combination of our knowledge, creativity, and networking ability to commit ourselves in solving global challenges. While the G-8 and the G-20 Summits have concluded and all the youth delegates have headed back to their respective countries, I am comforted by the fact that the conversation we started at My Summit 2010 will now continue with other youths in every corner of the world!

Thao Anh Tran (Washington, D.C.) is a recent graduate of the Elliott School of International Affairs, where she double majored in International Affairs (with concentrations in International Politics and Asia) and Asian Studies. In 2007, she studied abroad in Hangzhou and Beijing, China and is currently on a Fulbright grant in Yanji, China conducting research on the role of the ethnic Korean community in facilitating Sino-North Korean relations. Upon her return to the U.S., Thao Anh will pursue a Master’s degree in Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

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