Young people have been some of the worst affected in society by the secondary impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
Lockdowns over the last year have seen schoolchildren lose months of important face to face teaching and personal development time. University students have been displaced across the country and around the world – often paying vast sums for limited online teaching and also accommodation that they are being told not to use. Many in the job market have lost their job since the start of the pandemic and have been left with no obvious opportunities on the horizon.
It is fair to say that now is a pretty difficult time for young people, who have been damaged economically, mentally and in terms of their education by the impacts of the deadly pandemic.
Even through these difficult times, there are groups of young people in the UK and in countries across the world determined to drive positive change and improve future prospects for young people.
One of these groups, the Y7 (or Youth 7) is currently consulting with young people and holding a wide range of discussions ahead of a summit this Spring.
The Y7 is the official youth engagement group for the G7 (Group of 7), sitting alongside the other engagement groups such as the Business 7, Society 7, Labour 7, Science 7 and Women 7. The G7 engagement groups are designed to ensure that the declaration by G7 heads of states meets the needs of all different parts of society.
Consisting of seven countries including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States – plus the European Union, the G7 holds a summit each year to consider economic policy issues and manage the system of global governance.
This year, the G7 summit is being hosted by the UK and is due to be held in Carbis Bay, Cornwall in June, with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson set to ask leaders to use the opportunity to ‘build back better’ from the coronavirus pandemic and unite to make a fairer, greener and more prosperous future. Before that summit, consultations and discussions will take place within each engagement group – both in each nation and between nations.
Each country has four delegates to the Youth 7. In the UK, young people aged 18-30 years old were invited back in December to apply to the delegates roles, which are voluntary. Each delegate focuses on one particular theme – this year the four key focuses are on climate and the environment, digital and technology, the economy and also health.
The UK’s Y7 delegation is diverse, with the delegates coming from a range of different backgrounds;
- Jouja Maamri is the UK delegate for Climate and the Environment. Away from her new role in the Y7, she is the Director of Impact at an investment fund that invests in companies that enable a more sustainable world whilst also serving as a a Young Europe Ambassador.
- Dominic Jones is the UK delegate for the Economy. He is a youth voice activist and politics student at the University of Liverpool, also working part-time as a primary school tutor and at a supermarket. He has previously served in the UK Youth Parliament and on the National Youth Select Committee.
- Evie Aspinall is the UK delegate for Digital and Technology. She was previously the President of Cambridge University Students’ Union and is currently a researcher working in Foreign Policy, as well as leading the UN Women UK’s Student Champion network.
- Haarith Ndiaye is the UK delegate for Health. He is an academic junior doctor working within the NHS, with a keen interest in quality improvement, and in his spare time he works to increase accessibility to higher education in disadvantaged communities.
Over recent weeks, the Y7 delegates have been getting to know each other and have been communicating with their international counterparts. The delegates have also been preparing a public consultation of young people and have been involved in discussions with Government departments.
One of the roles of the Y7 is to engage with Government to learn about their priorities for G7 talks. They will then consider whether these are enough for young people and discuss and negotiate these to potentially go into the Y7 communique, for presentation to the G7 world leaders.
Dominic Jones, UK delegate for the Economy told The Speaker what the delegates are hoping to achieve:
“We’re aiming to amplify the voice of young people in the UK on the international stage to ensure that their priorities are heard, discussed and hopefully lead to positive action being taken.”
This year, G7 talks will likely centre around recovering from the Coronavirus pandemic and topics such as distributing vaccines. Therefore, some topics pushed forward by the Y7 are potentially unlikely to be focused on much this year – though it is hoped that leaders will discuss and adopt some of the policy ideas this year or next year.
Dominic said that he is particularly keen to focus on skills and employment opportunities and to get leaders to acknowledge the scale of the problems impacting young people. Through national direction on the topics, Dominic wants to see opportunities increased for everyone but particularly disadvantaged people and action taken to tackle inequality and child poverty. He added:
“Education doesn’t end when we hit 18. We need there to be a focus on skills for life and work rather than skills to pass exams – and there needs to be a wider educational offering in society throughout people’s lives.”
“I felt really overwhelmed at the start of my role but it is very exciting and I want to use that excitement to help drive change so that more young people can get opportunities”
This week, the Y7 in the UK are launching a consultation, with questions such as,
- Which areas of climate change or the environment require the most attention?
- To what extent do you feel equipped with the necessary digital skills and effective training to succeed in daily life?
- Based on how the world responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, what general approach do you think the UK should advocate for in the next pandemic?
Led by polling company Opinium, these will inform the next stages of consultation, with a series of focus groups and Democracy Cafe sessions being run to further explore the interests and concerns of young people.
The consultation is taking place online and is designed to help inform the UK position at the pre-negotiations ahead of the Y7 Summit, which will take place in early May. Young people aged 14-30 are encouraged to take part in the survey online, which is open until Sunday 14th March.
In a time of unprecedented challenges, the Y7 is aiming to make sure that young people’s views are listened to.