Bridging the gap between Rome and Taormina
The world has observed the events of the G-7 summit held in Taormina on May 26-27, 2017. Commentators and international analysts’ eyes were focusing on the dynamics between the G-7 leaders, especially with the presence of new members at the elite club’s meeting. However, less attention has been given to the prior events, which involved meetings for foreign ministers, finance ministers and central bank governors, and for the first time, culture ministers. In addition, this year the G-7 presidency organized a series of G-7 engagement meetings for youth, women and think tanks. This approach is a concrete illustration of the G-7 presidency’s mission statement to set the foundation for renewing trust. Trust in youth, trust in women and trust in science have been performed practically by the abovementioned engagement meetings. Each meeting delved into a high-level dialogue on the summit’s three main pillars: citizen safety; economic and social sustainability and reduction of inequalities; and innovation, skills and labor in the age of the next production revolution.
The three pillars are issues of high priority and urgency globally, which however are also strategic issues that require future planning amid the current volatile global atmosphere. Plans set today will see their application and fruits in a future that is unpredictable. Therefore, the involvement of youth in the preparation of the summit is a step in the right direction of involving the demographic strata that will witness and bear the consequences of today’s plans.
The G-7 Youth Summit was organized by the Young Ambassador Society and the G-7 Italy in Rome on May 7-9 under the title “Rethinking innovation as catalyst for an inclusive, open and sustainable growth.” The theme of the G-7 Youth Summit was based on the third pillar of the G-7 summit.
The communique of the G-7 Youth Summit included three main pillars which hit the nail on the head. The first pillar tackled the production of innovation. In this pillar young leaders have tackled the digital and green economies, as well as the ecosystem necessary for their development. The meeting communique requested that global leaders enable a data economy while ensuring the protection and empowerment of individuals, sustainable growth in accordance with the Paris Agreement, and taking necessary measures to facilitate dynamic startup ecosystems and reduce barriers to innovation.
The second pillar focused on knowledge-based capital and enabling infrastructures. This pillar comes at a critical moment where global financial flows are divergent in their consideration of human knowledge capital on the one hand and physical infrastructure on the other. Finding the right balance is no easy task, however it requires a societal dialogue and good governance that can create innovative models of sustainable development. Building a knowledge-based capital requires investment in education infrastructure, mobility, communications and connectivity, institutional compatibility and an efficient governance system.
Finally, the third pillar was the future of work and welfare systems. The approach to education focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics literacy, emotional intelligence and adaptability. This highlights the personal capacity-building and professional experiences of students in schools and universities.
When it comes to welfare systems, this pillar is in part targeting a specific group of countries with specific economic capacities, namely the G-7 and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development member countries. There is missing a proper mention of the need for innovation in the role of G-7 countries in supporting basic development assistance to low-income countries that are suffering from a lack of basic necessities and stand far from the reach of a welfare system. The discussion should have tackled the importance of sustainable livelihood in a world that is far from achieving sustainability.
The youth communique has recognized the prospects in the digitalization of jobs with the current production revolution, which is described by some as the fourth industrial revolution. The massive advancement in application and research in artificial intelligence and machine learning is moving the world exponentially toward a system where machines play most of the roles that humans do in the production process. This is posing alarming questions about the kind of society the young generation will live in, the speed and dynamics of different human activities and transactions, the political involvement of an apathetic citizen, and the undeniable risk of massive inequality that could suffer exacerbation as a spillover effect of this digital/machine revolution.
Young people’s involvement in the dialogue of our world’s most complex issues is beyond the scope of a youth empowerment mission as a logical mechanism for demographic inclusion. Involving youth should be considered fundamental to futuristic and strategic planning. Preparing the generation that will witness the impact of today’s plans is imperative for operational success and effectiveness. The G-7 youth meeting has been a step in the right direction but the road ahead is still long on the path to a better future.
Hiba Huneini is acting manager of the Youth & Civic Engagement Program at the Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development.