Sarah Oliver, a F2F alumni, was selected to attend the G8/G20 Youth Summit in Washington DC 2012. She was chosen to represent South Africa as the Youth Minister of Development as part of the South African Delegation that attended the Summit. Here is her experience:
“It has been a week of absorbing, challenging, questioning, reflecting, experiencing and exploring! For 3 days I sat in a room with the other Development representatives of the respective countries as we tackled the huge and, as we came to realize, complex topics of food/human security and scrutinizing international aid. Each country presented their position on the topic and together we negotiated to find a common ground and put words to paper on our final communique. This document serves as a recommendation to our leaders in the G8 and G20 countries on the issues that we as youth prioritize, as well as the solutions that we feel are most effective. Each delegation will then go home and present the final communique to their governments.
As 28 young people sat together in room 402 of the George Washington University a lot was shared and a lot was learnt.
It was very interesting to note the cultural differences that came in to play when discussing foreign policies. There were many times when China would find itself disagreeing with America, or Saudi Arabia was challenged by Canada. It was clear that as participants we were speaking on behalf of our country and the cultures and practices of our country, and these were evident causes of disagreement. However, these disagreements provided much scope for exploration into these issues and tackling them in deep negotiations until a compromise was found.
As South Africa, I strove to uphold our experience of peaceful and collaborative negotiations; always trying to have everyone’s voice included and finding a middle ground. This was not easy, and it alludes to one of the challenges that I think a lot of us faced. This was balancing our own opinions with the political positions of our countries.
We also faced a challenge of language, as different words have different connotations for different people and cultures. We would sometimes get stuck on a word and have to debate it over and over until we could find a suitable compromise.
All in all, the negotiations were a great experience. We worked together as a team to voice the opinions of the youth of the countries we represented. Our final product, the communique is a reflection of our hard work and it is something we hope our governments and community leaders will take seriously.
The week was also filled with fun adventures ad outings around Washington. We visited the white house, The Capitol, a couple of Museums and Monuments. We ate at various restaurants and experienced the American style of everything being self service. Washington is a beautiful city and there is definitely a lot to do!
The summit came to an end with a fancy gala dinner in a beautiful old building that reminded me of a castle. An experience of a lifetime, the G8/G20 Youth Summit was definitely an opportunity of learning, engaging, sharing and being a diplomatic and proud representative of my country.
For all of you who have supported me along the way, whether financially or in spirit, thoughts, kind words and prayers, I am truly grateful. Thank you to all of you! I will be coming back to South Africa with a new mindset, valuable lessons learnt, and many new ideas to grow our beautiful country and community.”