If the past few years are anything to go by, young people are powerful and can make change.

–Jack Dalrymple

Over the past few months, international where groups of countries come together to discuss an issue or common goalmultilateral organisations have had a big influence on our lives.

The World Health Organisation (WHO), responsible for coordinating global health and responding to COVID-19, has released guidance on how countries can better manage the pandemic crisis.

The G7, a group of the seven largest economies in the world, agreed to forcing large multinational companies such as Apple, Facebook and Google, who pay next to nothing in company tax, to a global minimum tax amount. This will mean that these companies will no longer be able to avoid paying taxes in places they operate like Australia.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (the organisation behind the Paris Agreement) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its sixth assessment report on climate change with a stark warning on the need to immediately reduce carbon emissions for future generations.

Labelled as a 'code red for humanity’, the report highlighted the need for increased government action at the next climate change summit COP26) in November this week. And with calls from leaders all over the world for Australia to do better on climate, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a net zero by 2050 target.

Each of the actions have significant implications on our lives and the actions of government. Health departments will use WHO guidelines and adjust their policies to reflect the latest international advice, environment departments will develop policies to achieve emissions reduction targets set at the UNFCCC and Treasury and Tax Departments will adjust tax codes to comply with international rules and standards

These decisions, made in some obscure backroom in Geneva, Glasgow or New York, impact young people. Will we limit global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius, how much plastic will be allowed to enter our oceans, what basic standard of living do all people deserve and what right to privacy and data protections do we have in a digital age? These are questions that will be answered in the next few years at these complicated, bureaucratic, and mostly inaccessible multilateral forums, which young people rarely can influence.

While it may be disheartening that the door to youth engagement is only ever so slightly open, there are opportunities for young people to change this.

If the past few years are anything to go by, young people are powerful and can make change. From advocating for marriage equality, fighting against youth homelessness to millions of students demanding action on climate change, we see young people at the forefront of all major economic and social issues of our time.

To achieve this change in the international space, we need young people to build campaigns for action at these forums; we need to advocate for ambitious goals that Australia takes to these multilateral forums; and we need young people to take up those rare opportunities to engage personally in the space and wedge the door open further for the next generation of young people.

This impact was recently shown through the G20 Youth Summit where youth from the world’s twenty largest economies came together to talk about the priorities of young people.

With three Australian Youth Representatives involved in the negotiations, we advocated for a just energy transition away from fossil fuels, increased worker protections in the gig economy and education pathways to prepare young people for the digital economy amongst a range of recommendations. Speaking with the President of the G20 and various foreign leaders, the youth representatives highlight the capacity for young leaders to advocate for change on the highest stages and influence the G20 Summit to occur later this year. 

Closer to home, there are a number of youth-led organisations that aim to support young people in this space. At Global Voices, we aim to nurture the next generation of young leaders by providing practical experience in diplomacy, international relations and public policy. Each semester, we offer opportunities for youth leaders to join delegations to major multilateral fora and have their voices heard in this space.

As the inheritors of today’s decisions, young people deserve to not just be consulted but shape policy actions. No one will offer a set at the table; we need to grab it.

Jack Dalrymple is CEO of Global Voices, a youth-led not-for-profit that develops the next generation of leaders by providing practical experience in policymaking, international relations, and diplomacy.