A commentary by Sabina Maria Ciofu (YGC, 2019)
The Young Global Changers Summer School in Berlin was a truly global gathering of young changemakers. I had the privilege and honor to be selected to attend the program, where 90 young leaders from all over the world came together to brainstorm on solutions to the SDGs, in view of the G20 Japanese presidency.
Throughout the sessions and panels, I quickly realised that the United States of America was massively under-represented in both the panels and the audience. For a young European trans-atlanticist, that struck me as odd and counter-productive. While I can agree that the US, due to its current President Donald Trump has taken many unhelpful steps to withdraw from the global leadership role it had held for many decades, I also very much believe that any conversation about global solutions that does not engage the US is a talk doomed to fail.
In one of the many panels on multilateralism, there was no panelist representing a North American point of view. One panelist, Ronnie Chan, the Chairman of the Hang Lung Group, a property development firm based in Hong Kong, declared: “China will be the future leader and defender of multilateralism.” He added, “we should all stop meddling in other countries’ internal affairs, such as portraying the Rohingya Muslim crisis the way the West did.” He told the audience that he had travelled to Myanmar and was convinced it’s not all been that bad. I might have suggested a trip to the refugee camps in Bangladesh would have been a much more insightful excursion.
Given the nature of these remarks, I was surprised by the non-confrontational attitude of the other panelists. It appears the absence of reactions fell under the need-for-dialogue umbrella. While the need for dialogue is one thing, not reacting to an open disdain for international law and human rights is another. It is part of a larger, worrying trend that bashes the US, as if the whole country is defined by President Trump, while at the same time, being too accepting of an opaque and closed regime, such as China.
Principles over economic gain
The European Union built its reputation on pursuing strong and close trading relationships with like-minded nations, based on the fundamental principles of rule of law and respect for human rights. I believe, the EU should continue to stand by the values on which economic relations with the world were built and encourage others to do the same. Trading values for economic gain is a costly compromise to make.
Regardless of who the current leader of the US, America is more than President Trump and remains a huge player in the post-WWII order. There are US states, civil society and academic organizations, and legislators on both sides of the aisle that strongly believe in multilateralism. We should not close the doors of dialogue to the people, organizations and companies that share the values being explored at the Global Solutions Summit.
My hope is that any forum that engages in finding global solutions to global problems will be more representative of all parts of the globe. And if you don’t know where to start, just look at the Young Global Changers to see what diversity and representation looks like.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Solutions Initiative.