Red carpets were rolled out for participants at the J7 Youth Summit at the Federal Ministry for Youth, with representatives of the press and TV filling the foyer. IJAB Director Marie-Luise Dreber welcomed each young participant with a handshake, and the visibly good-humoured Deputy Director-General at the Federal Ministry for Youth Thomas Thomer declared the breakfast buffet to be officially open. "I was involved in selecting members of the German team," he stated, "so I know how committed you are. Decisions about your future are made at the G7 Summit. So speak out as loudly as you can!"
The young delegates will be staying in Berlin for a week. They come from the G7 member states, other EU member states as well as developing and emerging countries. Together, they will discuss the subjects G7 heads of state have included on the agenda of the G7 Summit which is due to take place in Elmau, near Munich, at the beginning of June. They will present a joint position paper on Summit topics and add another topic of their choice to the political agenda. The J7 Youth Summit is an initiative of Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, who launched a consultation process with civil society in the run-up to the G7 Summit – part of which is the Youth Summit organised by IJAB and UNICEF.
In her speech, the Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Youth, Caren Marks stressed that she takes the concerns of young people seriously:
"It's time to shape policy together with children and youth. With the J7 summit we give young people an international forum to address desires, goals, hopes and demands to the G7 representatives."
This was endorsed by Christian Schneider, Executive Director of UNICEF Germany. He believes this is the chance to turn children's rights into practical policies and enable young people to make their voices heard in international politics. "We have recently seen what young people can achieve in Lebanon," recalled Schneider. "The country's population of four million has now been joined by one million refugees from Syria. This naturally triggers conflict, including violent conflict. But it is the younger generation that builds bridges between people."
"What's the first place tourists visit when they come to Berlin?" Secretary of State Marks asked the young participants. The Brandenburg Gate, of course! This was the Summit participants' first opportunity to see one of the city's main attractions. Numerous group photos and selfies were taken – including a large group picture with the smiling Secretary of State in the middle. The barriers between the national delegations soon disappeared. Participants stood next to each other in mixed groups, chatting and getting to know each other. Before they returned to the conference hotel in Kleinmachnow, there was time for a traditional German Bratwurst.
In Kleinmachnow, the serious part of the J7 Youth Summit then began. Nicola Sommer, Head of Division at the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, recalled the overall framework of the consultation process and the opportunities arising from it. Then it was time for a simulation game. "Imagine you're G7 heads of state and you have 23 billion dollars to spend on G7 Summit topics," presenter Jakowidis challenged participants. Of course, everyone was already familiar with the key issues. Marine protection, health, a fair global economy and the empowerment of women and girls. How should funds now be prioritised and distributed? And what does a role play like this teach participants about the way a summit works? Work began – but initially in a playful way.
How do the young delegates find the first day of the J7 Youth Summit? Members of the German team are satisfied. Yolanda, Sang-Jin, Martin, Lilian-June, Jessica and David said they looked forward to being able to talk with the other participants. They said that it would be good if something concrete, something tangible came out of it, if something became reality. They also hope the end of the Summit does not mean an end to their efforts. A network could be created in which participants could continue their work. Do you they feel they are being taken seriously in politics? "Yes, definitely," replied Martin, "This isn't just a promotional measure." "It's great that this is possible," added Yolanda. And then it was time to get down to work.