Christian Herrmann

A memorable experience

The J7 Youth Summit came to an end in Berlin on 13 May. Over the course of a week, young delegates from the G7 member states, the European Union and guests from developing and emerging countries prepared a position paper on the key issues of the G7 Summit. State Secretary Dr. Ralf Kleindiek said goodbye to participants on Wednesday.

State Secretary Dr. Ralf Kleindiek with participants at the J7 Youth Summit
State Secretary Dr. Ralf Kleindiek with participants at the J7 Youth Summit BildImage: Christian Herrmann   Lizenz: INT 3.0 – Namensnennung – nicht kommerziell – keine Bearbeitung CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Wednesday morning in Berlin: It's the last day of the J7 Youth Summit, and much has happened since the start of the event. The young delegates have drawn up a position paper on the key issues of the G7 Summit, where heads of state from the leading industrial nations are due to meet at Schloss Elmau, near Munich, and they presented their requests to Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel and Minister for Youth Manuela Schwesig. Now it's time to take stock and make plans for the future.

The Summit delegates gathered at the Jerusalem Church in Berlin-Mitte were looking a little weary. But any signs of tiredness soon vanished when each participant was asked to comment on the Summit. "We have called for change" and "we have also raised our voices on behalf of the people who could not be here," they concluded. Many delegates thanked the organisers, the Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth and UNICEF for hosting the Summit. But another matter seemed more important: "I felt like I was part of a family," commented one participant, "I never felt there were any major differences between us. It was as though we all belonged to one nation". "I'm usually a shy person," added one young delegate, "but I could talk openly here, and I knew that the other members of my team would listen to me and take me seriously." One Japanese participant commented: "I've shaken so many people's hands and been hugged and embraced by so many, I'll have to make sure I don't continue doing it when I get back to Japan – in our culture people don't touch!" Clearly one of the most memorable aspects of the meeting was the common experience beyond national boundaries.

But then it was time for the final work phase. What's going to happen after the Summit? Delegates wrote down their wishes in keywords and then formed teams to formulate their requests in greater detail. The result was clear: participants want to meet again, continue to work together on their common issues and in the meantime stay in touch via social networks and Skype. They plan to publicise the results of the Summit in their own country, set up local networks and promote greater youth participation. "Not just kids" concluded one statement.

The end of the Summit took on an official note again: State Secretary Dr. Ralf Kleindiek said goodbye to the delegates and thanked them for their commitment. He said the results of the Summit were ambitious but that one has to be ambitious to achieve results. State Secretary Dr. Ralf Kleindiek supported the delegates' plans to continue their work. He hold out the prospect of a follow-up meeting in one or two years' time, and in response received enthusiastic applause. State Secretary Dr. Ralf Kleindiek took the time to present each young participant with a souvenir folder containing photos and the position paper.

After the State Secretary's departure, the Summit momentarily got out of control: young participants grabbed the national flags that were part of the stage decoration and organised their own group photo sessions – noisily and free of the tension from the previous few days. Antonio from the Italian delegation had a few final words to say from the perspective of the delegates, and was then smothered with embraces. Now the J7 Youth Summit is officially over. A few tears were shed. But one thing's for sure: the Summit was a very memorable experience for many of its participants.

Lizenz: INT 3.0 – Namensnennung – nicht kommerziell – keine Bearbeitung CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

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