By: Lily Huang and Brian McGowan
Students from across Canadagathered at the Balsillie School of International Affairs in uptown Waterloo to partake in a Model G20 Conference on Nov. 20-22. The three-day conference included delegates from the University of Waterloo, the University of Windsor, and the University of Montreal.
Guest speakers Leonard J. Edwards, a past G8 and G20 sherpa for former prime minister Stephen Harper, and Sandra Banks, the University of Waterloo’s VP of university relations, spoke at the opening ceremony. Selçuk Ünal, the Turkish ambassador of Canada, was scheduled to give a speech as well; however, Mr. Ünal was unable to be present and instead recorded a video of his speech from Halifax.
Ana Krstanovic, the secretary general of the conference and one of the main organizers of the event, explained that the intent of the conference is to provide students with the opportunity to meet and discuss contentious issues, voice their opinions, and share critical thoughts. “The world has become increasingly interconnected and we have a great access to information and news and the things that are happening all around the world. … discussing these issues, but more importantly developing critical thinking have become imperative to building global citizens,” said Krstanovic during the opening ceremony.
Edwards, who is also the former deputy of foreign affairs and Canada’s ambassador to Japan and Korea, spoke about the purpose of the G20 summits. “The G20 has become the single most powerful institution of global governance today,” said Edwards.
The Model G20 conference was programmed during International Education Week, spotlighting the campus-wide initiative to celebrate international culture and students with more than 100 countries around the world.
Delegates discussed three main issues throughout the three-day conference: the impact of corruption on economic growth, trade, and development, reforming the system of international finance, and global demographic development. All of the topics were presented by master’s students studying political science at UW, and fit into the sphere of issues discussed in the G20 summits.
“I am intrigued by your choices of areas for your Model G20 … these areas themselves represent how the G20 agenda has evolved,” said Edwards during the opening ceremony.
The focus of discussions in the G20 summits has always been geared towards international finance. When asked if he believes the G20 should discuss issues outside of the economic and financial aspect, Edwards responded, “The G20 can broaden its topic, but selectively.”
In particular, Edwards mentionsed climate change and the refugee crisis. Ünal agreed, as he explained, “Leaders acknowledged that [the refugee crisis in Syria and Iraq] is a global concern.”
Hosting the G20, Ünal described Turkey’s view on the importance of discussing current events: “As a country that has been fighting against terrorism both nationally and internationally for decades, the Turkish presidency included the fight against terrorism on the global level on the agenda at the G20 summit.” Ünal explained this was on the agenda prior to the terror attacks in Ankara and Paris.
Edwards warned that this could be problematic for G20 leaders, “We have to be a little careful on that … it opens a whole range of other issues.”
Krstanovic hopes that students take the school’s motto, “Ideas start here,” and strive to learn from the experience. She hopes the program is used as a learning platform for the participants. “We wanted to do something different and unique, especially since our school strives for innovation,” she explained.
This is the first Model G20 conference hosted in Waterloo. Krstanovic commented that it has been a long and challenging process, but the end result was rewarding. The organizers hope that it will become an annual event.
“This is a conference where we are discussing global issues, but we also want to have a global impact as well,” said Krstanovic. All funds collected from the event will be donated to the Red Cross to aid the current refugee crisis.