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Youth can play a key role in India’s G20 presidency


December 1, 2022, will remain a watershed moment for India and its 1.41 billion citizens as the country received the glorious opportunity to host the largest-ever multilateral event on its soil. This is an honour as well as a great responsibility as this occasion has come during the amrit kaal of our Independence. India’s G20 presidency officially began with the “University Connect” programme, which witnessed youth engagement on a large scale. These young people will lead India from the front, in the years to come.

India’s G20 presidency is not merely a diplomatic event. As part of the G20 process, people from diverse strata and occupations will also participate under different meeting formats. This is a great opportunity for every Indian citizen. As Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi rightly said, “Today, there is an unprecedented curiosity in the world to know and understand India. Today, India is being studied in a new light. Our current successes are being assessed and unprecedented hopes are being expressed about our future. In such an atmosphere it is the responsibility of the citizens to go beyond these expectations and acquaint the world with India’s capabilities, philosophy, social and intellectual strength.”

As citizens, it is our collective responsibility to showcase India in ways befitting its stature and glory. Our G20 presidency is an opportune moment for us to showcase our tradition of Atithi Devo Bhava (a guest is akin to God). In October, Mission Lifestyle for Environment was launched. The concept of pro-planet people and the focus on individual behaviour is derived from our ethos of living close to nature; taking from Mother Nature to satisfy our needs and not our greed. These are challenging times, but there are opportunities as well. India has taken the lead in spearheading the transition towards cleaner sources of energy. Our global initiatives such as the One Sun, One World, One Grid and the International Solar Alliance have been complemented by our domestic commitment towards achieving 50% installed electricity capacity through non-fossil fuel sources.

Our evolving experience with bridging the domestic digital divide can provide valid lessons to the international community. The vibrant startup ecosystem in our country is evidence that the sky’s the limit where our youth are concerned. India is ranked third globally in its fintech strength after the United States (US) and China. As of October, India has more than 80,000 recognised startups spread across 660 districts.

Under PM Modi’s leadership, we have continuously crafted our policies to suit the genius of our youth. The National Education Policy 2020 is a holistic and futuristic framework based on the foundational principles of access, equality, quality, affordability, and accountability. It aims to build the creative potential of every student in sync with the requirements of the 21st century. The real asset of our nation is our people. G20-related activities during our presidency, therefore, rightly focus on this partnership. Hosting the meetings at 50-plus locations in the country will ensure that the experience of the presidency is pan-Indian. Every state government, every Union Territory and every citizen is a stakeholder in the process of India’s presidency.

For facilitating active participation, a number of interesting activities such as Model G20, G20 branding in festivals, selfie contests with monuments, especially those illuminated with the G20 logo, poetry and quiz competitions are being organised by the G20 secretariat. India’s youth must participate in these activities and make it a truly people’s G20, by fully using this special opportunity. Universities can train students to present their local history and important landmarks, art forms and other cultural traditions of their area. Such students can then be part of organising some of the meetings and also guiding foreign delegates. The G20 secretariat and the department of higher education can consider identifying partner universities for different locations. Apart from places of historical, economic and cultural importance, there could be immersive experiences such as nature walks, village visits, trips to weekly and local markets. Creative informational videos can be produced in English and other G20 languages. Photos of the visits and testimonials by G20 delegates can be uploaded to the official website. Students can be trained to become rapporteurs of sessions. Universities with foreign language departments may be particularly useful for providing translation-related assistance. Such a pool of translators and rapporteurs may be provided further training by the G20 secretariat and used during various sessions. This can also become a human resource pool for other future global events that we may host.

The G20 meetings will be a unique opportunity to learn from the experiences of different countries. Short discussions, lectures and workshops with speakers from G20 countries and local experts can be considered. The topics may be related to the theme of the meeting proposed at that location. For example, a location where meetings on the digital economy are being planned can organise sessions on the importance of the digital economy for India and the world in the next 25 years. Cultural shows may be organised by students during these programmes. An online monthly journal containing research articles on G20 themes may be brought out by the University Grants Commission with a sharp focus on how India can play a leading global role. G20 representatives also bring their culture along with them.

Being the torch-bearers of our rich heritage, students and young people are indeed India’s cultural ambassadors. As people from different parts of the world visit Indian states, the youth must spearhead initiatives to showcase the rich cultural mosaic and various developments of their respective states. These exchanges and interactions with international delegates will lay the foundation of a long-term and symbiotic interconnectedness among the young people of all G20 countries.

PK Mishra is principal secretary to the Prime Minister. The article is based on a speech delivered by the author at the University Connect event on December 1. The author would like to acknowledge inputs given by R Vyasan, director, PMOThe views expressed are personal


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