November 22, 2022
JAKARTA – The Indonesian motto Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, or unity in diversity, epitomizes the country’s outlook on life. It is an integral part of Indonesia’s official emblem, and is enshrined in the Constitution.
Its manifestation during the Indonesian-led negotiation process was one of the main reasons behind the success of the Group of 20 Leaders’ Summit in Bali last week.
At a time when the international community’s focus was distracted by the war in Ukraine, many feared the Indonesian summit would amount to nothing more than purposeless pageantry. Instead, the summit brought nations together and led to meaningful multilateralism at the highest level.
This is, of course, a testament to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s efforts in orchestrating the presence of leaders and representatives with diametrically opposing ideologies around the decision-making table. He used Indonesia’s non-aligned geopolitical status to ensure that consensus was reached in the form of the Leader’s Declaration — a conclusion many thought would never be possible.
At a time when the world is plunging into consecutive crises that threaten to exacerbate existing divisions, Jokowi’s actions, underpinned by Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, demonstrated that division could be healed when genuine efforts are made to build bridges.
Yet this motto was not only seen at the G20 Leaders’ Summit, but across all G20 engagement groups, including the Youth 20 (Y20) Summit as the official youth engagement group, which we had the opportunity to be part of.
The Y20 (the G20’s Official Youth Summit) is a forum that brings future young leaders from all G20 member countries to discuss, argue and exchange ideas, to reach a joint agreement regarding the agenda of the G20 presidency.
This year’s Y20 Summit was held in Jakarta and Bandung, West Java, on July 17-24. The result was the Y20 Communiqué, a list of policies presented to the G20 leaders attending the Bali summit, to ensure they championed the voices of young people in their communiqué.
The beauty of the Y20 Summit came as it demonstrated the power of diversity in a different way. It brought together young people, a societal group who are often underrepresented and excluded from the decision-making table. It gave them a voice to draft policies to remedy some of the biggest issues they face.
In addition, the new priority area of diversity and inclusion put an impetus on breaking down barriers, relying on each other’s uniqueness and working together to create a better world.
Often people ask why diversity of age is important in decision-making. The answers are manifold.
Firstly, you can only remedy a problem if you truly know the root cause. This relates to tackling systemic inequalities that are hitting young people hard. For too long, young people have been relying on people who are one or two generations above them to create policy on issues that affect the youth, such as tackling youth unemployment or updating education systems.
Often, policymakers, therefore, try to solve the issues that they think young people face as opposed to the problems we actually face. Therefore, giving young people a space to craft policy allows them to tackle problems using their unique experiential insight.
Second, a diversity of age allows the team to be cognitively diverse. The biggest issues of today will need innovative solutions of biblical proportions. Young people often have a different lens through which they see the world.
It is important that leaders harness the views of a cognitively diverse group of advisors spanning across all ages to try and come up with policies that aim to remedy the world’s largest problems.
The Y20 still has a lot of work to do to ensure that world leaders seek the counsel of youth more purposefully. The forum provides a platform for young people to raise their voice through actionable recommendations, learn about policy and add to the diversity of opinions at the G20.
The Y20 is an important platform at a time when many young people feel disengaged, disinterested or disenfranchised from politics. The main reason for loss of faith in the political system is they feel that the powers that be do not listen to them.
Reflecting on the G20 Leaders’ Declaration, we, young people, are hopeful about the significance of youth within the document. Our continuous advocacy, engagement with stakeholders and consultations with other young people show that the size of young people today is simply too big to ignore.
However, we believe that the work is only half done. The most important part of the journey is to transform the policy recommendations into real actions. We are just getting started, and we will continue to embrace our diversity to establish an inclusive post-pandemic future.
Disty Winata is Y20 Indonesia’s 2022 track chair on diversity and inclusion. Mohammad Karim is the United Kingdom head delegate to the Y20. The views expressed are personal.