Meeting Germany’s Iron Lady: Representing Indonesia at the 2017 G20 Youth Summit

Our contributor, Sherley, shares her experience of joining G20 Youth Summit and meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Read more to find out how you can be the next delegate of this year's G20 Youth Summit!


Being one of the two delegates to represent Indonesia in the 2017 G20 Youth Summit (Y20 Summit) in Berlin, Germany, Sherley has some stories to tell—the one combining her aspiration to be her country’s young diplomat and her idealism of the type of world G20 countries should be living in.

On the 2nd to 8th of June 2017, I participated in the summit of the official youth engagement group of the G20 from which a position paper was then expected to contribute to the deliberations of the G20 leaders later in Hamburg. The pride of being chosen as the delegate was of course accompanied by the pressure to represent the Republic of Indonesia as the Y20 delegates were demanded to speak on behalf of their nations’ youth and not merely those of personal opinions. Before I drag you further to the latter, I would prefer to fill you in with the first one—the pride of going one step closer to fulfilling my dream as an Indonesian diplomat.

Sherley’s placard. (Photo by Author)

In early February 2017, I stumbled upon a poster created by an organization called Indonesian Youth Diplomacy (IYD) containing information regarding the call for application of the Y20 delegates who not only will discuss G20 issues but also will be the one drafting and presenting the policy paper to be later proposed to the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. It didn’t take me long to start working on the essays required by the IYD team because I knew the longer I took to contemplate the pros and cons of joining the conference, the more time I had to make excuses that I should not be there at the very first place. One of the pros were the fact that my joining model UN simulations or other international law-related competitions was nothing compared to the experience of crafting ideas into a real policy for a real summit in front of a real current world leader. On the other hand, there was my commitment to finish my thesis on time and to schedule the thesis defense right away. Fortunately, the pros prevailed and the moment I started writing the essay — I knew I made the right decision.

I chose Climate Change and Sustainable Development as my topic because the timing could not be more comical as by the time the issue was raised among G20 leaders, President Donald Trump was playing around with the clauses within Paris Agreement and how to diminish the obligations therein. I felt so obliged to pour out my protest to the ineffectiveness of G20 as a forum that I decided to criticize the existence of the forum itself in my essay—a rather unorthodox perspective but not one without a basis for the idea of a G20 institutional reform was always on the table. As expected, the interview with the IYD Team was not that of an easy one as every bit of my proposed solutions was challenged for its feasibility to be implemented and to be brought by someone who was going to represent her country in such forum. Be different, they said; be bold, I said.

After finally selected amongst 1,200+ interested applicants registered in the early round, the preparation for the summit was also a challenge as I had to soak in all the development of issues pertaining to G20 members. Close communication and coordination with Indonesian Sherpa from the Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs as well as with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were very intensive as the two were the focal points for the dissemination of G20 issues in Indonesia. Not only were we given the government stance to equip us as a part of the Republic’s delegation, we were also privileged with academic discussions on the three G20 issues with both Ministries, namely Building Resilience, Improving Sustainability and Assuming Responsibility.

The three months of training was finally over when I arrived in Berlin for the summit. Meeting other 69 brilliant young minds and discussing the issues we chose according to our forte was the core idea of the summit. I chose to side with Assuming Responsibility topic as I know where my passion lies: analyzing humanitarian crisis that results in mass human suffering and causes influx of refugees. That was one week full of streamlining ideas coming from different nations and backgrounds while having multiple political leanings and interests to top it all off. It was intense and full of reflective questions on who we were actually representing at the summit; was it the youth of our country or was it the government all over again? Those striking questions then led us to believe that we would never be able to grasp the real issue had we not came in contact with those subject matters, in my case, the refugees in flesh. I was then given the chance to know the refugee’s side of the story by visiting ReDI School of Digital Integration in Berlin. It was a non-profit social enterprise teaching refugees from mainly the Middle East and Mediterranean to code and to learn about IT-programs in order for them to integrate and thus to avoid the uncompromising threat of xenophobia inside Germany.

It then all came to an end when the day arrived for us to present in front of and to discuss with the Chancellor about the meaning behind our words and our resolute commitment to make those words true in our home country. Chancellor Merkel may be Germany’s own iron lady for her resolute work in tackling German’s not-so-conservative problems. But to us, the young generations once seating together inside the German Chancellery, her unswerving devotion to her vow was proven when she steadily listened to what the youth had to offer to the government as the policy maker.

The Y20 Delegates discussing the Summit’s position paper with Chancellor Merkel at the German Chancellery. (Photo by Author)
The Y20 Delegates discussing the Summit’s position paper with Chancellor Merkel at the German Chancellery. (Photo by Author)

The German presidency’s commitment to realize our proposals was then seen when we compared our position paper with the final G20 communique. Although the points contained within the final document was expectedly refraining from politically sensitive issues since there must be a great difficulty in garnering consensus from all governments, we were still of a view that we had brought our own grain of sands as young people. The question would be, when some of those sands slipped out of our hands, would it stop us to advocate for a good change and to do our portion?

If you’re reading this and your answer is no, then you have every reason to register to be the next Indonesian delegates for this year’s Y20 Summit. While the presidency may shift from the Germans to the Argentinians, the spirit of youth’s right to participate in world leaders’ process of policy making remains strong. If it doesn’t matter for you, why should it matter for those of generations to pass? Apply and participate now and bring your own grain of sands!

The recruitment of the Indonesian Delegation for the 2018 Y20 Summit in Argentina has officially opened! Head to @iyouthdiplomacy’s website to get familiarized with the stages and get started. Make sure to submit your application by February 15th.

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Sherley Mega Sandiori, is a diplomat candidate at the Directorate General of Legal Affairs and International Treaties, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia. She graduated cum laude from the public international law department of Faculty of Law Universitas Indonesia in August 2017, having borne the title as FHUI's Most Outstanding Student of 2016. Prior to joining the Ministry, she was an Associate at the International Committee of the Red Cross Delegation to Indonesia and Timor Leste where she deepened her knowledge in humanitarian law. Aside from her academic interests, she is the co-founder and Director of External Affairs of a UNICEF-funded social innovation organization, called 1000for1000, that aims to foster health services for young locals in Kepulauan Seribu. During her leisure time, she enjoys spending time with her family and basically is a movie-goer.


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