Advocating for Southeast Asian Interests at the Model G20

This year, participation in the second annual Model G20 symposium was offered as a practicum option through Professor Sakiko Fukuda-Parr’s Development Economics course. After an intensive period of preparation, students traveled to American University in Washington D.C. to participate in the event. Here, International Affairs student Jenna Ortiz details her experience. 

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American University held their second annual Model G20 Summit (MG20) on October 5-7, 2018. I, and others in my Development Economics class, traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in this summit and gain a better understanding of diplomacy, negotiation, and international policy. It was truly an eye opening experience. I was on the delegation representing Indonesia with several other classmates. As I normally focus my studies in Latin America, working on policies and issues that affect not only Indonesia, but also the South East Asian region at large, was completely new to me.

The main topics we discussed during the MG20 were: climate change and energy, migration and refugees, gender, international tax cooperation, international trade, and the future of work. One of the most interesting aspects of preparing for this summit was how quickly my team and I were able to truly become knowledgeable on our topics. We were assigned our countries and roles only three weeks in advance of the summit! However, in those three weeks we went from just learning about Indonesia to truly understanding how these topics affect our country and the surrounding region. I was assigned to be the Central Bank Governor of Indonesia. This meant I worked on the finance track topics. I was also assigned to be the lead policy expert on the topic of the future of work. At the MG20, I was able to give an opening speech on this topic to set the tone of the negotiations. I also helped support research for the policies related to gender, that my classmate, La Rainne Pasion, was the policy expert for.

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Once we arrived to American University, we were surrounded by young professionals of all levels from undergraduate students to law students to staff members from the World Bank. It really provided a breeding ground for rich conversation on these topics. While some participants had participated in an event like this before, this was my first time, so I didn’t quite know what to expect. One member of our team had to be present in the formal negotiations at all times, but the rest of our team could be negotiating with other delegations informally and behind the scenes. This was honestly my favorite part. Going into the summit, my team and I knew that we really had to push for our policy recommendations, as we were one of the few developing countries represented within the G20 and the only country representing South East Asia. This meant I was running around trying to talk to every delegation I could on how we could work together to push forward the recommendations we had come up with. It was really in this informal space that you see the true negotiations happening. Every delegation was working on rephrasing recommendations, convincing other countries why they should care and/or support it.. It was really exciting to see diplomacy in action.

We were awarded an Outstanding Delegation Award for our representation of Indonesia. I was really proud of my team. We had worked so hard preparing for this event and advocating for both Indonesian and South East Asian interests at the symposium, and I really feel like our hard work paid off. Additionally, we were able to get several of our key recommendations into the final commitment, called the Communiqué, of all the countries in the G20. These included getting commitments to create a South East Asian Partnership that would bring the G20 countries together to work on developing infrastructure in the region, as well as having all members commit to revisiting the Doha Round of trade negotiations through the World Trade Organization.

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Receiving Outstanding Delegation Awards!

Both of these were really important to Indonesia for several reasons. The South East Asian Partnership would ensure that financial investment would be made in the region and would allow the countries in South East Asia to work towards modernizing infrastructures and systems. Having modern systems in place is crucial for being competitive on the world stage. Similarly, the Doha Round of trade negotiations through the World Trade Organization had not been settled since 2001! Countries couldn’t come together and agree on many of the items in those negotiations, but it was very important that we pushed for this to be revisited. There are several measures around agriculture and intellectual property that would be very beneficial to a developing country if they were negotiated. Getting all of the countries to agree to these two things (even the U.S., which was a hard sell) meant that there was significant interest in helping develop the South East Asian region. That was a huge success for a developing country! This experience helped to spark an interest in diplomacy that I hadn’t necessarily had before. While I always knew I wanted to work in an international space, I hadn’t considered a pathway into diplomacy and foreign negotiations. However, after the MG20 I know I will definitely be taking the time to consider these options as a possible career path after graduation.