Model G20: A Dream to Remember

SGPIA students Natalia Molina Ballester, Tejaswini Vavilala, Precious Laud-Abbey, Joseph Edwards, and Karyna Tafel with their faculty advisor Budi Djafar at the Model G20.

Sometimes one needs a coincidence to take things in a different direction. I am a dreamer, and seeing one of my dreams come true is plainly defining. Model G20 was one of those moments for me. Having interned at the United Nations before, I was well-versed with how negotiations and policy documentation happens, but having to negotiate and conclude on was a challenging task in itself.

Our team of five (Natalia Molina Ballester, Tejaswini Vavilala, Precious Laud-Abbey, Joseph Edwards, and Karyna Tafel) and faculty advisor, Budi Djafar were well prepared to embrace the role of South African diplomats fighting for issues of Rising Debt, WTO reforms, Climate change, Global Health, and Inequality. While diplomacy is my area of interest, this was the first time I tasted the real feeling of being a diplomat and deliberate on behalf of my country. 

The first six weeks of the fall semester were grilling for my team and me. Researching about a country and a topic you have absolutely no idea of was a challenge. Meeting twice a week and studying issues that are relevant to the survival of a country gave us in-depth knowledge about life in South Africa. Learning the language used by a diplomat, and pushing through your ideas and policy proposal to be on the communiqué can be daunting.

Here are a few thoughts that I would like to share as a delegate for the MG20 conference:

 

  1. Get ready to be put on the spot for an issue you are not aware of: In most cases, you are well-versed with the topic you have prepared. But Sometimes, you might be asked to be the policy advisor for another issue that is entirely unknown/alien to you. Brace yourself with a few points beforehand, so you have leverage while negotiating. Countries would want to partner with you, and you need to be ready at any given point in time.

  2. Your country takes precedence – Partnerships are crucial. Whether it is the Sherpa track or the Finance track, your country takes priority to as opposed to any other. Fight your way out to share your priorities with the group and reflect it on the communique. Research in advance to know who your friend is and reach a deal with the ‘outside the room.’

  3. Be in constant contact with your team – Your team is your best ally. The three-days of the conference are challenging times, and every minute counts. Use it to the fullest – a Whatsapp group with your team is the best medium of communication to take things forward. 

  4. Hone your communication skills- Getting your point through while speaking in a diplomatic tone is an art in itself. Listen to speeches and talks in the likes of the UN, G20, G-7 to develop a habit of speaking eloquently while getting the message across. 

  5. Be open-minded – You never know what can happen next. Be observant of how others around you interact. Be flexible and understanding while listening carefully to all opinions. 

  6. It is okay to lose – The atmosphere of G20 made me competitive while my mood swung from being gentle to friendly to being angry and annoyed. Know that it is okay to lose and what you gained from conference matters.

  7. Make friends – Though you call your counterparts at the conference as your “frenemies,” at the end of the day, they come from a university that teaches the same course. Take the time to meet people from other countries (their actual countries), exchange contacts, and learn about them. 

G20 has been one of my favorite experiences. I have learned a lot, and it has made me ready for the real world. I would like to genuinely thank our advisor Budi, for being so unapologetically supportive, and my teammates for being such great companions. The anxiousness and nerve-wracking conversations in your dreams is an indicator that you are ready for the conference. The separation-anxiety after the conference is a sign that you did well. I hope that everyone gets an opportunity to experience the MG20 summit. 

 

 – Tejaswini Vavilala, SGPIA Student