G20 Youth Forum Opening Ceremony Welcomes the World

May 8, 2014

Thursday 8th May 2014 saw the quaint town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavaria, Germany welcome a host of talented and passionate people from around the world to this year’s G20 Youth Forum. The prestigious event kicked off at 10am with the official Opening Ceremony in the Great Hall of Garmisch-Partenkirchen’s Congress House and was broadcast to the world live online.

This exciting occasion is bringing talented and passionate students, university professors and staff and young parliamentarians together to discuss the most important and profound social, environmental and economic issues of the day. Over the next three days the participants from over 50 different countries shall be sharing and collating their ideas on key issues such as the economy, the environment, human rights, education and technology through four platforms: committees with country representatives, conferences between students and university staff, young parliamentarian debates and joint sessions bringing the platforms and participants together. The conclusions of the G20 Youth Forum shall be compiled and published in the Final Results document, which shall be made available on http://www.g20youthforum.org/ shortly after the event.

The Opening Ceremony consisted of many distinguished speakers who welcomed, engaged and inspired the participants ahead of their exciting event. Master of Ceremonies Martin Kloss and Moderator Sedzani Siaga dexterously and charismatically controlled the proceedings while a talented and versatile chamber orchestra played a variety of short pieces between each speech to give the participants time to reflect upon the powerful and spurring messages conveyed by each speaker.

The tone was set with a video showing the highlights of last year’s event and an opening speech from the Founder and President of the G20 Youth Forum Ksenia Khoruzhnikova. She explained the importance of the Forum in creating synergies among already successful people to achieve even greater things, stating that the individual and their networks can be more effective these days in enacting change than more bureaucratic institutions. Ms Khoruzhnikova emphasized the incredible diversity in the audience by asking people to stand one continent at a time, which was greeted with laughter and applause as it became clear that there was a sizeable delegation from each continent. The world had truly come to Germany.

Beginning with a rousing opening speech from the Mayor Garmisch-Partenkirchen Dr Sigrid Meierhofer, the inspiring and convivial atmosphere was epitomized by inspirational talks from seven very accomplished people from all over the world, detailing how they are making a positive impact on the world in many different ways.

Benjamin Robinson – G20 Youth Forum welcomes socially-conscious student

The honor of being the first esteemed panelist to speak at the G20 Youth Forum Opening Ceremony went to Benjamin Robinson, a Student Representative at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia and Australia’s Head of State at the G20 Youth Summit. Through establishing the Students Helping Students (SHS) service Mr Robinson is working hard to provide opportunities for disadvantaged students at university in his home country and he captivated the audience and the world with his story.

Demonstrating his passion for youth diplomacy, Mr Robinson spoke of how he created the concept of the SHS, aligned its goals with those of the Australian government and gained the funding through negotiation. His efforts have created a student mentoring service in the Australian region of Victoria that provides support for the disadvantaged with issues regarding academic performance, career opportunities, course issues and social integration at the university.

The SHS have increased retention rates and academic attainment among disadvantaged students through providing guidance in academic issues such as time management and assignment writing. Through providing networking opportunities for students and prospective employers through coffee meetings and social media, the SHS has also contributed substantially to increased student employment. Mr Robinson also spoke of how he has furthered his volunteering work assisting international students with the transition to Australia through the SHS orientation service.

Mr Robinson’s speech was inspirational, showing that with a social conscience and dedication even young people can make a great difference to creating equal opportunities in education. This is one area that the G20 Youth Forum focuses on, bringing people like Benjamin Robinson together to discuss and share ideas on the key issues facing our world today.

Vladimir Okhmatovski - G20 Youth Forum welcomes inspiring innovator

One of these people was Vladimir Okhmatovski, who is a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Manitoba, Canada and a great innovator. In front of a packed Congress Hall and a live online broadcast Dr. Okhmatovski outlined his achievements in Radio Frequency Integrated Circuits modelling, how they have impacted electronic production and how he is passing this insight on to future engineers. His algorithms have been awarded 4 U.S. patents with two more pending and have greatly improved mobile device productivity, with a time-to-market acceleration of between 200 and 500% and sometimes more. Establishing CEMWorks Inc and selling chips to global companies such as Boeing, winning three best paper awards for computational methodologies in electromagnetics and authoring over 80 articles in top-tiered journals have all contributed to Dr Okhmatovski’s success, which he is sharing with young people through his teaching and research projects, one of which has an operating budget of $2 million working with industry leaders such as Cadence Design Systems and Intel.

Dr Okhmatovski is a superb example of the efforts of brilliant minds to innovate and improve efficiency through technology and it was a pleasure for the G20 Youth Forum to welcome him to inspire the brilliant minds of our participants looking forward. During the Forum some participants have chosen to discuss the key issues in technology and innovation during the Conference, the results of which shall be published in the Conference Report which will be made public on the G20 Youth Forum website after the event itself.

Yanjie Yang - G20 Youth Forum welcomes enthusiastic environmentalist

One of these people was Yanjie Yang, a student at the University of Strathclyde, UK, and an active volunteer who has already made a great impact. Although she is the founder of the Tener Calliope Foundation, an upcoming education charity that is helping Chinese students to study humanities in the UK through its Chinese language library, and President of Strathclyde’s Youai Scotland Association, which is aiming to provide an education for disadvantaged Chinese pupils, Miss Yang shared a different story with those at the G20 Youth Forum regarding her efforts to conserve her home town of Kunming in China. The town was threatened by the China-Myanmar pipeline passing through the town and resulting in a great water shortage, as well as the PX (paraxylene) program, which involved releasing a carcinogenic substance. Spreading the message online, Miss Yang organized a peaceful protest in the city centre of Kunming that was attended by over 1000 participants and covered by news associations worldwide, including the BBC, France 24 and the Wall Street Journal As a result the local government guaranteed that the PX project would not happen in Kunming.

Miss Yang’s story is a great example of what can happen when young people are motivated to protect their rights and beliefs legally and rationally. It was a pleasure for the G20 Youth Forum to welcome her to inspire the brilliant minds of our participants looking forward. During the Forum some participants have chosen to discuss the key issues in ecology, environment and resources during the Conference, the results of which shall be published in the Conference Report which will be made public on the G20 Youth Forum website after the event itself.

Apurv Gupta - G20 Youth Forum welcomes vehement volunteer

One of these people was Apurv Gupta, who is studying International Relations and Law at the University of Edinburgh, UK, is Youth President of the UN Association UK and is representing India as Head of State in the G20 Youth Summit. Mr Gupta gave a fascinating speech about the various volunteering projects around the world that he led while at school. From working with a local NGO in India to empowering local girls through teaching them to read and write, renovating an orphanage and helping victims of child trafficking on their road to recovery through drawing and painting, to helping build greenhouses in Peru for the locals to grow more organic produce, Mr Gupta’s stories captivated all the delegates at the Forum.

Mr Gupta is a quintessential example of how young people can make a positive difference for others in many ways and it was a pleasure for the G20 Youth Forum to welcome him to inspire the brilliant minds of our participants looking forward. During the Forum some participants have chosen to discuss the key issues in education and youth during the Conference and accessibility of education during the G20 Youth Summit, the results of which shall be published in the Conference Report and Communiqué respectively. The Final Results will be made public on the G20 Youth Forum website after the event itself.

Felix Finkbeiner - G20 Youth Forum welcomes sixteen-year-old shrub sensation

One of these orators was Felix Finkbeiner, who from Pöcking, Bavaria was by far the most local speaker, and at 16 years old was by far the youngest! Mr Finkbeiner established his own NGO “Plant for the Planet” at the ineffably young age of 9 after being inspired by Wangari Maathai’s Green Belt campaign when researching for a school project and delivering a passionate presentation in class. When Mr Finkbeiner spoke at the G20 Youth Forum it was clear why his public speaking is so pervasively lauded: Mr Finkbeiner spoke with precocious wisdom and experience about how “Plant for the Planet” have managed to plant over 12 billion trees worldwide with 27000 ambassadors and achieving media coverage by over 10000 outlets worldwide. The NGO owns 32km2 of deforested land that it plans to afforest again and has set its sets even higher with a target of 1000 billion trees planted worldwide. Mr Finkbeiner’s book has been translated into different languages

Mr Finkbeiner is a special example of the power of children and young adults to make a positive impact and it was a pleasure for the G20 Youth Forum to welcome him to inspire the brilliant minds of our participants looking forward. During the Forum some participants have chosen to discuss the key issues in ecology, environment and resources during the Conference, the results of which shall be published in the Conference Report which will be made public on the G20 Youth Forum website after the event itself. Furthermore, some participants at the G20 Youth Summit will also be sharing ideas on creating an entrepreneurial climate for youth so more brilliant youngsters like Mr Finkbeiner can have the opportunity to make a difference. The Communiqué containing these results shall also be published on the G20 Youth Forum website.

Michael Baffoe - G20 Youth Forum welcomes refugee reformer

One of these people was Michael Baffoe, an Associate Professor of Social Work at the University of Manitoba, Canada, whose work has changed the lives for countless refugees seeking asylum in Canada. Dr Baffoe is also working to change attitudes in his home country of Ghana towards disability and promote social inclusion of people with disabilities, but his heartfelt talk focused particularly on the former volunteer project: the Montreal Refugee Coalition and its work to educate the Canadian Refugee Determination system about the conditions in 17 countries including Ghana, South Africa, Colombia, Chile and Pakistan that are causing refugees to flee for their lives, as well as assist the refugees with the integration process. The Montreal Refugee Coalition has achieved a phenomenal turnaround. Before it was established 90% of refugee claims in Canada were rejected; now 70% of claims are accepted, all thanks to Dr Baffoe’s inspired idea.

Dr Baffoe’s work has made a profound impact on social attitudes in Canada and in Ghana. It was a pleasure for the G20 Youth Forum to welcome him to inspire the brilliant minds of our participants looking forward. During the Forum some participants have chosen to discuss the key issues in social affairs during the Conference, the results of which shall be published in the Conference Report which will be made public on the G20 Youth Forum website after the event itself.

Ksenia Khoruzhnkikova – G20 Youth Forum welcomes the  developer of the responsible executive generation

The last person to speak was Ksenia Khoruzhnikova, the Founder and President of the G8 & G20 Alumni Association as well the G-20Y Association, which provides an exciting opportunity for young executives (under the age of 50) of transnational companies to collaborate to find solutions for the key global economic issues. Ms Khoruzhnikova’s second speech of the Ceremony focused on the latter conference and she began by humorously introducing a video to outline the conference before giving a fascinating speech highlighting the profound impact the G-20Y Summit is having on international development.

This year’s summit, which will be from the 10-14 September in Montreux, Switzerland, shall see 100 young executives from companies as diverse as PepsiCo, Philips, KPMG, Deutsche Bank, FedEx and Unilever come together to share ideas and write recommendations on tackling some of the world’s most pressing issues. It is instrumental in developing the capacity for a new and more responsible generation of executives. Furthermore, the results from the G-20Y Summit are disseminated not only among international organisations such as the UN, the IMF and the World Bank, but also among the G20 Summit participating countries, making the G-20Y Summit an important influence on international development. Global challenges require global solutions.

Ms Khoruzhnikova finished by connecting the G-20Y Summit to the current G20 Youth Forum through revealing an exciting opportunity for talented and passionate Forum participants to receive mentorship from an executive at the G-20Y Summit. This link highlights the fact that young people with strong potential have the opportunity to realise it, and Ms Khoruzhnikova left the stage to rapturous applause.

This week’s G20 Youth Forum shall continue to run until the Closing Gala on Saturday 10 May. The Final Results of all the conferences, committees, debates and joint sessions shall be published in Report which will be made public on the G20 Youth Forum website after the event itself.

The Ceremony concluded with a question and answer session with questions from the attending participants but also from the participants around the world who were watching the online live stream and sending in questions using social media.

This week’s G20 Youth Forum in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany shall continue to run until the Closing Gala on Saturday 10 May. The Final Results of all the round tables, committees, debates and joint sessions shall be published in the Report which will be made public on http://www.g20youthforum.org/ after the event itself.

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G20 Youth Forum 2014 Press Office
G20 Youth Forum 2014 Opening Ceremony. Plenary Session Becoming the change you want to see
Garmisch-Partenkirchen
G20 Youth Forum 2014 Opening Ceremony. Plenary Session Becoming the change you want to see
Ksenia Khoruzhnikova, Founder and President of G8 & G20 Alumni Association, Switzerland
Ksenia Khoruzhnikova, Founder and President of the G8 & G20 Alumni Association, Switzerland
G20 Youth Forum 2014 Opening Ceremony
Dr. Sigrid Meierhofer, Mayor of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
Sedzani Siaga, Plenary Session Moderator, G8 & G20 Alumni Association Scientific Comission Member
G20 Youth Forum 2014 Opening Ceremony
Benjamin Robinson, Founder of the SHS program, Australia
Vladimir Okhmatovski, Professor, University of Manitoba, Canada
Yanjie Yang, Founder of Strathclyde Youai Scotland Association, United Kingdom
Felix Finkbeiner, Plants-for-the-Planet Founder, Germany
Michael Baffoe, Professor, University of Manitoba, Canada
Questions from the floor: Jacob Bogart
From left to right: Felix Finkbeiner, Plants-for-the-Planet Founder, Germany; Yanjie Yang, Founder of Strathclyde Youai Scotland Association, United Kingdom; Michael Baffoe, Professor, University of Manitoba, Canada
Questions from the floor: Eric Kwarteng Adjepong
Vladimir Okhmatovski, Professor, University of Manitoba, Canada; Ksenia Khoruzhnikova, Founder and President of the G8 & G20 Alumni Association, Switzerland; Felix Finkbeiner, Plants-for-the-Planet Founder, Germany
G20 Youth Forum 2014 Opening Ceremony
G20 Youth Forum 2014 Opening Ceremony

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Testimonials

Bongiwe Pricilla Mbinqo-Gigaba
Member of Parliament, South Africa
Bongiwe Pricilla Mbinqo-Gigaba

It’s a great opportunity for young parliamentarians all over the world to meet and share views of how to deal with issues in different places.

As a participant of G20 Youth Forum I’ve got information from others, what views, what people are doing, how best can we practice in our places and how we can improve our society.

It was a good experience and I think for next Forums it will be better to get more countries to share their ideas together.

Jenny Mikakos
Member of Parliament, Australia
Jenny Mikakos

I think the main purpose of the G20 Youth Forum is to bring together students, academics and young parliamentarians around the world to share ideas as to how we can make a better world. It is very important to have an understanding of the views of each social group fora successful policy.

It has been a very successful Forum. I wish to congratulate the organizers. I thought it was very interesting to be able to learn more from my colleagues at the International Young Parliamentarians’ Debate about the respective nations and native societies. We have decided many important questions and we will try to implement them in our countries.

Liv Holm Andersen
Member of Parliament, Denmark
Liv Holm Andersen

I expected to come here, to share a lot of ideas with representatives from parliaments and also from academic institutions. First of all I met some incredible people and second of all most importantly I got a lot of inspiration on my field which is social issues.

In our section we have very interesting papers and point of views. The greatest thing is to notice how really different systems and societies we representing. And at the same time we can agree on so many goals and aims for this world and for our countries to work on together. And that is very incredible, great.

I hope that Denmark will make really priority and send more not only MP but also representatives from local parliaments and more Universities because I think it’s a great opportunity to our young parliamentarians, youth and students to be inspired and to inspire others.

Maria Magdalena Matthys
Member of Parliament, South Africa
Maria Magdalena Matthys

I think it’s a very good cause for young people. In my vision the purpose of G20 Youth Forum is to encourage young people to learn and educate themselves, to unit them. I also think that it’s good opportunity for academics to come and share their experience. And also for young parliamentarians to be an example for the countries, they can encourage more youth, young people to participate in this program.

I talked about professionalism of women in South Africa and I’ve learnt a lot from other countries about agenda issues.

Alvin Botes
Member of the Executive Council, South Africa
Alvin Botes

One of the objective things of G20 Youth Forum is to insure a comprehension of network, to exchange intellectual and societal ideas among current youth leaders, formal youth leaders and those working on the youth agenda across the world.

One of my colleagues on the International Young Parliamentarians’ Debate presented me kangaroo – I’m from South Africa, I was in Russia and received an Australian kangaroo. It’s the exchange of ideas and network. So this little kangaroo symbolizes this.

It’s a good platform for intellectual debate and it should be held annually.

Bing Ren
Professor, Nankai University, China
Bing Ren

According to my understanding, G8 and G20 originally focused on the finances and economic issues. But through out of the years and particularly my personal participation this time I think the issue animation becomes broader than that. It is not only economy and finance, but social issues, environmental issues and arts, history. Very different areas comes together to discuss and make dialogue together.

I hope to involve myself in different kinds of platforms – I can speak out my opinion and suggestions – that makes my exchange here more meaningful.
I work in education, I pay attention to educating young people – so I find a lot of common problems around the world. That makes me inspired with the idea that we should participate in these meetings and thanks to G8 and G20 Alumni Association for inviting me hear.

And the other impressive thing is: I think G20 Youth Forum have made great efforts in organizing many people together and try to collect the ideas and also to make this activities more interesting and alive. That is also good impression for me.

Shinya Hanaoka
Associate Professor, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan
Shinya Hanaoka

When I go back to Japan I would like to inform about G20 Youth Forum other faculty members, also international division of our University. Then I will recommend some students from our faculty to join this Forum over the next two years.

Xinghua Liu
Assistant Professor, Nankai University, China
Xinghua Liu

This is very famous, impressive and huge youth forum, and also well organized. My first impression was that we can meet with different people from other countries. There are different cultures, different national dresses – for me it is good experience to meet new people from all over the world.

G20 Youth Forum is very good instrument for public all over the world in different countries to learn about G20, especially for the young leaders and youth elites in different countries. I think it will play very important role in the media, in the mobilization, press mobilization in different countries.

Hai Tao Huang
Lecturer of Zhou Enlai School of Government, Nankai University, China
Hai Tao Huang

Firstly, it’s very precious experience for me. I can meet people all around the world more than 60 countries. It’s very good opportunity to speak with them and to exchange ideas. And, secondly, communications is not enough – we can understand each other and then we can understand ideas of the whole world; especially I’m very happy to see that the future young leaders they gather together. This may be a good guarantee for the development of the world. They have fresh ideas – and this is very important.

Marçal Avelino Salazar Marques Mendes
Jurist, University of Minho, Portugal
Marçal Avelino Salazar Marques Mendes

The purpose of the Forum is very well constructed. I think it makes us like a prototype of government. It develops a capacity of communicating with people and with some ministers and with the government itself. It’s important for participants that they go home and make there some kind of experiments and be reasonable and capable to understand the solution to each country and for the whole world.

Connell Wise
Founder, Chairman of the Board & Chief Executive, United States Youth Chamber of Commerce, USA
Connell Wise

In my understanding of the main purpose of G20 Youth Forum it is the international cooperation between different countries of the world to basically bring a global understanding how the leaders economic and financial crisis are facing in the world and how to avoid those crisises.

Meaghan Anne Williams
Teaching Assistant, Queen's University, Canada
Meaghan Anne Williams

The networking opportunity is incredible and it’s very encouraging to meet young people from all over the world who are interested to talk in same kinds of issues, answering the same kinds of problems, working together, collaborating. Not just making new friends but hopefully making new peers, colleagues to work in these issues in future.

The conference has been incredible for learning more about what the academic world can do to facilitate change in the real world. Sometimes academia is so theoretical that you lose sight of what is actually going on. But this conference has proved that there are a number of individual academics working to harmonize that view.

Melina Djulancic
J.D. Candidate, University of Manitoba, Canada
Melina Djulancic

It is the nice opportunity to get together with the young people from around the world. For me it’s important that people discussing their ideas. Our group was concentrating on the young entrepreneurships and all important things around this field. Basically entrepreneurship in schools is one of our recommendations and easier access to capital for businesses.

Abraham Johannes Swanepoel
Student, North-West University, South Africa
Abraham Johannes Swanepoel

Thinking that we are the future leaders of tomorrow G20 Youth Forum gives as an opportunity to start to get used to discuss things, used to live in them and exchanging points of view with other people.

I think it is awesome opportunity just to meet other people, get up different points of view from different countries. As I’m from South Africa and we are still developing country to get point of views that is from developed countries. It gives me lot of knowledge that you can take back to your country and try to employ it in your country system.

Aya Fujita
Student, University of Tsukuba, Japan
Aya Fujita

G20 Youth Forum is: A lot of people from international society build a partnership, leadership and friendship.

I got a lot of intellectual involvements, we discussed about health care, child care and women empowerment. Each country has different background and situation; it’s very great to know about what country has the same and which are different.

Fei Yang Qi
MA Student, University of Birmingham, UK
Fei Yang Qi

The main purpose of G20 Youth Forum is young leaders working together and think about how to push the world by the small steps.

I think there are a lot of benefits in participating in G20 Youth Forum, for example team work variety, especially to make others think about your points and change your views in discussions.

Floris Busscher
Student, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Floris Busscher

I think the main purpose at our level – at a Youth Summits and at a Conference, is to bring together young people with ideas, with creativities and with innovations. To bring together, to exchange ideas and maybe together come to enhance ideas to create a synergy between the creativity of young people. Opportunities is to meet always amazing young people which enhance your network in international level and also to be inspired by people from other countries and to increase and enhance your own prospective, how you see things in a multinational way with different cultures and different political system influencing its positions.

The most interesting moment is an Opening Ceremony – lovely discussion between people from all different kinds of fields, from different countries who exchange ideas on education which is of course the kind of thing that applies to all of us. So to see it and try to feel the G20 spirit on the ceremony was the highlight.

Italo Ribeiro Alves
Student, President of the International Business Society, Quinnipiac University, Brazil
Italo Ribeiro Alves

One on my career paths that I have been potentially exploring will be diplomacy. I believe that dialoging with young people from all other the world I can practice my cultural and communicational skills and learn how to debate and understand the social issues.

Lindsay Ann Markle
Student, Purdue University, USA
Lindsay Ann Markle

The purpose of the Forum is to exchange ideas between other countries. It’s such a unique opportunity because everyone here comes with an open mind and it’s really interesting learn about other cultures. It’s really a unique experience – I’m really glad I came here.

I expected to hear different prospectives about government’s role and society and it met my expectations.

Megan Eleri David
Student, Cardiff University, UK
Megan Eleri David

The main purpose of G20 Youth Forum is sort of empowering young people to feel like they can make a change.

I was a moderator on my committee. And I’m very proud of the document which we were working on. I had a team who I’m really excited about. We have three main ideas on our recommendation: one about child care, one about women’s empowerment in work places with an education and one about social security in developing countries.

Stefan Vasilev
Student, Wageningen University, Netherlands
Stefan Vasilev

Definitely the main purpose is to communicate with a lot of people, to exchange ideas with the experts in your field, and also to send a message about our ideas.

Governments always appreciate opinions from young people who are thinking out of the box. I hope they will appreciate our recommendations too.

Victoria Pilbeam
Student, Australian National University
Victoria Pilbeam

I think it’s really great to bring a lot of young people together to talk about important issues. It’s always a good idea. Mostly it's important to meet amazing people who really like to be engaged and are really passionate about different issues.

We looked on the questions: young women’s’ careers and family. We made some pretty concrete recommendations.

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