Drew helps empower youth in Guyana

My name is Drew Badgley. I am a student in the International Development Studies Co-op at the University of Toronto Scarborough. I am currently on a one year placement gaining work experience in Georgetown, Guyana.


Drew Badgley

I am working with a youth empowerment organization (Volunteer Youth Corps Guyana) which supports marginalized youth by offering after school programs, mentoring and employment. My role is help them develop volunteer training materials and an after school curriculum that can be used as the organization expands into other at-risk communities.  Already I have had the opportunity to meet with many youth and volunteers and I have felt incredibly welcomed by this innovative and dedicated organization.

I have been given this opportunity through the co-op program at UTSC and through CUSO-VSO. CUSO-VSO is a volunteer-sending organization which sends volunteers to assist a wide range of organizations all over the world.

This blog is a summary of some of my experiences while on this placement. As I continue to meet new people, share life with them and overcome challenges you will get to share some of these experiences with me. Enjoy!

Day 1

So I made it in just fine this morning. I don’t remember much about the flights… because I spent most of my time sleeping. I do remember landing in Trinidad on the way and I woke up to see the landing in Guyana.

Once we (the rest of the VSO volunteers that I was traveling with) got through customs we were picked up and drove for about an hour to get into the city. A volunteer who has been here since May acted as our guide and she gave us many helpful tips!

After getting settled at the guest house – where I will be staying for the next few days – I had a shower, lunch and then went walking with another student who is here from U of T.

We found a Scotiabank, the library and the Promenade Garden. We also got to see a really cool lizard – but sadly it got away before I could get a picture :(.

I am very fortunate that I have had the day to rest and get my bearings. Tomorrow we will start into our in country training.

regent street

I thoroughly enjoy that one of the main roads is Regent street. It was the busiest place I was today - lots of vehicles, people and shops. Of course we stuck out like sore thumbs... probably didn't help that I whipped my camera out to take this picture:)I can't even describe to you how cool this tree is! It is a tree that has so many other plants growing on it that it is completely covered in their roots.

cool tree

I can't even describe to you how cool this tree is! It is a tree that has so many other plants growing on it that it is completely covered in their roots.

beautiful plant

Yet another beautiful plant seen at the garden.

lizard hole

The hole where the lizard got away... sigh.

guest house

And the food is great too!!!!

living room

The living room at the guest house where I am typing right now.

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Wanna buy a llama?

My lovely apartment is located in downtown Sucre. It’s a fourth-floor walk-up with a large balcony and a panoramic view of the city. Probably the best perk of my residence is that it’s just around the corner from the Mercado Central, a sprawling indoor labyrinth where one can find just about any foodstuff imaginable. For breakfast I often hop over to the market for a fresh fruit salad with yogurt and whipped cream or a fruit smoothie, made right in front of me by one of ten smiling Bolivian ladies. I love this place. I can spend hours meandering, bargaining over a few pennies and learning recipes from the amiable vendors.

Of course navigating this culinary paradise was not always so easy. When I first arrived my limited Spanish made for some interesting exchanges:

“How do you call this? It’s like a banana except you fry it. In English we call it a plantain. Oh in Spanish it’s called a Banana that you fry? How convenient!”

My most memorable linguistic mishap in the market was during my first week in Sucre. I had just arrived from La Paz where the evening prior I had tried llama for the first time. I loved it and decided I wanted to cook it for myself. I assumed since it had been so readily available at the restaurant in La Paz that it would definitely be easy to purchase in the Mercado Central. With steely determination I set out on my llama mission, driven by a hankering that only the meat-loving readers of this post will understand.

I arrived at the market, fearing not for my broken Spanish. These people are meat-lovers like me. Surely our mutual love of juicy llama will be far greater than any idiomatic foibles? I approached the first vendor.

“Excuse me, sir. I would like to buy llama. How much does it cost?”

“Llama? I don’t have any.” (Followed by about 30 seconds of rapid-fire Spanish of which I understood nothing.)

Undaunted I moved to the next vendor.

“Excuse me, sir. I would like to buy llama. How much does it cost?”

“I don’t have any llama but I can get some for you”.

Excellent! My kind of person!

“Good. How much will it cost?”

“400 Bolivianos”


At this point I was still getting accustomed to the exchange rate. I knew that 400 Bolivianos is only about $75 but even so, it seemed pricey for meat. My “gringo radar” immediately started alarming. Was I being taken advantage of? This does not happen to me much in Bolivia as with my colouring I am often mistaken for Hispanic but maybe in this instance my poor Spanish had given me away as a foreigner and this gentleman was, as my British mother would put it, “taking the piss”.

“Señor, I do not think that is a fair price.”

“How do you say that is not a fair price? I have to go to farm and bring llama for you. 400 Bolivianos. Fair price.”

Disheartened, I left the market. How would I ever be able to fit in if I was constantly being forced to pay outrageous prices? I felt very foreign all of a sudden. I had expected to pay slightly more than the going price for food but this inflation was ridiculous. I felt cheated. My faith in the kindly faces of the Bolivian vendors was shaken. Had they all been lying to me? I looked down at my bag of tomatoes with disdain. Maybe they too were outrageously over-priced?

A few days later I was relating the incident to a colleague when suddenly he burst out laughing. Thinking he was laughing at my poor bargaining skills I became haughtily offended. As it turns out, my bargaining ability was not the issue.

“Jasmine, you attempted to buy an entire llama.”

That’s right folks. Had I accepted the price of 400 Bolivianos that vendor would have procured for me an entire llama from the countryside, brought it (alive) to the market for my inspection and then butchered it there, providing me with enough llama meat to feed a village.

With a mixture of relief and embarrassment I thanked my colleague for the explanation. On my next trip to the market I returned to the same vendor and purchased a kilo of beef. My llama craving seems to have dissipated.

Jasmine Sealy
International Development Studies 

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Making a difference in Bolivia

Hi. My name is Jasmine Sealy and I’m an International Development Studies Co-op student at UTSC. I’m currently on placement in Bolivia.

My official mandate for Oxfam-Quebec is to act as advisor in the areas of leadership and communication for Centro Ñanta in Sucre, Bolivia.  Ñanta provides a wide array of social services to working boys, girls and adolescents. This is a particularly vulnerable population of children who require special attention and a unique approach. They are subject to several challenges such as exploitation in the workforce and familial problems, and are severely constrained in their ability to attend school and generally be kids. As such Ñanta employs a capacity-building approach to ensure that these exceptional children can retain their independence while benefitting from integrated support in the form of nutrition, pedagogy, informatics, social work, sports and culture. Ñanta encourages the promotion of the rights of the child and tries to include the children in many of the decision-making processes of the organization.

Playing with blindfolds and balloons during a field trip with the kids

My role as advisor on leadership and communication involves capacity building with the educators of Ñanta to integrate these themes into all areas. Leadership generally involves increasing the ability of the children to make their own decisions, manage their time and money effectively and to lead their various working groups effectively and democratically. To improve the leadership aspect of Ñanta’s services, I’ve been working with the social workers to develop games and other activities that develop leadership skills. I’m also assisting in the production of a docu-fiction by some of the older Ñanta beneficiaries.

With regard to communication, I’m working to improve both the internal and external communications of the organization. Internal communication means facilitating the ways in which staff communicate with each other and the continuity that exists across diverse work areas. External communication means improving public relations (such as social media, websites, brochures, etc) as well as encouraging synergistic relationships with other organizations working in the same field.

Very recently the Oxfam-Quebec Bolivia office in La Paz recognized that I’m knowledgeable of funding proposals, particularly the results-based management approach required by CIDA. So they’ve added a third component to my mandate: diagnostic and general improvement of Ñanta’s fund-seeking activities. So far, I’ve been involved in writing two funding applications for Ñanta.

A celebration of the Dia de la Juventud in Sucre where a bunch of different organizations who work with kids got together and gave out prizes for the grafitti competetion. That's me with some of the kids from Nanta and two other Oxfam volunteers.

Outside of my mandate, I sometimes assist with the translation of a magazine that is written and sold by the children. I also occasionally attend street visits with the outreach social workers to meet some of the children who work on the street but who do not attend Ñanta. I also interact with these children during organized field trips and at the local swimming pool where I sometimes lend my time.

Join me tomorrow when I’ll share with you my experience at the big central market – the joys of a language barrier!

By Jasmine Sealy

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Does climate change affect wine making? A tour of Niagara’s wine region.

The Niagara wine region has been blessed by its geographic locations bounded in the north by Lake Ontario and in the south by Lake Erie.  The last glaciations that ended 10,000 years ago formulated the Niagara Escarpment, mainly the St. David’s Bench, that promotes a microclimate known for good air flow, soil drainage and soil quality for vineyards. However, grape vines in the winter are inactive and vulnerable to the cold air mass from the North during winter. Lake Ontario, which is not frozen in the winter, is able to moderate the cold air with its pool of sensible heat and high specific heat capacity.  Similarly, Lake Erie is able to ease the hot summer weather from invading this wine producing region.  But as we see in climate change, fluctuating maximum and minimum temperature will continue to push the grape vines’ adaptive ability to the limit. In fact, this condition calls for a shift in the Niagara region to produce grapes that are more suitable in a warm climate.  This warmer climate will also have an effect on the transformation of the conventional fruit production that is vital to the survival of the local economy.


The tour of the wine region began on our second day at the vineyards of Chateau des Charmes. Dr. Tony Shaw, a professor at Brock University, pointed out the place that was the first winery to install a wind machine to combat climate change and cold nights which are not suitable for the growing of grapes.  Even though the climate in the Niagara Region is observed with increasing temperature, the increasing variability of temperature translates to more days of cooler minimum temperature that happen at night. To prevent the cold nights from interfering with the growing of grapes, a wind machine has a temperature sensor that will automatically spin its blade to push a warmer air to the surface when approaching -15 to -16°C.  While cool and warm air masses do not mix, such use of technology is able to prevent the loss of grapes by inverting air columns at the surface.


Also on our wine tour, we visited at Stratus, where we were welcome by its LEED Silver awarded retail gallery and offered a sample of white wine by our host Phyllis. At the back of the building, we discovered similar a wind machine was erected within the vineyard. In addition to frost damage, Phyllis pointed out another danger posed by the invasion of Asian long-horn beetles. The Asian beetles, once hatched, feed on the leaves to reduce the photosynthetic productivity of the grapes, which delay the ripening of grapes and reduce their quality. In addition, fieldworkers often encounter the problem of extensive molding of the grape vines that allow the growth of fungus to overtake the development of grapes.

Vineyard sign

Currently, in addition to the Niagara region, the north shore of Lake Erie, Pelee Island and Prince Edward County represent about 80% of Canadian wine, with the rest coming from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. However, the warming from climate change poses an immediate threat to the future of Canadian wine output. Setting wind machines to create a temperature inversion can only be a temporary solution as once the climate warms beyond control, other adaptive measures may need to be considered in preserving the production of wine. Solutions such as shifting the production to grapes that are more suitable for a warmer climate can make a significant impact on the local agricultural and wine industries in the Niagara Region.

Jerry Jien
PhD Student, Environmental Science

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Exploring the Geology of Sand Dunes

Tom Meulendyk surveyed the dunes using ground-penetrating radar

Tom Meulendyk surveyed the dunes using ground-penetrating radar

My name is Tom Meulendyk and I’m currently working as a research assistant with Dr. Nick Eyles at University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC). I graduated from UTSC where I worked with Nick for my senior level project, publishing a paper in a peer-reviewed journal (Eyles & Meulendyk, 2008). I then went to the University of Calgary where I did my Masters on the geophysical mapping of ice patches in the Northwest Territories.

Though I do spend time in the office, working as a researcher takes me beyond the desk and provides an opportunity to explore the natural environment and use innovative geophysical equipment. The position gives me the freedom to choose the direction of research and manage each project. My current study takes place at Long Point, Ont.

Hidden from plain sight, Long Point is a 40km sand spit (one of the longest in the world) that juts out into eastern Lake Erie. The public can access the spit through Long Point Provincial Park and discover its beautiful sandy beaches, extensive marshlands and see a variety of wildlife. Long Point is a UNESCO biosphere reserve, attracting thousands of bird watchers in spring and fall.

Long Point

Long Point

Our research, however, takes us beyond the confines of the provincial park. With help from the Canadian Wildlife Service, we were stationed within Long Point National Wildlife Area while conducting our research. This 3,200 hectare area has been maintained in its natural state – a combination of beaches, woodlands, ponds, wet meadows and big sand dunes. Think of a vegetated Sahara Desert! The complex system of dunes, up to 25m in height, is the backbone of the spit and the focus of our research. While it is known that the ridges of dunes have formed here over the last 5,000 years, the stages of dune construction and maturity have not been explored; the right geophysical techniques have only just come along. To answer these questions, Nick and I surveyed the dunes using ground-penetrating radar (GPR) that reveals the structure and layering deep below the surface. The radar system works by sending pulses of electromagnetic energy into the ground that reflect back as they encounter variations in the subsurface. The result is a two-dimensional cross-section of what is below your feet.

Our radar data provide a detailed picture of how the dunes grew and were sculpted by wind and storm events over time. Another important aspect of our fieldwork involved making observations of how young dunes are being formed today along the shoreline. During our time at Long Point, we enjoyed riding ATVs to each site, having lunch by the old lighthouse and spotting turtles, deer and bald eagles amongst the dunes. Using GPR over tall dunes in the summer heat can be demanding, but the surrounding beauty of Lake Erie and the excitement of discovery makes the hard work rewarding.

The processing and analysis of the GPR data is the next step as our work returns to the office and I am eager to see what the data tells us. We are working towards a model of how dunes form and mature and once again intend to publish the data so it becomes part of the wider knowledge of sand dunes. Our work will yield new insights into how the shoreline of Lake Erie has evolved through time. At Long Point, there are massive problems created by human settlement close to the shoreline, including erosion and flooding.

Field work is an essential part of geology and as geophysical techniques are developed we are able to explore what’s under our feet and make new insights into how our Earth has evolved.

Tom Meulendyk

Eyles, N. and Meulendyk, T. (2008) Ground penetrating radar study of a Pleistocene ice-scoured glaciolacustrine sequence boundary. Boreas 37, 226-233.

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Re-visiting Tectonic Europe

Frabaer! (that means “fantastic” in Icelandic). “Fantastic” is about the only way to describe our recent field trip adventure to Iceland. I was lucky enough to be the Teaching Assistant for our environmental science undergraduate Field Camp with Professor Nick Eyles at University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC). Most of the 19 students were enrolled in Environmental Science; however, several were from other disciplines. All had a keen interest in learning about our planet and how it works.

UTSC students band together in Iceland

UTSC students band together in Iceland

Our trip was led by Dr. Eyles and Icelandic geologist Kristinn Gudjonsson. Kristinn appeared with Dr. Eyles in the Geologic Journey II series in the Tectonic Europe episode featuring Iceland, which is airing this Thursday, July 14 at 8:00pm on CBC! We visited several locations featured in that episode, including Dr. Eyles’ research hut!

Iceland provides a unique opportunity for the study of environmental science and the processes that shape our planet. Known as the “land of fire and ice”, Iceland is positioned along the Mid Oceanic Ridge, located directly on the plate boundary separating the North American and European tectonic plates.

The students’ study of Iceland began long before they boarded the flight to Reykjavik. During the winter term, students selected their research topics. This research was a key component of the Field Camp curriculum. The work included producing a professional quality poster regarding their topic and providing an oral presentation in the field while in Iceland. Presentations were given outdoors at a variety of locations that included a glacial kettle hole, the terminus of a glacier and at the edge of a volcano. These poster presentations allowed students to learn not only about Icelandic environmental science, but also helped them to develop professional presentation skills valuable in both business and in future scientific research.

Students show their Canadian pride in Iceland

Students show their Canadian pride in Iceland

Our travels included visits to geothermal areas on the Reyjkanes Peninsula and also a visit to a geothermal plant to learn how geothermal processes are used to generate energy. We hiked through Skaftafall National Park in the area of the Vatnajokull ice cap. That one hike alone was a journey through an outdoor “textbook” of a number of disciplines such as fluvial geomorphology, glaciology and the study of slopes.  However, most of us would agree that the highlight of our trip was our journey to the top of Eyjafjallajokull, the volcano that made headlines around the world last year for wreaking havoc on European airspace. Our trip to the summit began in specialized four-wheel drive vehicles that transported us across miles of snowpack and glacier. We then hiked across steaming fields of lava up to the edge of the crater. It was an exhilarating moment for us all as we stood in the strong winds under blue skies, looking down on newly created earth.

Hiking the Icelandic terrain

Hiking the Icelandic terrain

Our students’ enthusiasm was evident throughout the entire trip, reflecting their enjoyment and appreciation of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.  The geological and environmental learning opportunity that Iceland provided us was unequalled. Really, there is no place on earth quite like Iceland. The learning experience extended beyond science and included both professional and personal development for students. For many this was their first time leaving Canada and for some it was their first time even going on a hike! 

Kathy Wallace, Ph.D. Student

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Environmental Science Career Profile: Sean Salvatori

Studying environmental science at UTSC can lead to many different careers. In the following Q&A, UTSC chats with Environmental Science graduate Sean Salvatori.

UTSC: What were your favourite subjects in high school?
SS: My favourite subjects in high school were physics, chemistry and algebra.

UTSC: Did you always know you wanted to study environmental science?
SS: I always knew I enjoyed environmental sciences but I didn’t know until first year university on which area of environmental science I was going to focus.

UTSC: How did you come to study at UTSC?
SS: I was accepted at Scarborough and it was an easier transition from small-town Ontario to Toronto than St. George, and it was closer to my hometown for visits.

UTSC: What was your favourite part about studying at UTSC?
SS: My favourite part about Scarborough was the intimate nature and good people who both attended the school and who taught there. There was a lot of interaction outside the classroom with people who are still friends today.

UTSC: What was your favourite part about studying environmental science?
SS: I enjoyed the fieldwork and field trips most of all.

UTSC: What did you want to be when you “grew up”?
SS: A firefighter.

UTSC: Where are you working now?
SS: I work in the Toronto office of Dillon Consulting Limited but travel and work out of many of our offices across Canada.

UTSC: Do you have any advice or tips for high school students looking to study environmental science?
SS: Spend as much time outdoors observing the environment as you can.  Learn how natural systems work and their interactions. Always evaluate both sides of any environmentally based issues.

UTSC:  Did your degree in Environmental Science help you get to where you are today?
SS: All the courses I took as part of the Environmental Science degree are applicable to the work I do today as a consulting hydrogeologist.

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Sitting Down to Negotiate – Day 3 of the G8/G20 Youth Summit

The Defense Committee (far right: Rob Onley)

The Defense Committee (far right: Rob Onley)

The G8/G20 Youth Summit offers an unparalleled opportunity for university students to enter a world known only to the highest ranks of global governments. Canada’s army may be small in direct comparison to our G8 friends, but within the context of the G8, Canada’s voice is equal, unlike the exclusive UN Security Council.

Given this influential role, I took a stance on defense policy that was arguably broader than the Canadian government can actually enact and represent in reality. Nonetheless, the Ministers of Defense bore the heaviest moral and consequential burden at the G8 Youth Summit. As the military leaders of the world’s strongest democracies, we are tasked with addressing issues which threaten the overall peace and stability of the world, while simultaneously possessing the overwhelming military capacity to intervene and defend the lives of innocent human beings, as recently seen in Libya.

Canada is a peaceful nation that is promoting and helping to create stability through a number of military and defense missions abroad. Canada is well-respected internationally with much global goodwill. These missions include the NATO-ISAF operation in Afghanistan, the NATO-led air campaign against the Gaddafi regime in Libya and the rebuilding effort in Haiti.

The Western world is at the most dangerous crossroads of recent history. With revolutions sweeping the Middle East, arch-terrorist Osama bin Laden dead and the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran in the very near future, the Defense Ministers of the G8 are confronting the most uncertain future it has ever faced. The time has come for resolute decision-making. Rather than draft idealistic, unrealistic and far-out solutions that will only ‘kick the can down the road’, I believed in strong policy statements that were actionable, so that these issues are not still issues one day later in my life, should I end up working in a similar role.

When negotiations over strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) began, I opened by arguing that the very existence of the NPT was at stake, and called for policy that “Guaranteed the Survival of the NPT.” In line with the Canadian government, I stated that if Iran develops nuclear weapons in direct defiance of the NPT provisions, then the world faces the grave risk of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. In a region that has seen so much instability in so many countries, the last thing the international community needs is the widespread development of the globe’s most deadly weaponry.

While agreeing to this ‘survival’ theme was simple, achieving consensus on how to actually “stop” Iran from developing nuclear weapons presented a massive hurdle for our negotiations. In reality, Iran and the Western powers have attempted several rounds of negotiations, designed to reach an understanding on the nature and extent of Iran’s nuclear program. The Iranian government has continually denied it is seeking nuclear weapons, while the Western powers, notably the United States, have viewed Iran’s program with deep suspicion, based on a variety of intelligence gathered by the IAEA in its inspections.

Deciding how to proceed with diplomacy was difficult, simply because the negotiation process has dragged on for decades. Some see a negotiated settlement as a dead end. However, on the flip side, no one at the G8 Youth Summit was arguing that the only solution is to use military action to stop Iran’s nuclear program.

Instead, the G8 Youth Ministers of Defense worked exhaustively on developing a “Grand Bargain”, designed to entice the Iranian government to come to the negotiating table with open hands and come clean about its nuclear intentions. In return, the G8 presented Iran with a massive package of economic, social and technological incentives to fully normalize relations with Iran and promote the creation of mutual trust, understanding and peace. This is the only path toward peace.

Through nearly two full days of negotiation, we, the G8 Youth, were finally able to reach consensus on this Grand Bargain. Along the way, nearly every possible realistic method of enticing Iran to negotiate was discussed, analyzed and critiqued. In the end, the G8 concluded that if indeed Iran was only developing peaceful nuclear energy, then they would absolutely have to come to the negotiating table, open up their nuclear program to full inspection, and in doing so, put to rest all fears that they are developing nuclear weapons. Any other response, even non-response, would be deemed conclusive evidence that Iran was in all likelihood covertly developing nuclear weapons.

This was the proposal set out in our final communiqué: whether or not the real G8 nations will present Iran with a similar offer remains to be seen. As the Youth Ministers of Defense, we can only hope that the real G8 is reading our work and taking note. The alternative — the death of the NPT — would represent the beginning of a dark period in world history, as other nations race to develop their own nuclear arsenals.

In my next post, I will assess the impact of the G8/G20 Youth Summit on networking and the influence of youth leaders.

Robert Onley
Students’ Law Society 2011-12
Juris Doctor (2012), University of Windsor, Faculty of Law Honours Bachelor of Arts

(2009), University of Toronto

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Youth International Dialogue – Negotiations Begin

As a political science graduate from UTSC, I often read of international negotiations about grave global issues throughout my studies . From the UN Security Council debates leading up to the War in Iraq, to the Copenhagen Climate Change Conventions, nation states seek consensus on serious issues. However divisions, mistrust and self-interested policy proposals often lead to failed talks that do not produce tangible results.

As the Youth Ministers of Defense began negotiations on Day 2 of the 2011 G8/G20 Youth Summit, the challenge was to reach consensus on arguably the most serious global peace and security concerns: stopping nuclear weapons proliferation; stabilizing Afghanistan, Pakistan and North Korea; and ending piracy on our global seaways. Complete reform of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s efforts was also high on our list of agenda objectives.

Of these issues, the agenda was dominated by a comprehensive reassessment of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in the context of the Iranian nuclear program. In the real world, negotiations with Iran over possible military dimensions of their nuclear energy program have stalled repeatedly over the last eight years. Concerns about Iran achieving nuclear “breakout” potential are driving other nations in the openly express fear about the prospect of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.

Each youth delegate’s position on the agenda topics had been discussed and debated online through Google Groups in the months leading up to the event. By analyzing the topics independently and critically examining each other’s proposals prior to the Youth Summit, we had narrowed down our potential agenda in an effort to avoid unnecessary arguing at the actual event in Paris.

As the Canadian Minister of Defense, I expressed a deep desire to see the G8 Youth extensively examine national policy on the counter-terrorism campaigns in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Given that the Government of Canada has already committed to a troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in July 2011, I lobbied my delegate colleagues to agree to a comprehensive post-combat reconstruction plan. Generally we reached consensus on the best way forward for the people of Afghanistan and our respective governments.

As negotiations over Pakistan, North Korea and Iran progressed, I was surprised at how closely we began to follow our national government’s actual stated policies. While we were in no way required to mimic our governments’ positions, the youth delegates showed an obvious degree of pride by standing up for their own national policies. Nonetheless, numerous concessions were made in the interest of achieving positive consensus. NATO allies including Canada, France, Germany, Italy and the United States formed a bulwark within the G8 defence discussions, providing a strong, if not united front in reaching consensus.

Once the basic agenda preparations had been completed, we began to use Google Documents, connected via a laptop to a projector, to collaboratively draft our consensus decisions for the final communiqué. This process of simultaneous editing provided an incomparably efficient and transparent way of reaching an accord. All eight delegates could see each and every word as it was written, and likewise could object to any wording that they deemed controversial.

By infusing our confident grasp of modern communications and productivity technologies, the majority of our negotiations were rightly focused on the heart of the agenda issues. When talking about the proliferation of nuclear weapons, this was critical to ensure that we wasted no time on minor form and syntax issues.

In my next post, I’ll delve into to the most contentious aspects of our discussion and give an inside perspective on just what it means to ‘compromise’ in international negotiations.

Check out the G8/G20 Youth Summit Facebook page

Robert Onley

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UTSC alum has experience of a lifetime at 2011 G8/G20 Youth Summit

Rob Onley at the G8/G20 Youth Summit

Rob Onley (fourth from right) with the Canadian delegation at the G8/G20 Youth Summit in Paris, France

The 2011 G8/G20 Youth Summit opened this week in Paris, France at the École Supérieure de Commerce de Paris (ESCP), with 150 of the world’s brightest young leaders gathering to discuss the preeminent issues facing the international community. After the 2011 G8 Summit wrapped up in Deauville, France on Thursday, the youth took charge in the City of Lights.

As the Minister of Defense for Canada, I was selected to represent national defence policy at the 5th annual international student event. With an Honours BA Specialist in Political Science from UTSC (2009), I am applying my studies in foreign policy and international relations in actual negotiations with highly accomplished students from around the world.

After participating in last year’s Youth Summit in Vancouver, I was excited to visit Paris for another round of global meetings. This year’s Youth Summit was organized by France’s ‘Youth Diplomacy’ student group, and is an officially sponsored event under the United Nations International Year of Youth Events for 2011. Adding another layer of esteem, the Office of French President Nicholas Sarkozy is also officially endorsing the week-long forum.

From discussing finance, economics and environmental issues, to defence, foreign affairs and global development concerns, the G8/G20 Youth Summit seeks to engage the leaders of tomorrow in intensive debates that encourage creative thinking and innovative solutions to the world’s toughest problems.

On Day 1 of the Summit, the Canadian delegation visited the Canadian embassy in Paris. Located on the stunning Avenue Montaigne, one block from the Champs-Elysées, we met with top political consultants to the Canadian Ambassador to France, Marc Lortie, to assess the themes of our position papers prior to negotiations beginning. The meeting was both insightful and confidence-inspiring, with many of my fellow delegates encouraged by the strength of their arguments.

The Embassy visit was followed by a round of conferences on global governance, which featured several high-profile speakers, including President and CEO of Total S.A., one of the largest oil companies in the world, Christophe de Margerie.

With three full days of negotiations to go, I will be posting updates as the week progresses.

Robert Onley
Windsor Law J.D. 2012

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