This summer, Plan International saw great success after nearly two years of advocacy and campaigning in the run up to the 2018 G7 Summit in Canada. Girls’ education in emergencies rose to the top of the leaders’ agenda – having never before been prioritized by the G7 – with the Charlevoix Declaration on Quality Education for Girls, Adolescent Girls and Women in Developing Countries.
Moreover, campaigners were able to achieve triple our financial ask, setting a clear path for government action for girls, and all children, living in some of the most volatile regions of the world.
World’s first concrete commitment to girls in crisis
The Charlevoix Declaration is significant for a number of reasons. First, the number one commitment made by leaders of the world’s top humanitarian donors at the 2018 G7 was to close the gap in access to education during conflict and crisis, for refugees and the internally displaced, both inside and outside camps.
This represents the first time G7 leaders have made a concrete commitment, backed by significant resources, to address development challenges in humanitarian crises through education for the world’s most vulnerable children, particularly girls. It also included a commitment to actively promote gender equality through a range of interventions in line with the recommendations of our global coalition.
These commitments did not come easy.
To achieve them required a pragmatic approach to advocacy that sought to create a global moment for a significant political and policy decision. Our starting point was to ask: what can the G7 realistically do, as a non-representative but powerful political body, to break global gridlock on a long-neglected issue and spearhead wider global momentum through other established processes? What concrete advancement for women and girls could actually be made through this one meeting?
Support from Canada’s first feminist Prime Minister
When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canada’s first self-declared feminist Prime Minister, announced he was personally taking on the role of Canada’s first Minister of Youth, there was an unprecedented opportunity to place girls’ rights at the centre of the Canadian agenda. As host of the 2018 G7 Leaders’ Summit in Charlevoix, Quebec, the opportunity became global: to bring a feminist, youth voice to one of the most powerful decision-making forums in the world.
through quality education... the G7 could lead in harnessing the untapped potential of this generation of youth by including them in the process to break cycles of poverty, gender inequality and violence for decades to come.
Together with partners, our ‘ask’ to government was accordingly ambitious. Today’s generation of young people is the largest in history, with youth populations disproportionately booming in regions of instability and conflict. As the first Minister of Youth to lead the G7, we asked the Canadian Prime Minister to reframe the global discussion on the coming youth surge from one of exclusion and threat, to a never-before-seen opportunity to invest in the potential of the world’s most vulnerable youth to be part of the solutions.
Tangibly, this meant rethinking the G7’s approach to humanitarian aid in an era where families caught in protracted crises can spend, on average, 26 years as refugees or internally displaced people. Rather than continue the global discussion that focuses on containment of a threat, we argued that through quality education, especially in times of crises, the G7 could lead in harnessing the untapped potential of this generation of youth by including them in the process to break cycles of poverty, gender inequality and violence for decades to come.
Placing gender equality at the centre of our efforts, we also argued that women’s empowerment needs to start early, and in line with the ambition of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, it needs to start with most vulnerable populations. Plan International’s decade of research with the State of the World’s Girls series supported our efforts by presenting clear evidence that double discrimination, due to gender and age, compounds other factors of exclusion to render girls living in fragile contexts one of the most vulnerable, but powerful, populations in the world.
Yet, Charlevoix was only one part of the success.
Girls spoke truth to power - and got results
When G7 Finance and Development Ministers met jointly in Whistler, British Columbia in advance of the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Charlevoix, Plan International Canada and partners succeeded, for the first time ever, in bringing six adolescent girls from around the world to the G7 decision-making table, to directly share their demands, insights and ideas for the future with world leaders. They spoke truth to power and the ministers responded by committing – in the Whistler Declaration on Unlocking the Power of Adolescent Girls for Sustainable Development – to a new approach to development that centres on the power, voices, and choices of adolescent girls.
Behind the headlines and high-level political chaos of the G7 meeting in June, the world missed another story. Through dedicated work of the global education coalitions, youth activists, child rights organisations and advocates for gender equality, we witnessed the quiet unleashing of a new and mighty force.
The force of millions of young girls - the world’s most forgotten children -- being empowered to create the world they want.