The 2019 Global Youth Conference delegation

A lot can be said about the portrayal of young people in today’s news, and usually not much of it is good. But after the 2019 Global Youth Conference (GYC), we know these things to be true - young people are resilient, they are full of ideas, they are driven and when given the right support, they are capable of protecting the future of our planet. As a worldwide movement that has dedicated itself to providing opportunities for young people, these facts do not come as a surprise to us at the YMCA. But there is something special in seeing a group of young people from diverse cultural backgrounds come together for a cause they collectively believe in.

From August 6th to August 9th, 94 delegates including 31 Global Interns came together for Osaka YMCA’s 5th GYC. Held at Rokkosan YMCA in Kobe’s beautiful Rokko Mountain Range, the natural scenery provided the perfect backdrop for a week of new friendships, global citizenship and change making. For the first time in its five year history, the GYC had one central theme; the Environment. A theme that could not be more relevant for young people today. Youth Committee Treasurer Eriko Fujita explained to the delegation during the opening ceremony that only the week beforehand we acknowledged Earth Overshoot Day, the day on which the global community has used a full year’s quota of natural resources. July 29th is the earliest we have ever seen this day fall, a stark reminder of the importance of our collective focus on conserving the planet. Opening the conference as Keynote speaker was Bianca Yamaguchi, the founder of The Zero Way and pioneer of zero waste living in Japan. Throughout her address she urged the delegation to realise that they have the power within them to make an impact through simple, easy to action choices that can have a positive impact on the current global environmental crisis.

As with previous years, Global Citizenship was a central pillar of the conference. The GYC encourages young people to come together and collaborate outside of political tensions, maintaining cultural identity but connecting as one global community. The 2019 delegation was diverse, despite many of the delegates experiencing challenges and conflicts in their home nations they came together to share their ideas and explore solutions to the environmental problems they were challenged with during the conference.

Throughout the conference, delegates participated in peer-led workshops on topics ranging from deforestation to measuring your own ecological footprint, experienced Japanese cultural performances and challenged themselves to step out of their comfort zones. A key part of the GYC experience is to offer ways to help delegates develop their communication skills in the lead up and during the conference. One major challenge is that the GYC is delivered in English, which for most of the delegation is not their first language. Nevertheless, we were again reminded of the resilience of the delegates, as they tackled complex topics, public speaking and engaged in debate with their peers often in their second or third language.

To close the GYC, delegates participate in a General Assembly. Similar to Model United Nations, delegates vote and debate resolutions concerning a central issue - in this case, the environment. Throughout the General Assembly it became apparent how much the delegations’s knowledge base and confidence had grown, with many delegates taking the floor with individual responses to proposed resolutions and amendments. Filipino delegate Rhea Ibay urged the delegation to critically examine political action when it comes to the environment, asking when government’s have both an environmental and economic sector ‘why don’t we have the power to address both? Why do we have to compromise environmental issues for us to have a great country?’. The delegation also turned their focus to the contentious balance between respecting cultural practices and recognising their negative impacts on the environment. Delegate from the USA, Ashlea Gardea argued that while cultural traditions are important and should be valued, it is also vitally important that they change with the needs of our current times, drawing examples from her own Hispanic culture and their traditional views of women. Many delegates passionately asserted their view that given our current environmental crisis, harmful cultural traditions and practices should no longer be acceptable.

In closing the 2019 Global Youth Conference, facilitator Ramya Kurmala urged delegates to remember that ‘it is time to take action. It is time to think consciously about our everyday actions and their impact on our environment’. Following the GYC, delegates have the opportunity to join the Youth Committee and the Osaka YMCA’s Civic Action Group to ensure the conference’s final resolutions are carried out.

Planning for the 2020 Global Youth Conference is underway and the conference will be held from August 4th - 8th, 2020. If you’d like to join as a delegate or get involved please contact the Osaka YMCA Global Department at:

1-5-6 Tosabori Nishi-ku, Osaka, Japan

TEL: +81-6-6441-5088