Ahead of G7, Youth Tackle Inequality

As a leader at the international Y7 youth summit, Tufts alumna Nikita Shukla will argue for causes that matter to young Americans

student helps staffers at an Indian health clinic

[Editor’s Note: The Y7 forum was held June 9-13 in Paris. Read the group’s call to action (PDF), which urges G7 leaders to do more to address inequality at their summit in August.]

Like many young people, Nikita Shukla, A17, has strong opinions about a livable wage, housing discrimination, and student loan debt. Unlike most of her peers, though, she’s found a path to sharing her views with the likes of Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, and Donald Trump.

Shukla will represent U.S. youth at an ambitious international summit in Paris later this month. The Y7 Summit will prepare recommendations to G7 heads of state about economic, environmental, gender, and technological inequalities. The G7, or “Group of Seven,” is composed of the world’s seven largest advanced economies and will hold its own summit in August in Biarritz, France.

The youth summit represents “an incredible opportunity to work at the intersection of health, technology, activism, economics, and equality,” Shukla said. “Not only will we raise awareness of global inequalities, I hope to address systematic issues that allow for injustices to compound.”

At Tufts, Shukla majored in international relations and economics and served as president of the Hindu Students Council, outreach chair for PIH Engage, and finance chair for GlobeMed. She now works for the Clinton Health Access Initiative. After an extensive application that included four rounds of interviews, she was selected to be a head delegate representing U.S. youth and the organization Young Professionals in Foreign Policy at the G7 Youth Summit, which runs from June 10 to 15 and is organized by the Institut Open Diplomacy. The youth summit includes delegates from the G7 countries—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States—and from the European Union and the African Union. It is not an official government initiative.

We recently caught up with Shukla to ask about her role in the upcoming summit and how she hopes it will influence the G7.

Tufts Now: You’re going to be the head delegate representing the U.S. and Young Professionals in Foreign Policy at the G7 Youth Summit. What will your role be in the proceedings?

Nikita Shukla:

“I’d like the G7 to create stronger links with state-funded schools and businesses and invest in well structured, paid apprenticeships and internships that further skills development and promote employment and upward mobility,” said Nikita Shukla. Photo: Courtesy of Nikita Shukla“I’d like the G7 to create stronger links with state-funded schools and businesses and invest in well structured, paid apprenticeships and internships that further skills development and promote employment and upward mobility,” said Nikita Shukla. Photo: Courtesy of Nikita Shukla
Before the summit, all the head delegates are tasked with managing the country delegations. This means setting up meetings, being the liaison with the host country’s team, communicating with the sponsors from the U.S. and working with the U.S. delegation to create surveys, brainstorm notes, and design policy proposals.

During the summit, I will help mitigate any crises and smooth out any issues to ensure we create a comprehensive proposal that all delegates can sign by the end of the week. With the other head delegates, I will ratify the 2019 proposal at the end of negotiations.

How has your past experience prepared you for this role?

My time at Tufts and past internship experiences as a public health researcher in Delhi, women’s empowerment intern at the Asia Foundation, and research associate at the Tufts Labor Lab prepared me for this role. Through these varied experiences I was able to understand the intersectional nature of inequality.

These opportunities taught me that inequality is created through systematic oppression and structures. Going into this role with that understanding and the ability to conduct literature reviews has helped me propose policy which aims to dismantle the core of what we see as economic inequality. Furthermore, through my work experience at Amazon and Clinton Health Access Initiative, I was able to quantify and suggest data-driven strategy.

What are you doing to get ready for the summit?

This year, I will be focusing on economic inequality in the U.S., from racial income inequality to gender imbalances. Since we are not officially representing the views of the U.S. government, but rather the U.S. youth voice, we are able to push forward policies that the current administration has not endorsed. As part of our preparations, we were briefed by the U.S. State Department on negotiation tactics and discussed with the G7 sherpas—summit organizers and negotiators—at the White House their preparation for this year’s G7.

Through these conversations, I oversaw the creation of a comprehensive survey from the U.S. delegation on different aspects of economic, environmental, gender, and technological inequalities. To make sure we were capturing the voices of youth across the nation, I sent out the survey to nonprofits across the U.S. and connected with youth changemakers from different backgrounds to leverage their social media presence. I joined many groups: conservative college students, indigenous peoples, LGBTQIA people, climate deniers, climate change crusaders, and others.

The summit will prepare recommendations to the G7 heads of state. What calls to action do you hope will be included?

I am focusing on economic inequality and I have several main goals. First, I want to end tax avoidance and evasion by asking the G7 leadership to include in the legislation of all G7 countries the right of scrutiny over the tax and activities of multinationals abroad. The G7 should create a common G7 tax base for the taxation of multinational companies, especially digital companies. I also hope the G7 will introduce a G7 livable minimum wage, based on a percentage of the median salary.

In terms of training and education, I’d like the G7 to create stronger links with state-funded schools and businesses and invest in well structured, paid apprenticeships and internships that further skills development and promote employment and upward mobility. The G7 should provide young people with job-search assistance and provide financial incentives for businesses hiring young workers. The G7 should also push for the recognition of early schooling as a human right, as well as mandate a cap on student loans and increase access to scholarships.

I also believe the G7 should introduce separate low-interest housing/business loans for youth with considerable debt, to spur economic development. Similarly, the G7 must end housing discrimination in loans and real estate, address gentrification, and guarantee equal access to basic public services and infrastructure, with a focus on health care and public transportation.

Finally, I want to see the G7 give young people, especially those from disenfranchised backgrounds, LGBTQ, racial and ethnic minorities, and disabled youth, control back over the services delivered to them.

Will you continue to be involved after the summit ends?

Yes. Next year the official G7 will be held in the U.S. and the White House would like the Y7 delegates from this year to provide input on which topics the U.S. should put forth. Each year the host country can decide what it would like to discuss with the other member nations, largely based on domestic policy and how that relates to foreign policy. This year France was able to set the agenda and because of this we didn’t see a large push to discuss things like immigration. Next year, the 2019 Y7 delegation will have a large say in what the agenda should look like.

Heather Stephenson can be reached at heather.stephenson@tufts.edu.

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