Experiencing the GFMD in Quito, Ecuador
By: Victoria Yang, UNA-Canada Service Corps delegate My UNA-Canada Service Corps journey to the 12th Global Forum on Migration and Development brought me from Canada to Ecuador’s capital for an experience that was both professionally and personally transformational. Along with Farzam Karimi and our UNAC Project Officer, Jessica Helwig, I had the honour of representing Canadian youth in migration as a delegate, and brought forward my own experience and interests.
My adventure started with pre-departure training in Ottawa. Despite the bitterly cold winter weather, I enjoyed getting to know the team at UNAC while being equipped with skills and knowledge for the GFMD. In particular, talking to Paul Faucette (Director of Parliamentary Affairs for Senator Ratna Omidvar), Immigration expert Dr. Luisa Veronis, and representatives of Global Affairs Canada and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada provided me with diverse perspectives on the contemporary migration landscape. We ended our time in Ottawa by visiting the Ambassador of Ecuador to Canada, who gave us an introduction to his role.
After training, we flew to Quito for the Youth Forum, which preceded the GFMD. At the Youth Forum, I participated in thematic roundtables on Push and Pull Factors of Migration and Supporting Arrival Locations and Sending Places, along with a regional roundtable for North and Central America. The opportunity to make tangible contributions through the co-development of outcome documents – which were then distributed at the GFMD – was empowering. The youth participants from around the world were all selected because of their incredible leadership, knowledge, and experience in the area of migration, and I was continually inspired by the quality and depth of discussions.
Subsequently, the GFMD allowed me to take part in the fanfare of a high-profile international event, and gave me the chance to share my own knowledge and experience with global leaders and experts. At the GFMD, I critically engaged with the commonalities and differences of a variety of stakeholders, and it was an honour to have a place at the table. Outside of the conference, our group also met with the Ambassador of Canada to Ecuador to talk about the value of youth leadership, and to gain further insight into our countries’ relations.
In addition to participating in the two events, I was grateful to make my first-ever trip to South America, and to experience the beautiful city of Quito. Located at the foothills of the Andes, the city has a vibrant culture which we were able to get a small taste of during our stay. The day we arrived, our group took a cable car up the side of a volcano overlooking the sprawling city. On another day, I explored the neighbourhoods of Guápulo and La Floresta; sampled Ecuadorian chocolate, coffee and street food; and chatted with locals about the parts of their city that they love. On our final day, our group visited the first UNESCO World Heritage site, Quito’s stunning historic centre, along with the equator (or the ‘middle of the world’). Quito is a city full of warmth and wonder, and I was thankful for the opportunity to visit.
While the Youth Forum and the GFMD provided professional networks and experiences, it was often the moments in between that had the greatest impact: the informal conversations that I had with conference participants about their lives, cultures, and activism. I truly believe that global experience helps foster the empathy and growth so essential to make a positive socio-political change. With that, I am grateful to the UNA-CSC program for providing me with this opportunity, and for the Katimavik National Experience for getting me started on my journey of service.