Afeeya Akhand travelled to Washington, DC in October on a Global Voices Scholarship for the 2022 IMF and World Bank Group Annual Meetings. As an alumna of the Master of International Security (with a Korean language specialisation) programme at the University of Sydney, she was able to apply her academic knowledge to better engage in forum discussions on themes including food security, state fragility and climate change.
Aside from being part of Australia’s only youth delegation to the Annual Meetings, Afeeya also recently authored a policy paper about increasing diverse leadership in the public sector as part of the scholarship.
It was a privilege to listen to politicians, economists, and IMF and World Bank Group senior leaders speak about a range of multilateral issues. Our Global Voices delegation also participated in bilateral meetings with fellow Australians including one of the Executive Directors of the World Bank Group.
Out of all the sessions, a memory that stood out the most was during the town hall meeting with the World Bank Group President, David Malpass. I vividly recall the moment when a representative from a civil society organisation confronted Malpass about his stance on climate change.
Since the IMF and World Bank Group deal with specific issues involving international monetary and economic stability, my previous undergraduate degree in Finance was useful for understanding sessions on topics such as debt, inflation, and interest rates.
Listening to a range of sessions at the Annual Meetings taught me about the interconnectivity of international issues. For example, one recurrent theme was the importance of furthering climate action via climate financing through IMF and World Bank Group loans. Furthermore, many sessions highlighted that current trends of rising interest rates, inflation, and high food and energy prices are linked to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Attending the Annual Meetings also made me realise the importance of elevating diverse inclusion in tackling international issues. While speakers with diverse gender, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds were well-represented, the only youth speaker I observed was Vanessa Nakate, a 25-year-old Ugandan climate activist.
As a young person myself, I made sure to make my voice heard during the Annual Meetings by joining Q&A sessions regularly. During a lecture about the link between globalisation and tackling climate change, I enquired about the role of youth in advocating for climate action.
I suggest that everyone who is eligible and interested in international relations and diplomacy should apply for a Global Voices Scholarship. Attending an international forum is a chance to understand contemporary global issues and how multilateral cooperation works.