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Full focus on power of the youth

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Thursday, 10 May 2018 00:00



What was most spoken of and repeatedly informed at CHOGM 2018 in London was the fact that youth comprise 60% of the Commonwealth population. It is indeed a fact to take note of. If we are to emphasise that further, in other words the youth comprise 1.4 billion of the 2.4 billion Commonwealth citizens. As Commonwealth’s Head, Queen Elizabeth II, aptly described, they are then indeed the ‘face of the future’.

The full focus therefore was on the power of youth and how supporting them would see a more vibrant and prosperous Commonwealth. Aptly titled: ‘Powering our Common Future’, Commonwealth’s 11th Youth Forum (CYF) got off to a glorious start and retained the momentum unto its very end. The enthusiasm of the youth was infectious and the atmosphere full of optimism, so much so the final reviewing and reporting on the sessions  and outcomes of this Forum in particular is indeed a pleasure. 

The agenda of the Youth Forum as per the usual was developed by an international task force made of young leaders from across the Commonwealth working in partnership with the Commonwealth Youth Council (CYC) and youth led networks. 

The CYF provides opportunity for the young people of the Commonwealth to build cross-cultural connections and networks, debate the challenges facing young people, and agree youth-led initiatives to influence decision makers and ensure young people have a voice in the future.

The 2018 Youth Forum theme of ‘Powering our Common future’ reflected the CHOGM theme of ‘Towards a Common future’ and illustrated the powerful potential of young people across the Commonwealth in devising solutions to complex global challenges as well as their ability to bring forward meaningful recommendations to the Heads of Government meeting. 

The Forum included opportunities for plenary discussions and action planning breakout sessions focused around CHOGM’s four themes: Prosperity, security, sustainability and fairness.

This time the CYF also got Prince Harry as Commonwealth Youth Ambassador, who was appointed by Queen Elizabeth II, Head of the Commonwealth and it was he who officially opened the Commonwealth Youth Forum marking the start of his new role.

The Commonwealth Youth Forum also recognised the achievement of the 20 Commonwealth Youth Awards finalists of which the four Regional Young Persons of the Year were announced as follows: 

Africa: Sherifah Tumaseman (Uganda)

Asia: Vanessa Paranjothy (Singapore)

Caribbean: Jonathan Barcant (Trinidad and Tobago)

Pacific: Usman Iftikhar (Australia)

From amongst them Usman Iftikhar was announced as the Commonwealth Young Person of the Year and was presented with his award by Prince Harry.

Prince Harry also announced the creation of 150 new Queen Elizabeth Commonwealth Scholarships to support young academics from across universities in low and middle-income countries and the creation of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, a new youth charity which will provide a platform for young change makers across the Commonwealth in areas such as sport, education and the environment. Harry will function as the President of the Trust.

Representatives Youth Parliament of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) also participated at the CYF and discussed among others, on cyber security, violent extremism, inclusion and equity, health, democracy and governance.

The Youth Forum incorporates the CYC General Assembly. CYC is the recognised voice of over 1.2 billion young people from all across the Commonwealth, advocating on their behalf on issues such as climate change, youth unemployment, access to education and gender equality.

Leaders act on the youth recommendations

The high powered youth representation made sure they were heard loud and clear and the Commonwealth Leaders gave their full attention to the Youth Forum Outcomes Document.

Given that 80% of the Commonwealth population are under the age of 30, Heads of Government affirmed that youth empowerment as well as gender equality, are critical in realising the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development and the aspirations of the Commonwealth Charter.

They agreed to mainstream youth priorities into national development, policies and plans and to promote the participation of young people at all levels of decision making as underscored by Commonwealth Youth Ministers at their ninth meeting in Uganda in 2017.

The CHOGM Heads agreed to address the stigma around disability in all its forms and manifestations, as well as around mental health, ensuring that no one is left behind and to encourage all member countries to ratify and implement the United Nations Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.

The Heads encouraged the implementation of specific actions to provide the opportunity for at least 12 years of quality education and learning for girls and boys by 2030, by investing in skilled motivated and supportive teachers educational facilities and focusing on education reforms. Guided by the principle to leave no one behind, they agreed to support marginalised groups, especially disadvantaged girls, children with disabilities, and those who have dropped out of school to progress through secondary education and training through appropriate policies, advocacy and strategic partnerships. 

End to modern slavery, human trafficking and child labour

As part of the member countries to achieve sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 8, the leaders called for effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour on all its forms by 2025, including the unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers.

Member countries were encouraged to endorse the ‘call to action to end forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking’ presented at the 72nd meeting of the UN General Assembly.

They encouraged ratification and implementation of relevant outstanding international agreements, and to develop appropriate national strategies in this regard. 

They further agreed to take action to end child sexual exploitation online including through joining relevant international bodies and initiatives.

Urban crime/violence and gun crime

Commonwealth heads expressed concern about the serious challenges to peace and security of urban crime, violence and gun crime faced by some member countries, and the involvement of young people, especially boys and young men, in this phenomenon. They agreed to enhance cooperation and share holistic approaches to address the root cause of urban crime.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland told delegates that they represented “the legions of young people in Commonwealth countries who have decided that they will think and act with others to remake their societies, and the world in which we live.”

“If the Commonwealth means anything, it means a place for all to fulfil their potential, to reap the rewards of progress, and to share in the fruits of prosperity,” she added.

The Secretary-General made an important point saying, “A vibrant youth sector creates the enabling environment for young people to succeed and to apply in positive ways the energy and vitality which can otherwise so easily be thwarted or subverted towards negative ends.”

“To reap more fully the many benefits of Commonwealth Advantage – which is not only economic, it is social and political too – we need youth provision in all our countries that is better resourced, better financed and better supported,” she emphasised. 

“Throughout the Commonwealth, you as youth leaders are exemplars and advocates for positive change. Many of you are already shaping the institutions and processes that combine to create our world. The Commonwealth Youth Council plays an increasingly important part in sustaining this range of connection. It is your vision, your imagination, your commitment, and your work, which combine so that we can thrive,” she advised.

Outgoing chair of the Commonwealth Youth Council Kishva Ambigapathy urged the youth to unite within the family of Commonwealth. “Young people are driving change and many of the young people in the room today are doing amazing things with people on the ground. My message to young people across the Commonwealth is that you are not alone. We are here to support you and to amplify your voice. And it’s by working with our partners that we can be so much more than the sum of our parts,” he stressed.

“We will be a strong voice and a lifetime advocate for each and every one of you in our own ways. Together we can achieve and together we can prosper towards powering our common future,” he added.

Indeed they can. On one platform with more than a billion youth already, they have the numbers and the talent to make their aspirations a reality.



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