‘The future will not be business as usual’ – Commonwealth youth leaders
A deficit in public spending on young people’s development should be plugged by new and innovative forms of financing including the promotion of social entrepreneurship, according to Commonwealth youth leaders.
More than 150 young people - from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Americas, Europe and the Pacific - attended this week’s Youth Leaders Forum, part of the Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting in Kampala.
In a joint declaration issued today, the young people make plain their concern about the “ever increasing burden” they face with widening health and social inequalities, unemployment and lack of access to finance and quality education. They also call for governments to equip young people with the skills to adapt to the digital economy and disruptive technologies.
“Young people across the Commonwealth are growing up in a world where digital skills, social media, mobile technology and online communities are fundamental to the way that they communicate, learn and develop,” they said. “Disruptive technologies and automation are changing the face of virtually every industry and guaranteeing that the future will not be business as usual.”
In their statement, the young people identify a “critical need” to diversify sources of funding for youth development, including through public-private partnerships, promoting social enterprises and seeking out philanthropic donors.
To increase access to finance and support youth-led social enterprises, a Commonwealth Youth Development Bank is proposed to provide loans to young entrepreneurs. In addition, the delegates recommend strengthening national regulations on corporate social responsibility to ensure a percentage of company profits go to youth schemes.
The Youth Leaders Forum was organised by the Commonwealth Youth Council and Uganda’s National Youth Council, in conjunction with the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Government of Uganda. Among the recommendations is a call for governments to support the professionalisation of youth workers and to provide adequate funding for national youth councils.
Kishva Ambigapathy, Chair of the Commonwealth Youth Council, said: “It has been an exciting few days, meeting with fellow youth leaders from across the Commonwealth to have an intellectual discourse on advancing the agenda of resourcing and financing youth development. We have identified the challenges, and now we are devising solutions. We hope governments acknowledge that to realise the solutions we will need partnerships with all stakeholders – the private sector, philanthropy, civil society and young people.”
Alongside the Youth Leaders Forum there was also a Stakeholders Forum which brought together 130 youth workers, youth activists, and representatives of civil society, academia, development agencies and donors. It was organised by the Commonwealth Alliance of Youth Worker Associations and the Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Youth Affairs.
In their own communique, the stakeholders recommend that governments pursue “a policy environment which is responsive, flexible and enabling to assist in empowering young people to actively engage society’s development and enhancement in a meaningful way”.
The stakeholders follow the lead of the youth leaders as they state that other “sources or methods of financing be made an urgent priority.” They recommend public-private partnerships be pursued to fund youth development and urge greater support for youth-led community projects and businesses.
Since the last Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting in Papua New Guinea in 2013, world leaders at the United Nations agreed the Sustainable Development Goals, a set of 17 global targets including poverty reduction, health, education, gender equality and climate action. In their communique the youth leaders state that the SDGs represent “an extraordinary opportunity for young people to shape a future they believe in and can truly call theirs”.
Both the stakeholders and youth leaders raise concerns about inequality and discrimination and the needs of marginalised and disenfranchised groups, as well as the imperative for government departments to collect and analyse data to develop evidence-based youth policies.
One of the delegates, Karuna Rana, Coordinator of the Commonwealth Youth Climate Network (CYCN), said: “Young people are working really hard to advance the sustainable development mandate of our governments. Young people are also often working voluntarily to advance these causes. Investing in young people will provide them with more resources to do much more.”
Another delegate, Bernard Takyi, Regional Coordinator of the Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs - West Africa (CAYE-WA), said: “Governments and stakeholders should invest in youth to empower them economically to make them financially stable and to help them become job creators for other young people.”
Achaleke Christian Leke, Global Coordinator of the Commonwealth Youth Peace Ambassadors Network (CYPAN), said: “Young people should work as partners with governments. We are the change that the world needs. We need to harness the positive youth energy and make our world a better and a peaceful place.”
The communiques from the Youth Leaders Forum and the Stakeholders Forum will be presented to youth ministers on the final day of the 9th Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting.
Find out more about the conference: www.thecommonwealth.org/cymm