Excellencies, distinguished guests, Commonwealth friends….
The purpose of our gathering here today is to bring greater focus and understanding to how young people develop within our societies, and the immense contribution they themselves have to make to the development of our societies.
It therefore seems appropriate to recall what the new Charter of the Commonwealth says about the central place accorded to young people in our Commonwealth thinking, and our shared commitment to finding ways for them to achieve personal fulfilment, and to play an ever-greater role in all areas of social, economic, political, and community development.
The Charter was adopted collectively by Commonwealth Heads of Government in December 2012 and signed on Commonwealth Day this year, here in Marlborough House, by HM Queen Elizabeth II, Head of the Commonwealth.
It opens with the words: ‘We the people of the Commonwealth’, and under the heading: ‘Importance of Young People in the Commonwealth’, goes on to state:
We recognise the positive and active role and contributions of young people in promoting development, peace, democracy and in protecting and promoting other Commonwealth values, such as tolerance and understanding, including respect for other cultures.
The future success of the Commonwealth rests with the continued commitment and contributions of young people in promoting and sustaining the Commonwealth and its values and principles, and we commit to investing in and promoting their development, particularly through the creation of opportunities for youth employment and entrepreneurship.
Youth development is therefore a vital component in the national development of our member states, particularly since 87% of our young people currently live in a developing context, and of the two billion people living in our 54 member states, 60% are under 30 years of age.
Youth development also plays an important part in enabling young people to enjoy health and wellbeing, to profit from education and training, to pursue rewarding careers, and to benefit from civic and political empowerment.
The approach of 2015, the target date for the Millennium Development Goals, makes this a most fitting time to launch The Commonwealth Youth Development Index. The Commonwealth is bringing its collective wisdom to bear in consultations on the architecture and implementation of the Post-2015 Global Development Framework.
The 8th Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting called for a specific goal on youth empowerment and participation, and recommended that there should be youth-related indicators for all goals. The Youth Development Index is a practical Commonwealth contribution towards supporting such efforts, providing as it does detailed and disaggregated data on youth in our member states.
The Index will raise awareness both of successes and of investment needs, it will help identify and share good practices between countries, and will enable the tracking of progress over time.
A significant finding of this report is that while Commonwealth incomes are lower and youth bulges higher than the global average, our youth development is on par with the rest of the world. It is also noteworthy that a number of small island states scored high on some indicators.
Where gaps in statistics have been identified special efforts will be made to ensure that more data is gathered and can be collated in future. We know that some of our smaller member states will need assistance to build the capacity necessary for them to collect and analyse youth specific data.
The Youth Development Index directly informs the Commonwealth Plan of Action for Youth Empowerment by providing the evidence base for member countries of The Commonwealth to assess where they are doing well in youth development and areas for greater focus and attention.
Future editions of the Index will help us plot progress in our continuing engagement with and for the youth of The Commonwealth. It is gratifying to see youth development moving forward in very positive ways on several fronts.
In April this year, when Commonwealth youth ministers met in Papua New Guinea, they produced progressive and innovative recommendations aimed at strengthening the voice of youth, youth participation, and values based leadership within The Commonwealth.
In November, at The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka, the new Commonwealth Youth Council will hold its inaugural General Assembly. This will create a new and diverse network of representative youth leaders whose voice will, we hope, be listened to widely both in The Commonwealth and beyond.
The newly-established Commonwealth Students' Association, the Commonwealth-Asia Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs, and other youth-led networks will buttress work on youth development that is a central pillar of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s new Strategic Plan.
It therefore gives me great pleasure to formally launch The Commonwealth Youth Development Index. I commend it to member states, youth stakeholders, academics, policy-makers, young people, and development partners, as a tool that should be used. We welcome suggestions as to how, in the light of experience, it can be improved and its usefulness enhanced.
This is made easier by means of the interactive Youth Development Index website, which offers the facility for member states and stakeholders to feed in new data. The website, which is accessible to the wider public, also gives access to downloadable reports and allows results to be analysed in various ways.
I congratulate all those who have been involved with producing the Youth Development Index, this new tool for The Commonwealth: the leadership of the Deputy Secretary-General, the Technical Advisory Committee, the Institute for Economics and Peace research team, and our own Youth Affairs Division staff here at the Commonwealth Secretariat.