There are more than 1.2 billion people under the age of 30 in the 53 countries of the Commonwealth, accounting for over 60 per cent of our total population. In some of our member states, particularly in Africa, the youth demographic rises to 70 per cent.
Young people are talented, knowledgeable and ambitious, and are making a difference every day in all fields of work and as leaders in their communities. They play an integral part in advancing development, democracy and peace, and in promoting Commonwealth values such as respect and understanding.
Despite their drive and achievements, young people’s contribution to society often goes unrecognised, nor are they adequately invested in or included in decision-making processes. At the same time young people also face formidable issues of unemployment, discrimination and lack of access to education and healthcare. Left unresolved, these challenges will impede national development while hindering each individual’s personal potential.
For over four decades the Commonwealth Secretariat, through the Commonwealth Youth Programme, has provided assistance to governments in developing and implementing youth-focused policies and programmes.
We also work with young people to drive youth-led initiatives, and provide technical assistance for national, regional and international organisations, such as through the Commonwealth Youth Council and Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs, as well as youth networks focused on climate change, sport for development and peace, human rights and democracy, and education.
We celebrate and showcase the achievements of young people in development through our annual Commonwealth Youth Awards. We support a youth website, YourCommonwealth.org, and convene the Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting and Commonwealth Youth Forum, through which young people explore solutions to development issues and make recommendations directly to Ministers and Heads of Government.
Recognising a lack of data globally on youth development, we launched the first-ever Youth Development Index, which tracks young people’s progress in 170 countries – among both Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth members - in education, health, employment and civic and political participation.
Our work has helped to enhance the status of young people across the Commonwealth, by recognising their contribution and providing platforms to share their concerns and ideas. We have helped numerous countries to create or update their national youth policies, and recognised many outstanding young people through our awards schemes.
Since its launch, the Youth Development Index has been adopted as one of the main indicators to track youth development across the world. We have also helped youth leaders in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Americas, Pacific and Europe form regional and global connections, build knowledge and capacity, and unite and amplify their voices.
Through our work, we are securing the future of a prosperous Commonwealth where young people are included as true partners in development, able to advance shared values.