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Young entrepreneurs in their surf shop in the Fiji Islands set up with assistance from the Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP) South Pacific.

Young entrepreneurs in their surf shop in the Fiji Islands set up with assistance from the Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP) South Pacific.

Commonwealth Youth Programme celebrates 40th anniversary

25 January 2013
The Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP) is celebrating 40 years of championing young people’s engagement in decision-making and development.

Since its establishment in 1973, CYP has focused on youth empowerment: working with youth leaders, government ministries and youth workers to unleash the vast potential of young people in Commonwealth member states. Today, young people (aged 15-29) account for more than half of Commonwealth citizens.

The programme - headquartered in London with regional centres in Guyana, India, Solomon Islands and Zambia - advocates for young people to be represented at all levels of decision-making, which is increasingly recognised as an important development objective. Young people play a direct and key role in CYP, as representatives, advocates, facilitators, leaders and in its programme design.

Looking forward the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Youth Affairs Division (YAD), which administers the CYP fund and co-ordinates new initiatives, is moving to place even greater emphasis on projects that promote young people as active citizens and partners in the development of their countries and communities.

YAD Director Katherine Ellis said: “As CYP celebrates 40 years of success in youth development and empowerment, the programme has never been more relevant or important. The youth sector has finally become a priority in global development circles, and CYP’s asset-based approach and accumulated expertise are especially valuable to organisations and institutions that are new to youth empowerment. Looking forward, I think this will be a watershed year for youth development in the Commonwealth and around the world; many will look back on 2013 as a game changing year for the recognition and unleashing of the potential of young people to drive change in the world.”

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 1973CYP was endorsed by Commonwealth leaders at their meeting in Ottawa, Canada, in 1973. It was a visionary concept at that time, seeking to address issues such as high youth unemployment and to train youth workers to support young people dealing with significant financial and socio-cultural challenges.

Key CYP initiatives over the decades have included the establishment of the regional centres to deliver the Commonwealth Diploma in Youth Development Work, activities for young people and advice for youth ministries. The diploma is also delivered by over 30 higher learning institutions.

CYP has promoted youth entrepreneurship, starting with the Commonwealth Youth Credit Initiative model developed in the late 1990s and in more recent years advocating for the financial inclusion of young people as job creators and agents of economic growth. It has also supported the creation of the Commonwealth Asia Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs.

CYP has also developed networks and forums for young people to share their perspectives on issues that affect them and those around them: yourcommonwealth.org is a website created and crafted by young writers in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe and the Pacific; the Commonwealth Youth Caucus speaks directly to government leaders at ministerial and Heads of Government meetings; and the recently-launched Commonwealth Students Association provides a co-ordinated voice on education.