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Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland with girls smiling

The Commonwealth’s vision for youth engagement

12 August 2020

The year 2020 has been challenging for young people. The COVID-19 pandemic has created new threats and exacerbated existing challenges and barriers. 

Vision for empowering and engaging young people

On this International Youth Day, focused on the theme ‘Youth Engagement for Global Action’, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland invited the Commonwealth youth networks to share their vision for empowering and engaging young people. 

She said: “In the midst of this pandemic we continue to listen to the voices and experiences of our youth. What we are hearing loud and clear is their demand to be included in our decisions as we recover and rebuild; and their call to us to stop ignoring and underestimating their contributions. 

“Their messages remind us that, without their drive, innovations and fresh, youthful vision, our progress will ground to a halt. They are telling us today they have the power to help remove the obstacles that block our path to sustainable development. We need to listen and engage. 

“That is why the Commonwealth remains committed to a robust youth programme that is built on the principle of youth-led action and focused on empowering our young people to take the reins of their destiny.”

Commonwealth Youth Council: “Give us a seat at the table”

“We strongly believe in youth engagement for global action to achieve the United Nations 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. Today, we have the biggest cohort of young people in history. So, it is about time global institutions and governments realise that an effective response to existing and emerging challenges such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic require meaningful engagement with youth. 

“We cannot have a fair political process without robust mechanisms that allow young people to fully participate in solutions and become equal contributors to national and global decision-making.”  

Commonwealth Youth Climate Change Network: “Prioritise a green recovery”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that science matters, that disasters do not respect borders, and that a delay in action is deadly. With many of the key international climate change negotiations and actions now delayed due to the pandemic, there is a real fear that the climate crisis and sustainability issues are taking a back seat. 

“Commonwealth young people have been at the forefront of international, regional, and local action. Now, more than ever, they need tangible financial and structural support to drive forward a green COVID-19 recovery.”

Commonwealth Youth Sport for Development and Peace Network: “Sport is critical for the SDGs” 

“Sport as a springboard to achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs) can never be overemphasized, especially in the area of promoting healthy and active lifestyles. It is also a gateway for national development to ensure inclusion and civic engagement. 

“We strongly believe youth engagement in global action is an antidote to the struggle for achieving SDGs. Our vision is a future where the voices of young people are amplified, the rights of people with disabilities are prioritised and protected, and where there is open access to health, education, employment and entrepreneurship investment.” 

Commonwealth Alliance for Youth Entrepreneurs: “Invest in youth-led start-ups”

“This year’s International Youth Day theme ‘Youth Engagement for Global Action’ could not be more relevant. In the midst of one of the most challenging periods in our history, when the COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc with our lives, we have witnessed the innovativeness of young entrepreneurs across the Commonwealth. 

“They are solving challenges in education, in maintaining the supply chains of various goods and in accessing personal protective equipment. This is what happens when young entrepreneurs are properly engaged and why we need to invest in youth-led start-ups.” 

Commonwealth Young Correspondents: “Promote our stories” 

“As we celebrate International Youth Day, I believe this is the time to empower our youth. They are the future storytellers - the next Shakespeare, Achebe and Darwin.

“This is the right time to spark that interest of storytelling in our young ones. So, I plead with governments and organizations to encourage and support more young people to tell their stories in their own voice.” 

Commonwealth Children and Youth Disability Network: “Break down barriers that exclude us” 

“Our vision is a future where children and young people with disabilities are empowered to be change-makers. For far too long, they have been left behind, underrepresented and given very limited opportunities to be in spaces where they can influence decisions impacting their lives. 

“Our ask today is for the support to continue our important work of breaking down barriers that exclude us.” 

Commonwealth Youth Gender and Equality Network: “Make the world equal by 2030”

“With our membership across all regions, the Commonwealth Youth Gender and Equality Network is a melting pot of youth-led efforts against the discrimination and exclusion of women, girls, sexual and gender minorities across social, economic and political spaces. 

“As we mobilise offline and online to move the needle on gender equality, we envision a truly equal world where our expertise and unique contributions as youth experts are valued, recognised and supported."

Commonwealth Student Association: “Leave no one behind”

“Given the current global crisis, this day is even more special and significant. Young people have stepped up and out of their comfort zones to use every available resource and expertise to alleviate the crisis in healthcare, education, poverty and a myriad of other issues. 

“Our youth have been advocating and lobbying world leaders to allocate funds to the most vulnerable communities to ensure no one gets left behind. Let us celebrate their efforts.”

Commonwealth Youth Health Network: “Support frontline workers” 

“The COVID-19 pandemic is having a profound effect on the lives of millions, exposing the weaknesses in our health systems and the need for greater global co-operation. Yet across the Commonwealth, we have seen how the next generation is stepping up to play a critical role on the ground during this crisis. 

“We have been supporting young people in their work as frontline responders and building the capacity of grassroots youth organisations and national youth councils to take local action on COVID-19. Now, more than ever, our voices, power and initiative are needed to shape a better future for all.”

Commonwealth Youth Human Rights and Democracy Network: “Rebuild for stronger human rights” 

“COVID-19 and its impact on communities have reminded us of the urgent need to promote and protect the human rights and well-being of our people. We are calling for human rights to be placed at the centre of COVID-19 response, recovery and rebuilding process. 

“This is an opportunity to ensure the needs of our citizens, especially at-risk and vulnerable groups, are protected. This includes measures for migrants, children, persons with disabilities and those affected by gender-based and family violence.”

Commonwealth Youth Peace Ambassadors Network: “Include young people in peace-building”

 “This year has been a trying time for young people. The pandemic has exacerbated the ‘push and pull’ of conflicts across the world. But we remain hopeful because we see young people rising to the challenge of the new COVID-19 reality. 

“It is critical that they have given a safe space to contribute to development, because a community where young people are excluded will know no peace.

“The youth need peace, particularly at this time, so we are encouraging countries to uphold human rights, ceasefire and focus on moving forward together.”

NOTE: If you are interested to be a part of the Commonwealth Youth Networks, contact [email protected]

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