Home >News and events >News >Empowering Youth in Small States at the forefront of Commonwealth COP26 agenda
Man tending to a plant

Empowering Youth in Small States at the forefront of Commonwealth COP26 agenda

19 October 2021

Ahead of COP26, the Commonwealth Secretariat yesterday in collaboration with the University of Cambridge Research Centre of Resilience and Sustainable Development (CRSD) launched phase two of the ‘Their Future, Our Action’ action-research project aimed at helping guide much-needed policy change to empower youth in Small Island Developing States (SIDS). 

Investment in youth and biodiversity

Yesterday, 20 world-class experts from around the Commonwealth joined two virtual consultations focussed on how to help attract sustainable finance for investment in youth and biodiversity in SIDS.

Speaking at the opening of the meeting, Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC said:

“Small Island Developing States are facing some of the worst impacts of climate change. COP26, which has long been on the horizon, is now squarely in our sights. It is both a complex, layered, technical process and an intensely political negotiation. We will go to Glasgow with the determination to put the voices of SIDS at the heart of global dialogue. The Commonwealth Charter makes it clear that the future success of our family of nations rests with the continued commitment and contributions of young people.”

Youth empowerment is a key priority

Of the Commonwealth’s 2.5 billion citizens, 60% are under the age of 35, and youth empowerment is a key priority for the Commonwealth Secretariat.

The expert consultations follow on from a Youth Climate Action Policy Boot Camp held in May 2021, where young people offered a range of fresh ideas to key policy challenges, such as:

Investing in the SIDS youth education systems developed with the SIDS experts and for the SIDS citizen.

Match retired and expert SIDS diaspora with the local youth to improve social capital along with economic multipliers effects.

Deep dive analysis

These ideas helped formulate this second phase of the project and earlier this month the CRSD team conducted a deep dive analysis on how the political-economic situations of SIDS are captured in global indexes used to determine concessional financing.

During phase two, sustainable investment propositions for participating countries that could help attract sustainable finance for investment in youth and biodiversity will also be considered.

One of the young participants of the ‘Their Future, Our Action’ project, 24-year-old Christianne Zakour, spoke about her motivations for joining. Christianne is a master’s student in Biodiversity and Conservation from Trinidad and Tobago.

“My generation are the inheritors and rights holders of the future with significant capacity and drive to make changes for the better. In this action research project, the team of researchers and policy leaders get together to capture the value of youth, convert the youth as an asset class so that our action and future can be aligned, ” she said.

Principle Researcher of this action-research Dr Nazia M Habib, Research Centre Director of the Centre of Resilience of Sustainable Development (CRSD) said:

"Small Island Developing States don't need to be told any more that youth are asset and climate change is really affecting their future. 80% of the SIDS countries have some form of institutional support structure for Youth. However, we found that there is little to no systematic connection of youth getting involved with the planning for the future. Youth and biodiversity are two untapped resources of SIDS that can benefit directly from improved climate finance support. Our research is providing evidence to make COP26 commitment into a reality."

Pivotal moment in time

Speaking about the need for this initiative, Secretary-General Scotland said:

“We are living through a pivotal moment in time, confronting the urgency of converging environmental and economic crises.  Young people today are being disproportionately affected by the long-lasting and long-standing impacts of climate change and the pandemic, all the while inheriting a planet in political and ecological cross-fire.  Now the challenge is to give these ideas, and the work we are undertaking throughout this project, practical application. This task is vital. It is also urgent.”

‘Their Future, Our Action’

Watch below a video statement from ‘Our Action, Their Future’ participant and newly appointed research volunteer, Christianne Zakour.