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Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba, Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General: International Youth Day Message

12 August 2011
International Youth Day this year brings to a close the International Year of Youth, dedicated to Dialogue and Mutual Understanding. Throughout the year, young people in national youth councils, schools, youth clubs, faith and non-government organisations responded to the call to use their talent, energy and creativity, to raise and address issues of development and democracy.

The Commonwealth joins the rest of the world in recognising and saluting the commitment young people have shown through their work, promoting peace, human rights, tolerance and mutual understanding -values that are dear to the Commonwealth.

We in the Commonwealth are making bold steps to tap the vast potential in our youth. We have sought to listen to the young people, especially this year, and are actively implementing those priorities our youth have emphasised. These include: ‘focus on youth employment’; ‘focus on strengthening the voice of youth in the Commonwealth’; and ‘a review of the structures that support our work’.

The Commonwealth has done much since 1974 when the Commonwealth Youth Programme was established. But we can and will do much more, in partnership with our young people, for indeed we are a young Commonwealth with more than half of us under 25 years of age.

So as we celebrate International Youth Day 2011 under the theme ‘Change our World’, we call on governments, the private sector, and civil society organisations to continue to prioritise youth development and empowerment; to continue building bridges that close the intergenerational gap; to continue mainstreaming youth in all sectors of society; to continue to focus on solutions to youth unemployment; to continue investing in youth; and let the gains of the international year of youth bear fruit, for there will be no meaningful development without youth at the centre of those processes.

To the youth this year my message is simple: if you wish the world to change, let the change begin with you.. This is an individual and personal call to live and work with purpose, knowing that perhaps the greatest need in the world today is for young people who are willing to get involved, to commit, to give back, and to support actions that will make our world better.

The Commonwealth stands ready to work with and support you as part of the legacy of the International Year of Youth. Let your voices be heard.