The theme for International Youth Day this year highlights an important and growing issue, on which there is need for more focus and research – youth migration and development.
Young people represent a significant share of international migrant numbers - in 2010 there were 27 million international migrants aged 15-24 globally. For young people in The Commonwealth and elsewhere, internal or international migration creates opportunities for personal and professional development.
But for every opportunity that migration presents, there are also challenges that confront vulnerable and marginalised young migrants: discrimination, lack of access to basic social services, sexual and other health risks and lack of support networks.
To migrate is to make a life changing decision. Young people should have “the right to move”, but they should also have “the right to not move”. The rights of both should be protected and supported, particularly in the context of societies affected by climate change and conflict, where young people and children are particularly vulnerable.
The focus on youth migration this International Youth Day should cause decision makers to reflect on the kinds of policies and measures required to optimally manage migration and protect the vulnerable. It requires co-operation between countries and migrants.
Well-managed migration supports development by empowering young people, bridging cultures, creating wealth and balancing inequities. The Commonwealth, through its commitment to youth development and empowerment, will work collaboratively to examine the issue of migration and to champion the rights of vulnerable and marginalised migrant young people.
Forty years ago this month The Commonwealth, through the establishment of the Commonwealth Youth Programme, committed itself to advocating for young people’s rights and voices to be at the centre of development. A significant part of The Commonwealth’s focus is providing support to young people to establish and strengthen youth-led networks and institutions that can amplify their voice and drive change.
Later this year at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka, the Commonwealth Youth Council will hold its first General Assembly, thereby establishing an autonomous youth-led entity that will be the official voice for youth in The Commonwealth.
As part of this year’s International Youth Day celebrations the Commonwealth Students Association will launch its official website and begin to implement strategies that will give a greater voice in education to students across The Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth Asia Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs is advocating and driving action for a stronger eco-system for young entrepreneurs. These are great examples of The Commonwealth’s partnerships with young people to achieve the twin goals of democracy and development.
So as we celebrate International Youth Day, we call on:
Let us partner with young people, develop and implement strategies to ensure their perspectives are recognised in societies and advocate for investments in young people. The return on such investments is extremely high – for both social and economic development.
Let us commemorate this International Youth Day by recommitting to the young people of The Commonwealth and the world.