Youth leaders shared the outcome of their four-day deliberations at a unique exchange with Commonwealth Heads meeting in Perth on Sunday.
In presentations to 12 Commonwealth leaders, the youth representatives outlined highlights of their own meeting the – Commonwealth Youth Forum – which ended in nearby Fremantle last Thursday.
Noelyn Wagapu, Pan-Commonwealth Youth Chair, told them: “We are here today to offer ourselves as partners in development, partners for peace and partners in building democracy. With over 1.2 billion young people in the Commonwealth, the future rests with us.”
Among recommendations made was for the establishment of a youth enterprise development fund to provide seed finance for socially innovative projects and small businesses.
They also raised health concerns of young people, particularly HIV and AIDS and non-communicable diseases, stressing that youth needed to be at the centre of development for these issues to be effectively addressed.
In response, leaders commended the Commonwealth’s youth programme, with the South African President, Jacob Zuma, telling them: “Investing in youth is absolutely crucial.”
To the young leaders, he said: “The Commonwealth can speak across the globe and you carry this potential to help the Commonwealth to do even better than it is doing.”
The Prime Minister of Tonga, Lord Siale’ataonga Tu’ivakano, told the young people that he was himself a product of the Commonwealth Youth Programme through its certificate and diploma training.
Senator Chris Evans, Australian Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations, represented Prime Minister Julia Gillard at the meeting. He encouraged young people to harness the full potential of social media to help take forward these themes and turn them into action.
It is the third time that such a dialogue has taken place at CHOGM and underscores the importance the Commonwealth places on youth engagement at the highest level.