Blog: The rise of youth defending our shared ocean

27 July 2022
Youth in Malaysia picking up litter on a beach

Blog by Dainalyn Swaby, Ocean Youth Outreach Assistant

The age old saying “youth are the future” continues to make new meaning on the heels of two high-level international dialogues held recently in June – the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2022 (CHOGM) and the UN Ocean Conference.

Commonwealth youth are adamant that they will not be bystanders in the fight against climate change.

The opening of the Commonwealth Youth Forum at CHOGM signalled that young people stand ready with our global leaders to redefine the fate of our future through innovative responses and focussed actions to address our shared challenges.

Tens of millions of the 2.5 billion people who call the #Commonwealth home – 60 per cent are under 30 - are already in the cross hairs of climate change. It's our duty to put their voices and experiences at the heart of what we do – and turn it into action. Share on Twitter
The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC
, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth

Ocean issues are also heavy on the agenda for 2022 and rightly so. The climate crisis is an ocean crisis. Multiple high-level ocean forums have been convened and continue to dot the international landscape. 

Against this backdrop, a series of dialogues with youth, facilitated by the Commonwealth Blue Charter (CBC), has enhanced recognition of SDG 14 among young people and mobilised their meaningful participation in high-level dialogue. Following up these good words with action-orientated  projects is now necessary to secure a sustainable future for youth and our shared ocean.  

Sea of Voices
Sea of Voices features youth ocean experts and activists calling for ocean protection.

In addition, the CBC has steadily built a growing youth network and forged valuable partnerships which centre young people in driving change for ocean protection and preservation. Youth stakeholder interactions have emphasised the need for more sustained dialogues with industry professionals and leaders to solidify partnerships and project support.

I believe our first step in the right direction is the recognition that our youth population is our greatest untapped asset. Share on Twitter
Dr. Arjoon Suddhoo
, Deputy Secretary-General of the Commonwealth

Strategic partnerships with other Commonwealth youth networks and stakeholder groups also help the CBC in building the relationships necessary to create appropriate spaces for youth to work alongside the ten Blue Charter Action Groups, led by 16 countries.  

For example, the Commonwealth Youth Climate Network have renewed commitments to strengthen support to the CBC by building out youth working groups dedicated to ocean sustainable development and increase synergies with the CBC Action Groups. 

Speakers at Breaking the Blue Bias event
Panellists in session at the #BreakTheBlueBias Webinar held in celebration of International Women’s Day 2022 in March

Youth are an increasingly necessary presence on the shorelines of change. Guyanese Youth Delegate Saeed Hamid, echoes this sentiment in his summary of the UN Ocean Conference captured below.

The UN Ocean Conference was certainly a much-needed platform to highlight the full spectrum of oceans issues, while also emphasising the need for additional support and activities surrounding ocean action. For instance, SDG14 (Life below water) is the least funded of the SDGs and UNOC was relatively successful in highlighting how interrelated oceans issues are, including with the international human rights regime, poverty eradication and preserving livelihoods, biodiversity and indigenous rights. Indeed, climate change seems to dominate conversations in the environmental arena, however oceans issues are also related and pertinent to the climate regime; made much clearer during presentations. However, as a youth it was an experience that left me desiring more youth integration into the discussions, presentations and work of the conference.

Ocean action will also need to be upscaled significantly but political will remains the major thrust for effective responsive action…Studies have shown youth action actually brings more awareness to environmental issues than most government programmes. Youth are also important to designing, developing and advancing solutions.” – Saeed Hamid, Guyana  

Therefore, we must continue to encourage their leadership in science, business, cultural and creative economies through knowledge exchange, capacity building, mentorship and representation to restore our ocean ecosystems.  

Learn more about the Commonwealth Blue Charter 
Read the youth for climate action blog series


Media contact

Josephine Latu-Sanft  Senior Communications Officer, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat

+44 20 7747 6476  |  E-mail