Commonwealth Champions Youth-Led Solutions at SIDS4 Summit

27 May 2024
Young delegates

The Global Children and Youth Action Summit (GCYAS) has concluded with a powerful call to action from young people from Small Island Developing States (SIDS), urging world leaders to address critical issues such as education, climate change, healthcare, and poverty. The Summit, held at The University of the West Indies (UWI) Five Islands Campus in Antigua from May 24-26, is followed by the Fourth UN Small Island Developing States (SIDS4) Conference from May 27-30.

In her closing speech, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, commended the delegates for their passion, creativity, and determination.

 "The discussions, ideas, and commitments you have shared over these past days are a testament to your passion, creativity, and determination to build a brighter future for our islands and our world – and they fill us all with hope and optimism.

Youth are the lifeblood of our Commonwealth family. Your collective voice resonates powerfully and deeply – with me, and across the Commonwealth. I will never stop supporting you as you work towards your vision for a sustainable future," she said.

Youth voices resonate powerfully

The Summit provided a pivotal platform for over 100 children and youth delegates from SIDS countries, aged 14-16, to voice their concerns and propose solutions for pressing social and environmental challenges. Their urgent and collective appeals culminated in the creation of a Wall of Commitment, which outlines their personal goals to advance the cause of SIDS youth, along with a comprehensive list of demands for decision-makers.

Lakshita Kanhiya, a young Steering Committee Member for the Children and Youth Action Summit, Mauritius said:

"Participating in the SIDS Youth and Children Action Summit, was a powerful reminder of the urgency with which we must act. It was transformative and a deeply empowering experience. As a woman and advocate from the Atlantic, Indian Ocean and South China Seas (AIS) region, I witnessed first-hand the vulnerabilities and strengths of our island nations. The commitment to action is crucial because our very existence depends on it. We must prioritise sustainable development, harness indigenous knowledge, and push for global accountability. It's not just about securing our future but also about ensuring that our children inherit a world where they can thrive."


The Summit, supported by key partners including UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA, and the Ashley Lashley Foundation, aimed to:

  • Mobilise Youth as Change Agents: Empower SIDS children and youth to contribute to their communities and advocate for sustainable development actively.
  • Action-Oriented Engagement: Develop actionable plans and linkages to tackle the crises facing SIDS.
  • Global Call to Action: Generate a youth-led call to action to bolster the resilience of SIDS.
  • Inclusion in SIDS4 Outcomes: Ensure youth perspectives are reflected in the official SIDS4 Outcome Document.
  • Establishment of a Monitoring Framework: Create the SIDS Youth Taskforce to monitor and advance the implementation of the youth outcomes.

The Summit culminated in the creation of several key deliverables:

  • The Commitment to Action: This document encapsulates the recommendations and insights from the young delegates, aimed at influencing the SIDS4 Conference discussions.
  • Youth-led Action Plan: A strategic document outlining specific initiatives to address SIDS challenges.
  • Presentation at SIDS4: The young delegates presented their outcome paper to high-level participants, ensuring their voices were heard at the conference. They received commitments from UN agencies and government officials

The Summit featured master classes on climate change and governance, intergenerational dialogues, site visits to showcase youth-led initiatives, and negotiations with donor agencies. A standout event was the "Shark Tank" session, where youth presented innovative projects to a panel of development partners, receiving critical feedback and potential funding opportunities.

Looking ahead

The outcomes of the Summit will feed into the SIDS4 Conference and the ongoing work in the leadup to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) which is to be held in October in Samoa. The establishment of the SIDS Youth Taskforce will ensure continued engagement and action, fostering resilience and sustainable development in small island states.

Speaking at the Summit, young advocate Tamarua Marsters, from the Cook Islands said: 

"Our voices are shaped by unique challenges and our dreams dance on the tides of hope and resilience. I am honoured to join my regional brothers and sisters at this global summit - for our islands are not just dots on the map, but beacons of inspiration and change."

For more information and to stay updated on the progress of these initiatives, visit the Commonwealth Youth Programme.