Last week, 460 young people from across the Commonwealth participated in the Cambridge Country Consultation workshop that aims to transform the capacity of governments in Commonwealth Small Island Developing States (SIDS), to attract sustainable finance for youth initiatives, protect biodiversity and to contribute to resilient economies.
Opening the workshop, Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Patricia Scotland QC said:
“Small Island Developing States are uniquely vulnerable to climate change impacts; hit first and hardest by a problem not of their making. Young people are particularly exposed as climate change will perhaps be a defining force in their lives. Our task is to find new and innovative ways to boost resources and build resilience. This task is vital and urgent. Ultimately, it all comes down to a fundamental choice: Do we accept the world as it is, with widening inequality and increasing vulnerability as a fact of life? Or do we commit ourselves to build something better, and create the conditions that will enable future generations to thrive? We choose the latter."
A collaboration between the Commonwealth Secretariat and the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Resilience and Sustainable Development (CRSD), the Cambridge Country Consultation workshop is a global action-research initiative focused on achieving sustainable development, good governance and responsible innovation.
Speaking about the importance of the project, Her Excellency Khadeeja Naseem, Minister of State for Environment, Climate and Technology, Maldives said:
“Our government is committed to resolving our most pressing climate issues, it’s a cornerstone of both our domestic and international outlook. Climate change is a major threat, yes, but let's see it for what it is: a problem that can be solved with the right policies. Just as the world fixed the hole in the ozone layer, young people are the catalyst for those right policies. The Maldives intends to do right by our youth and play our part fostering positive change with regard to the climate emergency.”
Currently, in the project's second phase, last week’s workshops included two parallel sessions with youth and expert country consultations with eminent global thinkers and representatives of Commonwealth Small States. The focus of the country consultations was to harness the country-specific but collective understanding on what are the unmatched needs and missed opportunities of SIDS, emphasising youth and nature.
Dr Nazia Habib leads CRSD and developed the innovative method used in the project:
“The Cambridge Country Consultation (CCC) method applies systems thinking with political economics theories to collect data directly from the representatives of the governments, citizens and multilateral agencies relevant to the policy challenge on how unmet needs are missing out on positive multiplier effects due to unmatched enabling conditions, existing policies and capabilities.”
The workshops were informed by the ideas and research developed during an intensive Cambridge Policy Boot Camp held in May 2021 which included 150 young people selected from over 1500 applicants from SIDS and 20 global experts. Looking ahead, the ‘Our Action, Their Future’ project plans to hold policy simulation labs during the northern hemisphere’s spring, to test policy options through ‘lifelike experience’ sessions, enabling small states’ policymakers to preview outcomes, improving the drafting and delivery of real-world policies in the face of crises.
- Rena Gashumba Communications Adviser, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat
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