Leaders of the 54 Commonwealth countries have demonstrated their commitment to tackling the endemic challenges facing children and young people.
Their landmark declaration at the end of the 2-day Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) comes on the heels of the devastating global pandemic that released a tsunami of health, education, economic, employment and safe-guarding challenges, and aims to get youth development on track for global-agreed development goals deadlines.
Their 22-page communique, issued after their historic meeting, which was twice delayed by Covid-19, includes commitments which will specifically benefit young people such as the landmark Kigali Declaration on Child Care and Protection Reform. Among ten key commitments in the bold, standalone declaration, Heads pledge to:
- make health systems strong enough to withstand the shocks of future pandemics - particularly with a specific focus on protecting children;
- boost child protection and safeguarding resources and tackle the root issues that lead to children needing to be put into care and protection;
- collaborate with development agencies to boost aid and development assistance for children and young people;
- and support data collection so that interventions are targeted, and evidence-based.
Other key commitments at the end of their meeting include:
- To implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and tailoring support to those with disabilities to address the unique challenges of Covid-19.
- To prioritise the education reforms agreed at the 21st Commonwealth Conference of Education Ministers, which focussed on resilience and sustainability; learning technologies; leadership in education; transitions within and outside the education system; addressing disparities; and financing of education.
Critically, they are committed to offering 12 years of quality and inclusive education and ensuring children can catch up on the learning they lost during the pandemic.
- To act on the mandates of the Youth Statement on Climate Change, including its call for adequate financing on climate action and specific support to the most vulnerable;
- To accelerating cervical cancer prevention and elimination efforts, with a particular focus on screening and vaccination against human papilloma virus infection by age 13 in accordance with country contexts, following a commitment from spouses and partners of Heads on the issue;
- To increase access to quality eye care, including screenings and affordable vision treatment for children, as well as strategies to eliminate trachoma and glaucoma;
- To act on the findings of the Commonwealth’s Global Youth Development Index (YDI) and the recommendations of youth leaders in their 12th Commonwealth Youth Forum Declaration, made at the Commonwealth Youth Forum. During the Forum, the young people launched The Commonwealth Youth for Sustainable Urbanisation network, as well as a new youth initiative on cervical cancer called the A4HPV and a Digital Trade Hackathon. They were also given the opportunity to share their vision for youth-led sustainable development with Heads at a historic Intergenerational Dialogue.
At the end of these activities Heads made key commitments on youth employment, quality youth leadership, education reforms, and post-covid recovery. They also addressed concerns about road traffic injuries, which is the leading cause of death of children and young people worldwide. In their statement, Heads “supported action in line with the UN General Assembly Resolution 74/299 on improving global road safety and committed to attaining the SDG target 3.6 to reduce road traffic deaths by at least 50 percent by 2030 compared to 2020 levels.”
Heads then sealed their commitment to ensuring the Commonwealth’s attention is firmly fixed on the empowerment of young people, who represent more than 60 percent of the Commonwealth’s 2.6 billion population, with a declaration that 2023 will be the ‘Year of the Youth’.
The outcomes follow a robust, youth-led movement to find solutions to the Commonwealth’s development hurdles, which culminated in their declaration and action plan at the Commonwealth Youth Forum. Young people were also given the opportunity to meet face to face with heads to share their vision.
“This Communique is indeed a victory for children and young people,” said Layne Robinson, head of social policy at the Commonwealth. “The youth spoke, and they were heard. The next step is action and implementation and we already have a head start on this with the formation of our Commonwealth Alliance for Quality Youth Leadership, which will help us bring increased skills to more than 250 million young people.”
He added: “Next year is not just the ‘Year of the Youth’, it is also the 50th anniversary of the Commonwealth Youth Programme, and I know we can achieve what is set out in this communique - particularly when I look back at what we have achieved since we started our youth programme: the many youth-led projects we have supported through the Youth Awards; the development of the YDI to enable governments and organisations to create smart, evidence-based policies and interventions for youth; our leadership on youth work education and training; our support to youth ministers on policy development and implementation; and the networks we have built, which have helped to advance causes such as climate action - just to name a few of many initiatives.”
- Amy Coles Communications Officer, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat