At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Rwanda, 2023 was declared as the Commonwealth Year of Youth, and a series of initiatives to deliver on that mandate began.
At the 2023 Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting (CYMM) in London, it was decided to extend the Year of Youth until the next CHOGM, which will be held in Apia, Samoa, in October 2024.
It was agreed in the CYMM outcome statement that the Year of Youth should be extended to “ensure maximum and sustained impact”. A new logo has been designed and a series of videos have been commissioned to share the renewed vision for the extended programme.
Empowering young people
When the year of focus was declared, the Commonwealth Leaders had said that 2023 should be focused on empowering young people, raising their issues among stakeholders and governments, as well as accelerating progress on youth-focused issues. The Year of Youth also coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP), which supports member countries with youth development work.
Layne Robinson, Head of Social Policy Development at the Commonwealth Secretariat, under whose portfolio the CYP falls, said:
“While we are proud of what we have achieved during 2023, the extension of the Year of the Youth until the next CHOGM will allow us to leave a more lasting legacy and reach even more young people.
"We thank the leaders across the Commonwealth for giving us this opportunity to work with them to deliver even more effectively and significantly for the young people we serve.”
Sixty percent of Commonwealth citizens, accounting for 1.5 million people, are aged 29 or younger.
The Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, spoke of the importance of youth at the launch in January 2023, she said then:
“The Commonwealth’s future success rests with them. So here today we commit to investing in and promoting their development and engagement at community, regional, national and pan-Commonwealth levels throughout this year and beyond.”
The Secretary-General also reiterated the valuable contribution that young people across the Commonwealth make to human development, the importance of empowering their work and amplifying their perspectives.
Year of Youth initiatives have included the relaunch of the YourCommonwealth website, which is dedicated to honing the talents of young writers and journalists as well as sharing the voice of youth advocates.
The year’s initiatives have also included webinars featuring youth perspectives, sporting activities, and a supplement featuring young writers in the British newspaper, The Voice, which has a strong readership within the African and Caribbean diaspora.
The Year of Youth also featured prominently in conferences and other events including the Commonwealth edition of Kenya Innovation Week, the 4th Commonwealth Conference on Youth Work and the 2023 Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development Work.
In March, a contingent of leaders from across the Commonwealth youth networks was brought together for a two-week youth network summit designed to upskill them, allow them to learn from each other and facilitate the development of pan-Commonwealth initiatives. Some of those young leaders were also present during the Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting in May to speak directly to leaders and share their perspectives.
Part of the work being done now includes partnerships to provide opportunities. One such partnership with technology giant, Intel, will provide online training in AI for thousands of young people. The AI for Youth program will allow them to develop skills, in statistical data, computer vision, and natural language processing, as well as social skills, such as problem-solving, AI ethics, and security.
The Year of Youth coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP) in supporting member countries with youth development work.
Ijeoma Onyeator Communications Officer, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat
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