Op-ed by Kim Allen, Chair of the Commonwealth Youth Council
Kim Allen was instated as Chair of the Commonwealth Youth Council – the recognized voice of over a billion Commonwealth young people – at the Youth Forum during the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Rwanda in June.
To mark International Youth Day on 12th August, Kim, who comes from Papua New Guinea, has written an op-ed outlining why the mainstreaming of youth issues should be a priority for all.
It’s International Youth Day - a time to celebrate young talent and amplify the efforts underway to tackle the endemic challenges facing children and young people.
More than 60 percent of the Commonwealth’s 2.5 billion population are under the age of 30. Yet, the adverse impacts of climate change, rising costs, economic instability, conflict, and Covid-19, have disproportionately hit this demographic, and stand to even more in the future.
With the World Bank warning of a looming global recession, it has never been more important to ensure that young people are prioritised in decision-making and empowered to meaningfully participate in public life.
Giving a voice to young people
As Chairperson of the Commonwealth Youth Council (CYC) - the body representing young people across the Commonwealth’s 56 countries - it is my job to help give a voice to young people, who time and time again, have shown they have the drive, skills and ideas to help leaders tackle burgeoning global issues and see the realisation of the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
Nowhere was this commitment clearer than at the Commonwealth Youth Forum, held in the margins of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM) in Kigali, Rwanda in June.
Youth leaders presented a six-point action plan on youth development to leaders calling for an end to child labor, investment in age-appropriate healthcare, increased taxation of polluting industries, and the establishment of a Youth Innovation Fund for young entrepreneurs.
Young people presented the plan to leaders face-to-face during a Youth Dialogue, showing exactly why young talent should be prized and prioritised.
Year of Youth
Leaders, inspired by the young people, committed to tackling these issues in a landmark communique, before declaring that 2023 will be the ‘Year of Youth’ -coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Commonwealth Youth Programme.
I also commend the tremendous efforts of the Commonwealth Secretariat for bringing together youth stakeholders to sign the Commonwealth Alliance for Quality Youth Leadership with the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, also at CHOGM.
This will enable joint efforts between governments and youth organisations to bring non-formal education opportunities and increased skills to more than 250 million young people.
All these actions have given me a reason to hope that a better future, amidst all the challenges, is possible.
I know we can achieve what was set out in the CHOGM Communique - particularly when I look back at what we have achieved since the Commonwealth Youth Programme began nearly 50 years ago.
For example, the many youth-led projects that have thrived through recognition from the Commonwealth Youth Awards; the development of the Youth Development Index to enable governments and organisations to create smart, evidence-based interventions for young people; our leadership on youth work education and training; our support to youth ministers on policy development and implementation; and the Youth Networks we have built, which have helped to advance causes such as climate action.
I am always convinced of youth potential, and as CYC Chairperson, I am determined to continue to create pathways and opportunities for others to realise their talents and potential.
However, I cannot do it alone, or even with the nine executives on the CYC, and the talented people who make up the Commonwealth Youth Networks.
To fully realise a world where young people are valued and included at all levels of public life, we need solid partnerships for practical action and investment, and the mentorship of young people irrespective of their educational background, gender, nationality, or ethnicity.
Youth is a cross-cutting agenda that affects all generations and is everyone’s business because, ultimately, we all have a role to play in creating a better future that is inclusive and profitable for all.
- Amy Coles Communications Officer, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat