Youth forum opening ceremony heralds start of Commonwealth gathering

10 November 2013

The 9th Commonwealth Youth Forum began today with a vibrant display of colour, music and song at its opening ceremony in Sri Lanka.

The 9th Commonwealth Youth Forum began today with a vibrant display of colour, music and song at its opening ceremony in Sri Lanka.

Youth delegates from around the Commonwealth’s 53 member countries gave a standing ovation to young dancers and persons with disabilities who performed dances and songs at the Magam Ruhunupura International Conference Hall, Hambantota.

The five-day Forum, held under the theme ‘Inclusive Development: Stronger Together!’, will see youth leaders examine their role in formulating the next round of global development goals post-2015, and policies related to the professionalisation of youth work, gender equality, quality youth employment, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and quality education.

Participants can also attend skills-building sessions on leadership, social entrepreneurship and reconciliation and social cohesion.

At the opening ceremony Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa said: “Today, youth aged 15 to 24 represent one fifth of the world population, with 60 percent of the total youth population living in Asia. In Sri Lanka too, youth comprise a significant percentage at 26 percent of the total population. This most energetic group of our population needs to be engaged, enabling them to contribute to the development process.”

The Forum also sees the launch of the Commonwealth Youth Council, an autonomous youth-led body, which will become the recognised voice of Commonwealth young people and a framework for youth-led development. Delegates will vote on the Council’s Executive, which will be responsible for the leadership and strategic direction of the Council.

The new Council Executive will present the Forum’s findings to Commonwealth Heads of Government when they meet in Colombo, Sri Lanka, from 15 to 17 November 2013.

In his opening ceremony address, Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma said: “In the fast-moving and closely-connected world of today the contribution of young people is pivotal to national development and the values of our societies, and the development of the Commonwealth globally.

“I am sure there will be numerous encounters over coming days that will lead to valuable new links and discoveries of common interest, resulting in ideas and partnerships that may not have been thought of when you came here.

“What happens here in the days ahead will ripple from Hambantota to Colombo later this week, and also to all corners of the globe.”

Ellie Seckold, co-Chair of the Forum’s Youth Led Taskforce said: “We’re a Commonwealth family and we must look after each other as we look after ourselves.  You will make lasting friendships and networks here. Keep those friendships tight.”

View and download CYF images and videos from the Commonwealth Digital Library: