Young people will seek to make their mark on future Commonwealth policies at the 12th Commonwealth Youth Forum (CYF) that begins in Kigali, Rwanda, on Sunday.
Held ahead of the main Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM), the three-day forum is a unique opportunity for young leaders to bring policy recommendations to their governments, asserting their role in shaping the future of the Commonwealth.
More than 60 per cent of Commonwealth citizens are under the age of 30, a demographic distinctly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and its associated economic and social fallout. Many young people lost their jobs or were unable to access the labour market while millions more experienced disrupted education.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “There is no denying that the challenge before us is great. The disruptions and impact of Covid-19 pandemic casts a shadow that could stretch across the coming decades, threatening to rob us of the social and economic progress we have made and exacerbating existing weaknesses.
“But, in the Commonwealth we have a powerful advantage, a young majority who are brimming with talent, intent on innovation and eager to be part of the solution.
“They have sent a clear message through the theme of their forum Taking Charge of our Future, and in Kigali they will sit together and consider the challenges.
“Looking at the evidence in our Youth Development Index, which measures how countries are performing on aspects such as youth employment and youth participation in politics, they will agree the solutions, the actions and the changes they want our heads of governments to consider when they meet.
“At this critical time in our history the Commonwealth recognises the critical importance of giving these powerful youth leaders a voice and a space, and we are excited to see what they will bring to the table.”
More than 350 youth leaders from all 54 member countries are expected to be at the meeting. They will network, exchange ideas, build skills, and generate solutions to the most pressing youth-related challenges.
These include unemployment, gender inequality, crime and access to quality education and training.
During the forum young people will agree a set of policy recommendations which will be recorded and presented to heads of government in a Youth Declaration on the final day of the forum.
They will also have an opportunity to meet heads of governments during an intergenerational dialogue.
This year’s forum will also address thematic areas such as governance and the rule of law, technology, skills, innovation, sustainability, health, Covid-19, and trade.
The meeting is being supported by the government of Rwanda and co-ordinated by an International Youth Task Force, made up of 21 young people from around the Commonwealth and co-chaired by Darrion Narine of Trinidad and Tobago and Alodie Iradukunda of Rwanda.
It is supported by the Commonwealth secretariat and the government of Rwanda.
Darrion said: “The CYF taskforce has worked hard over the last few months to deliver an inspiring and productive forum that will get young people engaging in critical thought around the major issues impacting youths across the Commonwealth.
“We hope the next three days will provide an invaluable opportunity for the 350 youth representatives attending to have an input on building a future that benefits us all, paving the way to a stronger and more successful Commonwealth.”
Rosemary Mbabazi, Minister of Youth and Culture said: “The 12th Commonwealth Youth Forum is yet another opportunity for the Rwandan government to honour its commitment to empowering and supporting young people.
“Giving youths a voice to shape the policy actions they want to see will lead to a brighter and more prosperous future for all.
“The government of Rwanda is committed to support the Youth led declaration towards a prosperous and inclusive commonwealth.”