by Sarmad Shahbaz
Senior officials and young leaders from around the Commonwealth convened today to lay the foundation for the historic Commonwealth Youth Ministers’ Summit, which kicks off tomorrow, September 12.
Held in London at the Commonwealth Head Quarters, the meeting brought together officials working in youth departments in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Americas, Europe, and the Pacific.
Officials received a comprehensive update on developments in the Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP) since the last Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting (CYMM) in Uganda in 2017.
Key achievements in the last six years include, among others:
- Significant progress in the professionalisation of youth work, with several countries now collaborating with CYP to offer youth work degrees;
- Extensive capacity-building initiatives to support government officials, youth leaders and youth workers;
- The provision of Commonwealth technical assistance and toolkits to several countries to develop national youth policies and tracking mechanisms such as national youth development indices;
- The upgrading of the Commonwealth’s flagship Youth Development Index, with its influence spreading beyond the Commonwealth to countries such as Mexico;
- Progress in Youth Mainstreaming as a result of the technical advice, policy guidance and specialised training provided to Commonwealth Countries.
- The growth and expansion of networks covering nearly a thousand youth organisations and representing millions of young people;
- Global profiling of hundreds of young people and more than £150,000 awarded to youth-led projects through the youth awards and
- The provision of 10,000 scholarships to Commonwealth citizens.
Delivering the updates, Commonwealth Head of Social Policy Division Layne Robinson stressed that the achievements are evidence of the CYP’s value as the programme celebrates its fiftieth birthday.
He said: “We remain keenly aware of the challenges facing our countries, which have been severely impacted by challenges such as the global pandemic. But we are encouraged by the unwavering commitment of governments, our partners and our young people to our Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is evident in their decision to designate 2023 as the Commonwealth Year of Youth, dedicating it to youth-led action for the SDGs.”
Chairing the meeting, Dr Muhammad Ali Malik, Deputy Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Youth Programme, reiterated the importance of the meeting. He said: “Our senior officials are critical to the shaping and implementation of our youth policies. Therefore, it is important that they are given this platform to examine the proposals and discussion points that ministers will consider and to offer their perspectives and guidance.”
While Senior Officials met, young leaders convened to examine the proposed priorities and outcomes that ministers will discuss tomorrow.
Stressing the importance of this participation, Kim Allen, Chair of the Commonwealth Youth Council, said: “Because we have a diverse representation of youth, this meeting gave us the opportunity to ensure that our concerns and ideas are represented. We were also able to provide key considerations such as national and regional contexts.”
The young leaders discussed environmental issues, such as climate action financing and sustainable growth; entrepreneurship concerns, including digital development and meaningful employment; education funding and youth engagement.
“We understand the important role our youth ministers play in supporting youth development work. Young people are also responsible for implementing recommendations and commitments, but we need the support of our governments. This will allow us to work together to address our shared challenges,” said Mr Allen.
He added: “We are very pleased that the Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, joined our meeting to reiterate the commitment to meaningful youth participation at the highest levels of decision-making. We look forward to this golden opportunity to speak directly with our ministers about priorities such as structural support for youth councils and student bodies and allocating financing and resourcing to make commitments a reality.”