by Charity Mwathi
Millions of AI training opportunities, thousands of scholarships, more robust youth networks, new laws to protect vulnerable people, and more opportunities to shape policy are just some of the tangible outcomes of the Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting.
The historic three-day summit, held in the Commonwealth headquarters in London, brought together nearly 400 delegates representing a range of regional, national and cultural contexts. These included ministers, young leaders, and representatives from development organisations and civil society.
After hours of deliberation, Ministers ratified the Marlborough House Commitment to the Commonwealth’s young people and agreed on an outcome statement with clear policy directions.
In their statement, they pledged “to provide a sense of hope to Commonwealth young people, inspired by their resilience demonstrated during the pandemic, motivated by their creativity and innovation, and encouraged by their aspirations for a fairer, more secure, safe, and sustainable Commonwealth.”
Highlights of the 64-point document include:
- A renewed commitment to include youth as partners and active contributors to development;
- A plan to facilitate youth-led action for sustainable development through the Commonwealth Year of Youth;
- A focus on harnessing the power of technology to deliver more for young people;
- The creation of new global partnerships to bridge the digital divide with free-to-access scholarships and training opportunities;
- The use of media partnership models to support youth advocacy and empowerment, following a successful pilot with the UK’s Voice Newspaper, which collaborated with Commonwealth young correspondents to produce a 12-page supplement;
- A decision to establish a Commonwealth young parliamentary forum to better support young MPs;
- The establishment of an Asian Regional Youth platform to foster regional advocacy, engagement and cross-cultural learning;
- The creation of the Professional Association of Lecturers in Youth and Community Work (PALYCW) to achieve the goal of having more qualified youth workers; and
- Commitment to youth mainstreaming and evidence-based policies, with assistance from the Commonwealth tools such as the world-renowned Youth Development Index.
During the meeting, ministers selected an 13-member Youth Ministerial Taskforce to support the delivery of these commitments.
Wrapping up the summit, Commonwealth Secretary-General the Rt Honourable Patricia Scotland KC told ministers: “Together, under the banner of “Aiming Higher: Delivering More”, we have examined issues, which are critical to our young people and collective future as a Family of Nations.
“Our discussions have been honest, purposeful and productive. Our ideas have been innovative. Our energy has been admirable, especially in this unseasonably warm weather. Above all, the agreements we have made and the partnerships we have forged have the capacity to transform the lives of millions of young people across our Commonwealth.”
Speaking after the conference, Cameroon’s Minister of Youth Affairs and Civic Education, Mounouna Foutsou, stressed the critical importance of being able to meet with his counterparts and with young people and youth leaders from across the globe and to go back to his country with best-practices and new resources and tools to accelerate youth development goals.
Kim Allen, chair of the Commonwealth Youth Council, who was part of the ministerial discussions, said: “We welcome the Youth Ministers’ commitment to implementing youth development work in their countries. While we understand the challenges at national levels, practical youth policy implementations and resources must be implemented to support youth work. I call on governments to prioritise addressing youth issues to realise the potential of our young people.”