Youth leaders from across the Commonwealth called for governments to prioritise youth employment opportunities, and to empower young people to partner and lead in processes of peace-building and climate change adaptation. The appeal was issued by over 200 youth delegates on the final day of the Commonwealth Youth Forum (CYF). The CYF is a gathering of official youth representatives from the 53 Commonwealth member countries, leaders of pan-Commonwealth youth networks, and other outstanding young Commonwealth citizens.
After five days of debate on issues of economic, environmental, social and political development, youth delegates produced a call to action encapsulating their concerns, priorities and recommendations. They will present it to Commonwealth Heads of Government as part of their November 27-29 summit.
In addition to their policy recommendations, youth leaders also developed an action plan containing concrete initiatives that they will lead, individually and collectively, on return to their home countries.
In their 12-page declaration, they appealed to governments and the international community to recognise young women and men as partners in delivering the sustainable development goals, and to provide them with adequate resources and opportunities to contribute.
It states, “In this year, when the Commonwealth family is focused on the role and contribution of young people through the Commonwealth theme, ‘A Young Commonwealth’, we support the declaration
The declaration further highlights youth unemployment as one of the “greatest challenges facing member states”, and urged stakeholders to facilitate the creation of decent job opportunities by adopting national youth employment plans, and fostering a culture of youth enterprise through entrepreneurship training in schools and peer networks of young entrepreneurs.
On climate change, delegates, expressed concern about the disastrous consequences of unsustainable economic development and resource consumption.
They called on Commonwealth leaders to “commit at COP21 to achieving a 100% renewable energy future with sustainable energy access for all… and to put young people at the centre of promoting the use of renewable energy within communities all around the world.”
The youth leaders also highlighted unrealised potential for youth employment opportunities inherent in the ‘blue’ and ‘green’ economies, as well as climate change mitigation and adaptation schemes.
The call for increased attention to climate change outcomes comes as international negotiations continue for the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in December.
In their declaration, youth leaders also encouraged decision-makers to ensure that marginalised voices are taken into account, and to promote and protect the rights of girls and young women. They stressed the important role that young people can play in preventing violence and conflict, and appealed for the meaningful inclusion of young people in peace building and reconciliation processes.
Speaking at the close of the Commonwealth Youth Forum, HE Marie Louise Coleiro, President of Malta, said: “As young people, you are valuable agents of change. Your contributions should be actively supported and solicited. I believe that your leadership and capabilities are essential in preventing violence, conflict and extremism.”
Kishva Ambigapathy of Malaysia, 25, the newly elected Chair of the Commonwealth Youth Council, said: “Together we can seize the future, because we are greater than the sum of our individual contributions. We are, and forever will be, one strong, one united Commonwealth.”