Commonwealth governments, development partners, youth leaders and stakeholders are expected to make an historic commitment to invest in young people – every country’s greatest resource – at a major summit in Uganda this week.

The 9th Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting in Kampala brings together over 200 senior government representatives from more than 30 countries, as well as young people, youth workers and donor organisations.

Ministers are set to agree a raft of policy objectives to advance the ambitions and needs of young women and men aged under 30. The theme of the meeting, held between 31 July and 4 August, is ‘Resourcing and Financing Youth Development: Empowering Young People’.  The theme acknowledges young people’s role as nation-builders and the imperative to invest in their social, political and economic empowerment.

The summit, taking place 25 years since the first ever Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting, comes as the world’s youth population has reached a record 1.8 billion people aged 15 to 29. In many Commonwealth member countries, young people make up a quarter to a third of the population.

Leading development partners and donors joining Ministers at the summit include the African Development Bank, the Amersi Foundation, Comic Relief, DFID, the IFRC, the MasterCard Foundation, NEXUS, UNICEF, UNFPA and USAID.

It comes as the Commonwealth Secretariat publishes the findings of a study of the status of youth work in 35 countries, which unearths a gap in legislative and policy provisions that protect and professionalise the status of youth workers.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “This meeting offers an historic chance to seize the opportunities created by our expanding youth population. In order for young women and men to contribute to national well-being and economic prosperity, we must find innovative ways to promote their participation in civic and political life, remove barriers to entrepreneurship, and expand opportunities for education and meaningful employment.”

“The landmark 2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda recognised that investment in young people is critical to achieving sustainable development. This aligns closely with the Commonwealth’s track record in recognising and empowering young women and men as nation-builders. The task before us now is to agree and fund strategies to realise the full potential of young people and unleash their talents to achieve the Global Goals.”

The Ministerial Meeting from 2 to 4 August 2017 will support governments ministers and senior officials to identify and adopt innovative solutions to financing and resourcing youth development, take stock of pioneering initiatives and forge new partnerships. Practical measures will be recommended to ministers by delegates participating in a Youth Leaders Forum and a Stakeholders Forum, between 31 July and 1 August. Youth leaders will also join ministers at the table for their meeting.

Uganda’s Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Janat Mukwaya, who is chairing the ministerial meeting, said: “The Government of the Republic of Uganda and the people of Uganda are delighted to welcome all delegates to the 9th Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting.

“It is my conviction that the meeting will come up with fundamental resolutions and strategies that will revolutionise the resourcing and financing mechanisms for youth programmes. The most important outcome should be to come up with innovative ways and initiatives that can cause a ripple effect in the overall development agenda of our young people.”

Kishva Ambigapathy, Chair of the Commonwealth Youth Council, which is convening the Youth Leaders Forum, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to have an intellectual discourse with fellow youth leaders on the dynamics of youth financing. I appreciate the time and commitment given by youth ministers to work together with young leaders for not only looking at financing but also nurturing young leaders with capacity-building and empowerment.”

Lillian Aber Young, Chairperson of the National Youth Council, co-organiser of the forum, said: “There is an urgent need to equip young people with information that will enable them to take advantage of the opportunities in the commonwealth by activating their governments to include youth in their development agendas. This Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting will offer youth the opportunity to spread awareness and draw attention to the need for increased funding of youth programmes.”

Mpaka Mwine, Chairperson of the Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Youth Affairs, co-organiser of the Stakeholders Forum, said it would provide a space for engagement on sustainable youth financing and resourcing. “The need for youth development requires structured and organised youth financing,” she said.

During the summit, two new Commonwealth network organisations will be formally launched: the Commonwealth Consortium on Youth Work Education and Training, and the Commonwealth Alliance of Youth Worker Associations. Both groups are focused on enhancing the critical work done by Youth Work Professionals to support and develop young people to become positive, productive citizens.