Young leaders representing Commonwealth countries have presented a six-point declaration on youth development to Heads of Government gathered for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Rwanda.
The declaration was presented at a ceremony marking the installation of the new Commonwealth Youth Council (CYC) executives, who will act as a recognised voice for the 1.2 billion under-30s living in the Commonwealth.
CYC Chairperson, Kim Allen, urged young people to be solution-focused and action oriented.
“Let us reflect on our past efforts and mistakes, assess current situations, identify our strengths and refine our vision and objectives to move forward,” said Allen.
“Be adaptable! Build and equip yourself and also help others to elevate them. Focus on people always! Take time for reflections but don’t wait long to act.”
Speaking at the closing ceremony, Commonwealth Secretary-General RT Hon Patricia Scotland QC added: “I see young people with courage, determination, talent, vibrancy and innovation. You are not tomorrow’s leaders. You are the leaders of today.”
The declaration makes recommendations under six categories: ‘The Rule of Law’, ‘Human Capital Development’, ‘Facilitate Trade, Boost Entrepreneurship and Tackle Unemployment’, ‘Information, Technology and Communication (ICT)’, ‘Health and COVID-19’ and ‘Environment, Climate Change and Sustainability’.
Key asks under the ‘Rule of Law’ include giving more power to national youth councils and supporting more young people to run as candidates for parliament.
There is a strong focus on human rights protection, including child protection and eradicating child labour and child marriages; as well as the removal of social and economic barriers to access to justice, strategies to tackle discrimination, and the importance of involving young people in conflict prevention and resolution.
Under the ‘Human Capital Development’ point, the main call to action is the prioritisation of the social, economic, and political inclusion of all young people, with an emphasis on practical actions to remove barriers to work and training for persons with disabilities.
On trade and entrepreneurship, young leaders call on governments to address enduring issues around equal pay and affordable childcare to ensure the equal participation of women.
The next point in the declaration focuses on ‘Information, Technology, Communication, and Innovation’, calling for Commonwealth member countries and the Commonwealth Secretariat to establish a Commonwealth Youth Innovation Fund – supplying grants to promising youth start-ups.
Young leaders have also urged governments to secure an agreement that deems the internet as a basic public good, and to collaborate on building ICT infrastructures that ensure equal access to the internet.
On ‘Environment, Climate Change and Sustainability’, there was a strong call for governments to raise their climate financing commitments and increase the taxation of polluting industries – while promoting and investing in sustainable alternatives.
The ‘Health and COVID-19’ point pushes for people to be at the centre of decision-making in laying out response plans to handle future outbreaks.
Also of importance, the declaration aims to ensure that access to high-quality, age-appropriate healthcare is not hampered by location, gender, social or financial status.
Young leaders also call for Governments to beef-up laws that protect the rights of people with mental health illnesses and provide high-quality, adequate, and affordable treatments.
The declaration will form the topic of discussion when young leaders meet with Heads of Governments during an intergenerational dialogue on 25 June. Heads will also consider its recommendations during their summit this week.
Learn more: The Commonwealth Secretariat