As the UK hosted the Commonwealth Youth Forum for the first time in history, it was an honour to be a part of this momentous event and contribute to raising youth voice through my role as UK Young Ambassador to the Commonwealth.
The weekend prior to the Commonwealth Youth Forum, which was held at the QEII Centre in London, I took part in a facilitators meeting to prepare for the event. There I had the opportunity to meet several members of the Commonwealth Youth Taskforce. During the session I learnt how to effectively facilitate youth workshops to produce efficient action plans, and in turn, create a positive change on a national, regional and pan-commonwealth level.
At the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Youth Forum, I was fortunate to hear Prince Harry – the newly appointed Queens Commonwealth Youth Ambassador – speak about the powerful influence of young people. He said: “Young people can lead the way in making the Commonwealth a more free, more prosperous, more happy and a more powerful influence for good in the world.” I was also greatly inspired by hearing talks from a list of other attendees including; Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland QC – Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Kishva Ambigapathy – Commonwealth Youth Council Chairperson, Jayathma Wickramanayake – United Nations Secretary-General Envoy on Youth and Rt. Hon. Damian Hinds – UK Government Secretary of State for Education. It was also incredible to hear British Youth Council Chair, Anna Rose Barker, discussing the running theme of the forum – “Powering our Common Future”.
On the first day of the forum, I had the excellent opportunity to participate in sessions focused on building a more prosperous, sustainable, fairer and secure future for all. Multiple discussions raised this day were centred around important issues such as employment for youth, enhancing sustainability and also peace building. These sessions were also able to highlight the work of some of the Commonwealth Networks like, the Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs and the Commonwealth Youth Human Rights and Democracy Network
Assisting the Prosperity workshops at the Commonwealth Youth Forum was a great experience. The issues discussed by young people at these sessions were more focused on entrepreneurship, technology, innovation and generating solutions for youth unemployment. These topics were brought forward to ensure the youth within our Commonwealth are given the opportunity to express creativity and excel within communities through enterprise and employment opportunities. In these sessions, I greatly enjoyed the experience of being able to listen to, and also collaborate with, young people from across the world to develop new ideas which I will be able to take on board and apply further, in my own role.
The second day of the event consisted of a joint forum day between the Women’s, People’s and Business forums alongside the Youth forum. There were multiple cross-cutting themes discussed throughout which brought a tremendous amount of diversity to the event. I was fortunate to be able to listen to Commonwealth Resounds by Rotary London; their collaborative piece brought together musical stylings from across the Commonwealth and delivered them together in one fantastic performance. I was also incredibly elated to listen to speeches by Bill Gates, Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland and the Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness. During this event UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, announced investment in delivering the 12 year education guarantee across the Commonwealth.
On the final day of the forum, I was given the honourable opportunity to represent the UK in the Commonwealth Youth Forum General Assembly. This event involved all of the Commonwealth national delegates sharing ideas to tackle issues within the Commonwealth Youth Council. We also had the opportunity to vote on policy motions to for a communique with the Heads of Government. It was a great experience to hear different perspectives for a better Commonwealth and to also contribute to the discussion.
The following evening, I was extremely grateful to be invited by UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, to a reception at the Sky Garden, where the Heads of Government were being welcomed to the UK. I was thankful to receive an opportunity to speak directly with her about UK Youth priorities such as, tackling youth unemployment and climate change, ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.
I also had the pleasure of formally meeting the Prime Minister of Jamaica – Andrew Holness, the Prime Minister of Canada – Justin Trudeau and Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland – the Secretary General of the Commonwealth. It was an amazing experience to converse with each of them about the outcomes of the Youth Forum and gain further knowledge from their wisdom and insight.
It was excellent to have the opportunity to discuss issues faced by the youth of the UK and to develop possible solutions – within the themes of prosperity, sustainability, fairness and security – with young people from across the Commonwealth.
I would like to take a moment to thank the work of the Commonwealth Taskforce, the organisers of the entire event and the incredible young leaders who came together for the forum. I would also love to sincerely thank the British Youth Council and the UK Young Ambassadors for this amazing platform for young people to implement positive change.