You might have heard that on May the 23rd that the UK will be voting for Members of the European Parliament, but aren’t we leaving the European Union? Why should I bother voting when it won’t matter anyway? Isn’t it just a waste of time?
Europe and the EU have always been controversial topics within the UK, and over the past 6-7 years they’ve been a near-constant aspect of debate; from Westminster and our devolved parliaments, to social media and between friends. It has also been divisive: we’ve seen election after referendum show that we as a country are divided, we’ve seen a rise in violent rhetoric and extremist views, and even the tragic murder of Jo Cox, a Member of Parliament, a week before the 2016 referendum.
It’s safe to say that the UK’s relationship with the EU is complicated. However, with Brexit supposedly happening before the 31st of October at least, it still might seem a bit pointless to care about who your MEPs are when we’re on our way out anyway. But that couldn’t be further from the truth!
Here’s 5 reasons why you should vote on May the 23rd:
- Your vote really counts. The UK has 73 MEPs, the joint third highest number for any of the EU’s 28 member states. Whoever you choose to vote for, the upcoming elections give you the chance to really have your voice heard at a Europe-wide level, and the candidates you elect could have a massive impact on the European Parliament for however long we remain in it. The political party of the MEP you vote for also makes sure that your voice matters, as the European Parliament is broken up into “political groups” which each countries’ political parties can affiliate to. These groups can have a massive influence over the parliament, and due to the large number of MEPs the UK has, your decision can really make a difference. Find out more about the EU’s political groups here. The European Youth Forum has created a voter comparator tool that you can further use to compare the priorities of the different groupings.
- Send a message about Brexit. However you felt about the 2016 referendum, the European Parliament’s elections are a great way to show decision-makers how you feel about Brexit and the Government’s approach so far. A clear victory for pro-European or pro-Brexit MEPs would influence the decision the UK parties will make in the coming months. There are a large number of parties and candidates standing for these elections who represent a range of opinions and views. Proud ‘Remainer’ or ‘Brexiteer’? Somewhere in-between? Make your vote count! Find your region’s candidates here.
- It’s fairer for smaller parties. The UK uses a proportional representation system called the “d’Hondt system” for electing its MEPs. This means that there could be a better chance for smaller parties to gain seats than in our general elections! However, some people have also argued that the high number of small parties similar positions on key issues (like Brexit) could fragment the vote. Either way, if you support a political party that doesn’t often get seats in Westminster, your vote could be the deciding factor in whether or not your candidates become MEPs, and your party could potentially have a better shot than in the system we use for general elections. Find out more about the d’Hondt system here.
- This could be your last chance! If the UK really does leave the European Union before October the 31st, this could be your last ever opportunity to vote in an election for the European Parliament. Participating in the elections is a unique opportunity to vote alongside citizens from across 28 countries, electing representatives to a shared parliament with political groups that work hand-in-hand with colleagues from across borders to tackle issues. In a post-Brexit UK this would be an opportunity that future generations – our children, grandchildren, and even younger siblings – might not get: so if you’re eligible to vote, use your right while you still can!
- Speak up as a young person. The European Parliament elections typically have a bad turn-out for young people, and those aged 18-24 typically have the lowest voter registration of any age group (read more here). This means that some people say that young people don’t care about politics, or mark our turn-out down to laziness or a lack of interest in being an active citizen. However, just looking at the recent rise in young people taking a stand – from the Climate Strikes to the demonstrations and marches related to Brexit – it’s clear that they couldn’t be further from the truth. Regardless of Brexit, whether you’ve never voted before or campaign religiously at every election, voting on May the 23rd sends a message that you do care about politics, and you won’t let your voice be ignored. And even if you don’t decide to take part, remember that there’s hundreds of thousands of young people who just aren’t old enough, or aren’t quite eligible, who would jump at the opportunity to vote in something they care about.
Convinced? Thinking about it? Either way, you don’t have long left to register as registration closes on the 7th of May (register to vote here), and if you’re an EU citizen, or hold dual-citizenship, it’s a bit more complicated if you want to vote for MEPs in another country in the EU (find out more here).
You also might have the chance to meet some of your MEP candidates, or attending hustings or debates, in the run up to May the 23rd! If you want to feel extra prepared for these hustings, check this document here with ideas of questions you can, on advancing youth’s position in societies.
Huw Sherrard is a UK Young Ambassador (Scotland) to the EU Youth Dialogue, the UK Youth Delegate to the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, and a member of the European Youth Card Association’s Youth Panel.
Eddie O’Sullivan, Megan Doherty and I, three of the four UK Young Ambassadors to the EU Youth Dialogue (the successor to the EU Structured Dialogue) have returned from the first European Union Youth Conference in Bucharest, Romania. The conference was focused on the Romanian Presidency’s key priority for young people: the future of work.
Our day arriving was filled with meeting our new colleagues from across Europe – as well as representatives from other countries, International Youth NGOs, and representatives of Youth Departments/Ministries from various governments – as well as having a short walk around the surrounding area in Bucharest.
Then the EUYC itself began! We heard from a range of speakers, from Romanian Ministers, speakers and experts on a number of topics, as well as members of the Romanian Youth Council. We then broke up into our choice of working groups, each one focused on the interaction between each of the 10 other EU Youth Goals (youthgoals.eu) and Youth Goal #7, which was closest to the Romanian Presidency’s focus on “The Future of Work.”
Day 2 of the EUYC saw a panel debate regarding youth employment, a session on promoting cross-sectoral cooperation on improving youth employment, as well as a number of working groups set on the implementation of our ideas for the future of employment. There was also some frank discussions between the youth delegates and those attending about the nature of EUYCs and the EU Youth Dialogue, particularly focusing on the extent to which it actually involved young people, as well as the lack of focus of this trio of presidencies on the actual youth goals themselves. This led to the creation of a series of separate working groups where youth delegates could focus on improving the process in the future.
The final day brought the EUYC to end with another action-packed morning of debate and discussion related to the future of work, beginning with a ‘high-level panel debate’ on the future of work in relation to the European Union, before we led into the conclusions of the conference, and the handover to Finland for their upcoming EUYC in the next few months.
This conference is only the start of our work over the next 18 months, so we hope you’ll keep up to date with your Young Ambassador’s to the EU Youth Dialogue as there will be many chances to get involved!
The British Youth Council has launched a new call for young people to put themselves forward to be the next cohort of UK Young Ambassadors for the European Structured Dialogue. Through this programme young people from across the four nations of the UK can represent the views of their peers to UK and European youth policy makers. UK Young Ambassadors will be in post for 18 months to follow the next cycle of the process, undertaking consultations with young people across the UK and feeding into European policy conferences.
“I’ve got so much out of being a UK Young Ambassador,” said Bronagh Hughes, outgoing UK Young Ambassador on the Structured Dialogue programme. “I’ve had the chance to develop my knowledge of youth policy in both the UK and across Europe, develop skills in consultation and research, as well as having the chance to develop new friendships across Europe. It’s been an absolutely fantastic programme to be involved in and I would really recommend it to anyone who has an interest in youth policy.”
Applications are open now and close on 6th January 2018. Find out more.
Research carried out by the British Youth Council’s UK Young Ambassadors has concluded that young people are dissatisfied with the way education is structured and have offered viewpoints on how it can be improved to reflect the needs of young people. The new report, which launched on Monday 3rd December 2018, also concludes young people feel incredibly unsupported when it comes to applying for jobs.
60% of the young people surveyed identified the need to have individual capacity for development, languages, internet and media literacy, adaptability to different contexts, democratic participation, intercultural dialogue and basic finance skills as very important to have in school curriculums.
The youth-led consultation, which was led by UK Young Ambassadors for Structured Dialogue, was carried out to establish what the needs of young people are in all the different policy aspects of the European Union. UK Young Ambassadors chose the topics which would resonate most with young people living in the UK and the issues they face. The extensive process investigated the following issues:
- What skills young people want to have developed in school, but don’t get the chance to, for their future endeavours?
- What can be further done to support young people in regards to their mental health and wellbeing?
- How to promote and integrate young people in rural areas?
- How to promote better nationally the programmes and services the EU offers for the development of young people?
- What is the best way to achieve equality and inclusion of marginalised groups?
- How can we further progress youth democratic participation?
With EU funding, Erasmus+, the situations in Hungary and Syria, sustainable development, and Brexit on the agenda, it was of little surprise that the recent General Assembly meeting of the European Youth Forum ran over into the night. However, a very late dinner even by Italian standards was a sacrifice worth making to obtain something which in business and politics alike has as yet to be obtained, a continental consensus on at least some aspects of Brexit. This outcome could only be dreamed for as Lucia and I embarked on the task of creating a politically neutral paper outlining young peoples thoughts about Brexit in October 2017, using qualitative methods to create an ironclad representation of the mood of Britains youth.
The meeting itself, which takes place twice a year, was this time in Brussels and had a focus on the future of Europe with extensive discussion devoted to sustainability and what it meant to be European. At the beginning of the weekend, we were split into discussion groups of EU and non-EU countries, which is simpler said than done from a British perspective. In the end, I decided to venture into the unknown and join Russia, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland etc in the aptly chosen ‘London’ conference room for the non-EU discussion, whereas Lucia joined in with the EU discussions next door. We all agreed that we must protect our planet, democracy and human rights, however I felt some unease in the proposition that programmes should be created to imbue children and young people with a greater sense of European identity. I couldn’t help exchanging ‘European’ with educating young people to be ‘British’ or ‘Scottish’, which in both cases could foster nationalism and a concept of exceptionalism. Really, as a rule we should always treat with extreme caution attempts by those in a position of power should educate young people on how to think politically. Rather than education to be good Europeans, we should focus on educating young people to be good human beings and think critically for themselves.
Before we got to our paper on Brexit, we discussed and voted on a few other quite necessary policy papers which proved considerably more controversial than our own. Weighing in at 56 pages the paper on the next multi-annual financial framework, essentially our ideas for the future budget of the EU, was passed with a commitment to Erasmusx10 and a focus on funding youth organisations. After this came a document on sustainable development which included fiery language concerning private ownership, wage labour, nationalisation, and broken democracy which sought to create a ‘new economy’ to transform the world and change our greedy ways. Certainly, it probably pushed the boundaries of remaining politically and ideologically neutral quite far beyond what would be expected in the UK and elsewhere, and as a result efforts were made to create more friendly language which in most cases succeeded. What concerned me most though were points demanding the education of children and young people in the ‘new economy’ (ending of private ownership, abolition of wage labour etc.) in schools and youth groups, which is as ludicrous an idea as it is dangerous. All in all though the vast majority of this paper had good intentions and sought to improve our relationship with the environment and each other which should always be championed.
Finally, after 3 days of workshops and discussions, already several hours behind schedule, it was time for the Brexit paper to be put before the meeting. Essentially this paper, roughly covers the issues of discrimination, environment, northern Ireland border, an overview of the economy, erasmus+, free movement and our future role in withdrawal negotiations. However, representing young people across the UK both remainers and leavers we kept this paper with feet firmly planted in a space which the vast majority, if not nearly everyone, could agree with. As such, it includes demands such as remaining part of the Erasmus programme, or at very least match the funding it offers, maintain all environmental legislation currently in force or even enhance it, take greater steps to mitigate hate in the aftermath of the referendum, and to place continued peace as the top priority in the resolution of the northern Irish border dispute. But the most crucial point of all, hammered home time and time again in this paper, is that these concerns cannot be filled away and ignored but be listened to and acted upon by our government, and the EU governments, negotiation teams. This strikes at the heart of the reason for this paper being created, chiefly to amplify our voice beyond the saturated lobbying zone of London and across the channel to London where the action really is. However, without the anchorage of the youth forum in Brussels with its networks and expertise, we might as well be shouting it out from the cliffs of Dover. It is for this reason that I am delighted to report, after the controversy of the previous discussions, we were given from Iceland to Azerbaijan, Malta to Finland, a 100% approval for this paper to be taken forward as a motion of support opening the doors for many more exciting things to come both here in the UK and in the rest of Europe. Nevertheless, expectations for what this paper can achieve must be realistic, it is not a manifesto in which we foresee its objectives being ticked off one by one but rather a mission statement. We are young, but we can put forward our views with head as well as heart. If you speak to us, you may well find a new perspective that reinvigorates discussion and ideas, with our presence alone a stark reminder of the damaging repercussions every decision made could have for generations to come.
From the 6-8th April, Ewan and I were in Utrecht to attend the BICC meeting (Benelux, Islands, Central Cooperation) which held the theme of refugees.
Arriving in Utrecht, we were ready to meet the other National Youth Councils and begin the sessions. Led expertly by Coco Peet and Max van de Braggen, with help from other members of the NYC it was a professional and well thought out sessions that were treated with incredible respect and dignity.
What we found particularly moving were the talks given by refugees that have moved to Amsterdam, who gave insight into their experiences of moving from a country that wasn’t safe to their new country. Not assimilation but integration. From the discussions arose an interesting point, that whilst the children of refugee families are in school and can access help with language and mental health, the parents are often left forgotten at home with little connection to the outside world. Perhaps access to resources such as language can be looked at, in order to allow adult refugees to learn and feel a greater sense of stability.
We also met to discuss and analyse the result of our National dialogue sessions, where each NYC discussed with migrants of their own country the challenges and experiences they face in everyday life. We received feedback on the answers we gave and discussed the outcomes of the dialogue, and how opinions of migration differed in each country. The provision of help and the attitudes towards refugees differed from country to country and it was beneficial to hear these stories from the perspective of a migrant.
We also worked on two policy papers, giving our opinions to then be turned into amendments for consideration at the Council of Members meeting. The papers were 2020 MFF and a paper on Sustainable Development. Both meetings resulted in diverse and thorough questions to emerge, which will be put forward as amendments later this month.
Finally, we looked at the methods we could use in our own countries to increase help given to migrants and refugees. We split the challenges that most commonly arose from the national dialogue sessions into different categories and then each NYC contributed to the lists with their country’s policy in mind. This allows us to take actionable steps to improve our services for migrants and refugees in our respective countries.
This was an incredibly moving and insightful meeting, that I have taken many new ideas and opinions from. Hopefully, moving forward, we can make Britain a more welcoming and open place for all.
UKYA for the European Youth Forum
Commonwealth Youth Forum 2018
After tireless months of planning, late nights and sheer hard work, the Commonwealth Forums and subsequent Heads of Government Meeting is complete! It has been an incredible summit and it’s a shame it’s already over, but now the real work begins: continuing the legacy of CYF 2018.
Before we get to that, though, the Forum! CYF was an opportunity to really discuss issues that countries across the Commonwealth face, and building partnerships with delegates across the 53 member states to achieve a better society. What brings us together are the common problems that we have to address, like climate change.
Climate change has ravaged countries around the world. In fact, the only reason this summit is being hosted by the UK is because floods destroyed the island of Vanuatu. On top of that, species like the snow leopard are becoming extinct, the globe is warming and the Great Barrier Reef is dying. I was really glad the sustainability and blue-green economies formed the cornerstone of CHOGM 2018, because if we don’t look at ourselves in the mirror, then we’re at real risk of totally irreparable damage to the world.
But hey, I promise this blog isn’t too morbid! It was a refreshing experience and truly renewed my optimism towards the future.
The Forum (unofficially) began on Sunday. It was a day facilitated by the National Citizen Service, where delegates were able to explore London and initiate the conversation around issues before the grand opening the next day. Even though I’m from the UK, it was lovely walking around my beautiful city and enjoying its sights, and above all, seeing the looks of amazement on those who had travelled for hours upon hours to be here.
Then came the actual day we had all been looking forward to. I hadn’t been up for 6am in a long time, so this took some getting used to. The UK delegates arrived at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre to listen to keynote speeches for the opening of the Forum, with Prince Harry’s appearance being a highlight. It was amazing to hear him announce himself as the new Ambassador to the Commonwealth; I look forward to him championing that cause. After a day of workshops based on the four pillars of prosperity, sustainability, security and fairness, I attended the Welcome to London reception. Boy, what an event! From foods found across the Commonwealth to stunning performances (a huge shout out to Ellie Goulding) to an appearance out of nowhere by Prince William, it was a great opportunity to meet with delegates from the four forums and connect with other young people a more informal setting. Day 1 really set the precedent for the rest of the week.
Day 2 began with a inter-forum session. Andrew Holness, the Jamaican Prime Minister, delivered a rousing speech, reminding us about the damage that empire has caused globally. This was after the Prime Minister, Theresa May, spoke about the importance of the Commonwealth and how it remains relevant to this day. With pledges for funding to support Commonwealth states and to parts of the youth sector, it was a positive moment for youth empowerment and we’ll be sure to ensure these promises are delivered. And to top it all off, Bill Gates took the stage to point out how far the world has come in terms of child mortality, and how, despite all the horrors that seem to happen daily, we have progressed massively.
In between more insightful sessions, there was the ‘Big Lunch’, which celebrated cultures in the most universal way: food. This continued to a day full of policy planning, where delegates worked together to design ideas to include in the CYF communiqué. It was a pretty busy and exhausting day, but it climaxed with a magical concert hosted by Global Citizen Live. Featuring high-profile speakers such as the former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, the night highlighted the fantastic achievements by charities around the world, and culminated with Emeli Sandé lighting up the stage (also quite literally).
And then came the final day. This was primarily about the General Assembly, where each country’s voting delegates debated policy and procedural motions. It was a momentous moment for many reasons, including the British Overseas Territories obtaining voting rights and also Europe finally getting its own representative on the Commonwealth Youth Council! While the debate got heated, controversial, and outright awkward at times, it was great step forward for young people across the Commonwealth. A personal highlight was the adoption of mental health as a priority for the CYC. The CYC overall adopted policy recommendations that we will use as our basis for the legacy work we plan to do post-CYF, you can check them out here.
See, I love surprises as much as the next person, which basically mean I don’t. But the surprise of being invited to the majestic Sky Gardens to meet the Heads of State and Foreign Ministers of all the 53 Commonwealth countries was pretty unbelievable. It was an incredibly honour to promote ideas regarding young people to figures such as the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Boris Johnson, and the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau; the evening culminated in speaking to the Prime Minister of the UK about climate change and youth entrepreneurship.
And voilà! The curtain call. Sky Gardens brought an end to an exhilarating, draining and bright Forum to launch a drive for a stronger society. I want to say a huge thank you first and foremost to Ellen and Andrea, who made sure Thrinayani and I were fully equipped for the week. The entire Cabinet Office Team working mindblowing hours put in heroic effort to make this all happen, and for that we are incredibly grateful. And finally, a massive amount of appreciation must be placed on the inspirational delegates that attended this Forum in the hope of pursuing a better future for the generations now and to come, with particular praise for the 50 UK delegates who made their respective organisations and us proud.
That’s all from me. Stay tuned with the projects Thrinayani and I develop to continue the legacy of this very significant week. We refuse to let this to be a summit of empty promises and false hope, but rather a turning point for the UK, the Commonwealth and indeed the world.
Namir Rahim Chowdhury
UK Ambassador to the Commonwealth
This was my second internship working in international relations, but my first time working in the youth sector. Growing up I wasn’t very engaged in youth politics, so now having worked for the British Youth Council (BYC) it has showed me how accomplished the young people are that we work with and the amazing work BYC does for young people in the UK. Technically, I’m still a young person at 24, so this internship has supported both my personal and professional development.
The purpose of my internship was to help manage BYC’s Commonwealth work, which I coordinated with the Cabinet Office and the Commonwealth Secretariat. My knowledge of the Commonwealth before this internship was like many other people in the UK, I knew that it stemmed from the British Empire, the Queen is the head and there are the Commonwealth Games every four years. Through this internship, I learnt about the Commonwealth’s structure, governance and its work that supports the 53 Commonwealth countries. The Commonwealth’s work is particularly relevant to young people as 60% of the Commonwealth’s population is under 30. Thus the CYF and the participation of young people are essential to Commonwealth’s relevance in global matters.
During my six month internship, the key events I helped to organise were Commonwealth Day and the Commonwealth Youth Forum (CYF) which were both successful, but a little stressful to organise at times. Commonwealth Day involved a Q&A at Number 10 Downing Street with Lord Ahmad, Minister of State for the Commonwealth and UN (and briefly Prime Minister Theresa May) then after a mixed faith service at Westminster Abbey. The CYF was a three-day conference as a part of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London, this forum brings together young people from across the Commonwealth to network, debate and discuss action plans to help tackle the challenges in the Commonwealth.
I worked with a diverse group of young people from across the UK, who represented the UK and BYC member organisations as delegates at the CYF. My responsibilities included selecting delegates, booking transport, disseminating information and liaising with our delivery partners and relevant stakeholders. The best part of this job was working with young people who are passionate about youth participation and ensuring their voice is heard in international matters. This motivated me to make sure are young delegates were truly engaged with the CYF and the Commonwealth. This is why it is super important for youth-led organisations like BYC to be included at all levels of national and international politics to help ensure young people’s voices are heard. Like many high-level international events, it is questionable whether they are spaces for meaningful engagement of young people with decision makers; however these Commonwealth events were at least spaces for young people to learn, develop and contribute their ideas. In reality, the real power of the Commonwealth is on the ground and with Commonwealth citizens; this was reflected throughout the young delegates’ stories at the CYF.
This internship has developed my understanding of international relations, advocacy, event management, logistics, project coordination and partnership building. The purpose of an internship is to learn, and this experience has been a huge learning curve for me. It has provided the opportunity to grow in my career by letting me take the lead on all my work. Also, my time at BYC wouldn’t have been as great if it weren’t for the amazing BYC team, every staff member and trustee has been more than welcoming and supportive, it’s impressive to see how a small team can make such a big impact. I have developed transferable skills for my next role in international relations and development…whatever that may be.
8am Monday morning. We’ve already been at the QEII for an hour. Delegates are beginning to arrive, and the buzz of excitement and anticipation is rife in the air. That energy fades and is replaced with a crowd of early 20-somethings holding their breath as His Royal Highness Prince Harry is escorted in. But, I’m getting ahead of myself slightly. Rewind to another Monday morning, 7 months earlier; it’s October and another group of 20-somethings are nervously gathered in Marlborough House beginning the talks that will lead us to the Commonwealth Youth Forum 2018.
I’m Luke Oliver, I’m 23 and a member of the CYF International Taskforce. Back in October of 2017, I gathered with others to help plan the forum that was then delivered to around 300 delegates from across the Commonwealth. The International Taskforce was made up of about 15 young people because if you want to combat youth issues you can only do that by having youth involved. We were tasked with focusing the forum on four key areas designed to help improve the Commonwealth’s ‘Common Future’; these areas were sustainability, prosperity, fairness & security.
The work began by dividing the Taskforce into three main sub-teams: programmes, policy, and communications. The programmes team began by taking the four pillars as guidelines and then honing them to create areas of interest that affect the youth of the Commonwealth. This meant thinking about cyber security for an ever-growing world; equality for all minorities and acknowledging the richness that those minorities can bring to society, to climate change and the impact that is going to have on us as we inherit the Commonwealth but also the generations of Commonwealth youth to come; cyber security for an ever-growing world. Now, these weren’t thoughts that came from one meeting in October, they were ruminated over many months in the lead up to CHOGM in collaboration with the policy team who listened to the conceptual ideas and then wrote the communique that delegates got to work with, and create action plans for, during the forum. Meanwhile, the communications team aided with campaigns to raise the awareness and engagement of youth in the Commonwealth in the lead up to April.
It’s now April, CHOGM and the Commonwealth Youth Forum are here. All the delegates have arrived and now the work really begins. The forum has been split into two major strands of events: plenaries and break-out sessions. There were four plenaries, one for each pillar, containing young people who are experts in their fields discussing the work they’re doing in their communities across the Commonwealth in the hopes to share success stories, not so successful stories and best practice with the delegates and hopefully impart knowledge on how delegates can better improve their own communities. The second strand was the break-out sessions. This is where the 300 delegates were given the chance to be at the heart of affecting change and policy for the tens of millions of youth across the Commonwealth who couldn’t attend. This meant creating action plans for the policies which had been drafted in the communique. If the policy was ‘more funding for youth entrepreneurships’ the actions plans may have discussed ways in which young people can access that funding. Both strands played a vital role in the forum, the plenaries were the calls to action and provided examples of the differences this year’s wave of delegates could make; the break-out sessions then created a space for the delegates to be instrumental in the way policy jargon can become physical change in communities across the world.
The three days of the forum became a productive blur with very little let up. On the Wednesday night, the action plans were added to the communique and then forwarded to all of the Heads of Governments from across the Commonwealth to discuss in the meetings at Windsor Castle. The youth agenda is usually something that is tokenistic and discussed in brief by middle-aged senior ministers. So, to be able to say that youth have been at the heart of this year’s CHOGM and the Commonwealth’s future is extremely special and something that I and all involved are tremendously proud to have achieved.
But it’s up to you! If you attended you have tools now to go back and implement change. If you didn’t attend there’s heaps online you can access to see exactly what happened behind the four walls of the QEII or contact people who did go, pick their brains about how they can lead you to make a difference too.
Monday 12th March. That was the day we celebrated the annual Commonwealth Day, which recognises the unity of 2.3 billion people across the world, and their contribution to the Commonwealth of Nations. It remains a key date of the British calendar, with very high-profile people participating. I won’t lie, it wasn’t a nice day, not a nice day at all, but is there anything more quintessentially British than constant, light rainfall?
Despite the weather’s clear resentment towards us, the excitement of the UK young delegates to the upcoming Commonwealth Youth Forum (CYF) wasn’t going to be dampened. We arrived to an event that has been attributed great attention, given the current political climate and the importance of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2018 (CHOGM). These discussions could really set a precedent for future global relationships and trade talks post-Brexit, not to be dramatic or anything. (I tried to not mention the “B” word but that effort clearly didn’t make much of a difference.)
Disclaimer: as you can see, this blog post is filled with acronyms, so I do apologise in advance.
The day started at 10 Downing Street. I was honoured to be moderating a conversation by-the-fireside with the Prime Minister, Theresa May and Lord Ahmad, the Minister for the Commonwealth, about the role of young people in these discussion.
It was surreal to enter the house. Well, to call it a house wouldn’t do it justice; it was palatial, absolutely stunning. To walk up the steps alongside past prime ministers was an experience to say the least! After chatting to some of the amazing staff team within the Commonwealth Summit Unit (CSU), we began the Q+A, with the delegates asking probing questions on the relevance of the Commonwealth to daily life and the priorities of the UK within the Commonwealth.
It was refreshing to hear both ministers emphasise that young people are a core part of the work going on, especially as 60% of its citizens are under 30, but only time will tell whether real steps are taken to actually reflect this. Will young people be consulted? Will funding be allocated to facilitate this? We’ll find out come April, after the legacy of CHOGM takes shape.
I truly hope this Summit will be the foundation of real action to achieve a better world, not another forgotten gathering littered with unfulfilled promises and disenfranchised citizens.