As a newly elected UK Young Ambassador to the Commonwealth, I feel humbled to be given a great opportunity to work hard and represent the voices of UK Youth to the Commonwealth. I am very excited to be on this journey and look forward to working with all UK youth to contribute to the amazing work of the UK Young Ambassadors Team.
It was my first time attending the British Youth Council’s Annual Council Meeting (BYC ACM) and I felt truly inspired and amazed by the work of the BYC to empower young people.
I delivered a workshop on “Europe and the Commonwealth” with my colleague Bronagh and loved delivering a piece about the Commonwealth. In the workshop, I explained what the Commonwealth is and the many different opportunities for youth voice within the Commonwealth. As a UK Young Ambassador to the Commonwealth, I am passionate about promoting and raising awareness of these opportunities for all young people and for the incredible young leaders at the BYC ACM.
I talked about several Commonwealth youth initiatives such as the Commonwealth Students Association, The Youth Climate Change Network, The Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs, The Youth Peace Ambassadors, The Youth Health Network and the Youth Human Rights Ambassadors. It is through these schemes that the Commonwealth really gets youth voice incorporated within policy. The Commonwealth Secretariat emphasises supporting young people to design and drive youth-led initiatives and it is wonderful to spread the word so that lots more UK Youth can get involved and be heard on an international scale.
I also enjoyed talking about different meetings for young leaders within the Commonwealth. One was the 9th Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting, where youth ministers spoke about promoting the professionalization of youth work, social entrepreneurship and developing innovative financing mechanisms. With our Commonwealth formed of mostly youth, it is more important than ever for all young people to unite, strengthen democracy and end inequality. Young people are the drivers and catalysts of change and as a UK Young Ambassador I believe that the Commonwealth has lots of opportunities to channel young people’s energy and passion into creating positive change.
The Commonwealth Youth Forum is held every two years and is held a day before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting so that young people can produce a final document of all of the issues discussed at the youth forum and raise this with world leaders. For the first time in history, the UK will be hosting the Commonwealth Youth Forum in April 2018 and we hope for it to be a success.
At the workshop, I loved talking to many different young people to tell them about the Commonwealth International Youth taskforce. The Taskforce will be youth-led, with young people managing and setting their own agenda, with economic, political, environment and social themes, I really enjoyed encouraging as many young leaders to apply and take part in this important role. The Commonwealth Youth Taskforce is made up of three committees – The Programme and Delegation Committee, The Logistics Committee and the Communications and Media Committee who all work together to ensure that the Commonwealth Youth Forum runs spectacularly in April 2018. The role enables youth to work with so many different young people, youth groups and decision-makers to create brilliant change.
After the workshop sessions, young people debated and voted for several policy motions to appear on the British youth council’s manifesto for the upcoming year. Some topics that were debated were, “Tampon Tax”, “Body Confidence”, “Ensure water and sanitation are at the heart of international development”, “Emphasise the need for sustainable living practices”, “Gender Stereotyping” and “Make feminism lessons compulsory”.
I feel so lucky to have engaged with some incredible youth from so many organisations within the BYC. It was also wonderful seeing some inspiring young people become elected as trustees onto the BYC Board.
A day after attending the BYC ACM, I attended the UK Youth Parliament Advisory Group meeting in Somerset where I talked to local young people to tell them about how their hard work locally is making an impact on a national scale. I spoke to them about the different motions that were debated at the BYC ACM to help young people with their local/regional campaigns and I enjoyed talking with them about the Commonwealth and how they can get involved in Commonwealth youth initiatives.
The UK Young Ambassadors are very excited to announce an amazing opportunity for young people aged 16-25 to be a part of the UKYA project. The Ambassadors for Structured Dialogue and European Policy are recruiting a team of approximately 15 Structured Dialogue Champions over the next fortnight from all over the UK, to support their work over the next 18 months.
The UKYAs are holding a UK wide consultation as part of the European Structured Dialogue on Youth, meaning they are feeding back the views of young people in the UK to European decision makers. The ambassadors will be attending a number of EU Youth Conferences, where they will be meeting with their equivalents from all countries in the EU, and discussing the theme of this dialogue cycle, The Future of Young People in Europe. Each country’s representatives then return to their home countries, where they will hold a massive consultation, distributing surveys, running workshops, and gathering the thoughts and opinions of as many young people as possible. All the countries will then meet, and formulate a list of recommendations based on what they have found, which will then be submitted to the European Commission, and hopefully can shape European policy making on Youth.
This is where you come in, although our three Young Ambassadors are very passionate about their work, they cannot hope to access young people from all over the UK without support. We need a group of driven, enthusiastic Champions based around the UK who can bring the work of the UKYA project into their local communities. We are looking for Champions who can reach out to as many young people as possible, and who can do this in innovative ways. This could involve a social media campaign, speaking in local schools or universities, reaching out to other organisations that are holding events to ask to run a workshop, setting up your own independent event, or anything else you can think of.
The information and feedback that you gather from your workshops and consultations will then be fed into the UKYAs Structured Dialogue report, which they will take with them to a European Youth Conference, and will inform the recommendations that are made, and submitted to the European Commission. This gives you a unique opportunity to be a part of the process of EU decision making, and contribute to the conversation on the Future of Young People in Europe, at what is a vital and important time of change. This is an excellent opportunity for young people that are passionate about current affairs and EU decision making, and can provide useful independent research experience, as well as offering a unique and valuable point to build a CV.
We are so excited to hear from applicants for this role, and are looking forward to meeting the new team of Structured Dialogue Champions, and working with them in the future!
The UK Young Ambassadors to the Structured Dialogue of the British Youth Council are looking for young people aged 16-25 to support our work for Structured Dialogue in Europe and help us to carry out our consultation work with young people across the UK. We’re looking for motivated young people who feel confident to run workshops and consultations with their peers on the official tittle of the VIth cycle of the Structured Dialogue: Youth in Europe:What’s next? You’ll get training and support from BYC and help to gather the research the UKYAs will be presenting in Europe as part of the Structured Dialogue on Youth. The cycle of the Structured Dialogue lasts for 18 months, which means your engagement will last until the end of 2018/beginning of 2019. We are looking for 15 young people who will join a network of grassroots activists and act as multipliers of the Structured Dialogue on a local level.
Unsure of what the Structured Dialogue on Youth in Europe is? (It’s a bit of a mouthful!) Here’s a handy video guide- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IspKFDRGfd8
As part of the application you’ll be asked to link to a 90 second video outlining why you would be the best candidate for a Structured Dialogue Champion position. The closing date for applications is 28/09/17 @23:59 and we hope to notify successful candidates by the start of October. You can access the application form here.
If you have any questions about the application these can be directed to email@example.com
We are looking forward to your applications!
I wasn’t sure what to expect from my first meeting with the rest of the UKYA for Structured Dialogue team, but I was so excited to find we would be getting straight down to planning out the next 18 months of our work. We looked at the three phases of the structured dialogue and then broke down the work we hoped to do before each of the European youth conferences. It was so exciting to learn that we would be travelling to Estonia, Bulgaria and Austria for this session’s conferences. It was also a bit terrifying to realise that our first conference in Tallin, Estonia would take place at the end of October, and we had so much work to do before it!
We drew up a huge timeline and papered the meeting room walls with it, plotting out our entire work plan for the next 18 months. It was a mammoth task but by the end of it I felt like we’d really got to grips with what we were embarking on. We have so much to do before we board our flights to Tallin! We’re planning on recruiting a squad of Structured Dialogue Champions to help us to carry out our youth consultations, so it’s been really interesting looking at how best to recruit young people who can help us to put together a really comprehensive piece of research that will make sure young peoples’ voices from all across the UK are heard.
We’re also in the process of identifying other charities and NGOs to work alongside, there are so many brilliant organisations out there that we’re really looking forward to sharing expertise with. It was great to realise that myself, Lucy and Bronagh, all come from very different campaigning backgrounds (Myself from GirlguidingUK, Lucy from the UKYP, and Bronagh from the Youth Select Commitee), so we all have links in lots of different places. This is going to be so useful in reaching out to a wide range of people and getting our work as UKYAs out there!
I think we all came away from the meeting feeling energised, as opposed to intimidated, by the colossal task facing us. I for one, have bought myself an enormous new diary and am pretty excited to watch it fill up with events and trips and deadlines. Look out Europe, here we come…
In April 2018 Heads of state from all the Commonwealth countries will be coming together in London for the Commonwealth Summit.
Alongside the Heads of Government meeting, there will be a meeting of the Commonwealth Youth Council (CYC), and we are recruiting young people to help plan and deliver this event.
Applications for UK representation on the Commonwealth Youth Council International Task Force are now open.
We are looking for individuals who are:
- Aged 18-29 on 1 October 2017
- Available for the Induction and planning event (9-13 October 2017) and the Summit (15-20 April 2018)
- Part of a member organisation of the British Youth Council
- Experience of youth participation
- Experience of planning and delivering events for young people
- Experience of, or an interest in, international development, particularly in relation to the Commonwealth
- Good oral and written skills in English; fluency in other languages is an asset
- Access to, and proficiency in, online communication tools
- Available and accessible for conference calls and to undertake tasks between the induction event and the event itself (up to twice monthly)
To apply for a role in the following committees:
- Programme and Delegations Committee
- Logistics Committee
- Communications and Media Committee
Follow this link for the full role description and application form: http://bit.ly/2uCvT4X
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org for further information and any questions.
Ever since I found out that I’d been chosen to be one of three UK Young Ambassadors (UKYA) for Structured Dialogue and European Policy, I had been looking forward to our first residential. I got the train down to London, and although I was nervous, I was excited to meet the other UKYA and to begin my journey as a UK Young Ambassador; representing the young people of the UK on an international scale. I successfully made my way to the BYC (British youth Council) offices, getting lost far fewer times than I had on the way to my UKYA interview. It was lovely to meet the other UKYA, Susie and Bronagh, and the BYC staff that would be helping and guiding us in our roles throughout the next 18 months. Each of us, myself, Susie and Bronagh had become involved with youth voice and UKYA via different organisations, I had been a Member of the UK Youth Parliament, Bronagh, a Member of the Youth Select Committee, and Susie, a Girlguiding delegate; it was a great opportunity to learn more about other BYC member organisations and to listen to the other UKYA experiences within youth voice.
We began by discussing what our hopes, fears and expectations were during our time as UKYA, it was clear that all three of us were hoping to learn about European policy and the structure of the EU during our time as UKYA, and to have the opportunity to represent the young people of the UK and to ensure that their voices were heard at the EU Youth Conferences (EUYC) during our 18 month term of office. These EUYC are held every six months, in Estonia, Bulgaria and Austria, over the next 18 months. Each EUYC will be part of a different phase of the Structured Dialogue process and we spent much of our weekend developing a work plan, organising how we would use our time as UKYA. We discussed which partners and organisations we would use to help us in our research and how we intended to attend and organise events to carry out our Structured Dialogue consultation.
I had an incredible weekend; I was able to meet some amazing young people, try some delicious Mexican food and learn huge amounts about the Structured Dialogue programme and the European Union. I’m extremely excited to continue working with both Susie and Bronagh over the next year and a half, I’m looking forward to hearing what the views and opinions of the young people of the UK are regarding the European Union and ‘The Future of Europe’, and of representing these young people on an international scale.
Aitäh lugemise eest! (I’m trying to get started with learning a little bit of Estonian.)
Leon Ward, a former UK Young Ambassador to the Commonwealth Youth Council has shared his thoughts and experiences on what being a Youth Ambassador to the Commonwealth Youth Council means, in light of our open elections for two new UK Young Ambassadors to the Commonwealth Youth Council. Read on and get inspired!
What is the Commonwealth Youth Council?
The Commonwealth Youth Council is a pan-Commonwealth organisation that includes young people from all of the Commonwealth countries. It convenes every two years at a multi-day conference called the Commonwealth Youth Forum.
Why is it important?
It is a dedicated space for young people from the Commonwealth to work on a communique which is presented to the Commonwealth Heads of Government the day after the Youth Forum finishes.
In April 2018, the United Kingdom will be the host country for both the Youth Forum and Heads of Government Meeting.
In theory, countries should be sending national youth delegates from their national youth bodies. The UK sends two Young Ambassadors who represent the manifesto passed by the BYC’s membership.
In reality, though, there are very few checks made on delegates – some work for their governments or are known to individual Ministers and therefore are given a place. Each nation can send two delegates under 29.
What’s the plan for 2018?
Plans will be firmed up in October when an international Taskforce of young people will meet, in London, to design the Youth Forum. We expect the Forum to touch on pan-Commonwealth issues like gender, equality, security, resilience and sustainability. But, this will all be determined in due course.
We are also reviewing how to best use the Communique to really voice the issues young people are concerned with. So, the Forum may not look like it has in the past – we will update this blog in October to reflect the decisions made by the Taskforce.
How can I get involved?
Young people who belong to a BYC member can apply to join the Taskforce. We will also be making other arrangements for people to get involved in Commonwealth activities during this week.
Where can I find more information?
At the Commonwealth Women’s Leader’s Summit, the Secretary- General of the Commonwealth Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland QC, called for intergenerational partnership to empower women. Following this meeting, myself and a group of inspirational young women from across the Commonwealth, decided that we wanted to help empower women by creating a Mentorship Programme for Women across Member States of the Commonwealth.
There are shocking figures from across the Commonwealth about the barriers women face. For instance, ‘three out of five illiterate young people are females.’ But realistically how can a Mentorship Scheme help overcome these boundaries?
We believe that by having a programme that is intergenerational we show that empowerment does not have to be limited to national boundaries and there is a wealth of people within the Commonwealth willing to commit their time to empowering girls and young women. One of my colleagues from the programme, Amanda, thinks that the programme ‘(not only) bridges the divide between different generations of women but equips women with the tools to shape and design the communities they live in and a future they would be proud of.’ By matching up women who have been empowered, successful and have a lot of skills and wisdom, with young women, we can encourage them to become empowered as well.
In Summer of 2016, we started planning and discussing how we could achieve this, and presented our idea of a Mentorship programme to the Women’s Affairs Ministerial Meeting in September 2016 where Member States mandated the Commonwealth Secretariat to implement an intergenerational programme. After receiving this big support, we have manged create and run this programme with help from the Commonwealth youth networks (in particular the Commonwealth Youth Gender Equality Network (CYGEN) and the Commonwealth Youth Council (CYC), in partnership with the Commonwealth Secretariat, Rotary International and the Commonwealth Businesswomen’s Network.
After successfully creating all the documents and structure to run the programme, in March of this year, I launched the programme at the Commonwealth Secretariat with one of my colleagues from the programme. We accepted applications from women aged 18-29 until April and after a long process of matching successful mentees and mentors, the programme has been running since July 2017. It attracted over 700 applications from young women needing or believing that they needed a mentor for personal and professional development.
The programme is a 6 month pilot and will run until December, which if successful there have been suggestions for this to be a permanent programme run by the Commonwealth! In the meantime, we have been getting a lot of publicity –we have had press releases from the Commonwealth Secretariat, a retweet by the Prime Minister of Malta, a launch in Guyana, a mention in the House of Lords and have also been all over newspapers and national news channels in the Caribbean!
It has been such a great experience running this programme so far, and just seeing already the benefits that the programme is creating for mentees and mentors alike is so great to see! One of my favourite quotes is ‘empowered women, empower women.’ I can’t wait to review the programme at the end of this year and see if we have been able to truly assist in empowering women!
By Kavita Sharma, UKYA Commonwealth Ambassador 2015- 2017 and European Representative on the Commonwealth Youth Council 2015- 2017
- See press release here from the Commonwealth http://thecommonwealth.org/media/press-release/mentorship-programme-empower-commonwealth-young-women
- Blog post from Commonwealth Youth Council on our event in Guyana
For a week this June I plunged into the unfamiliar world of truly international deal making and intrigue. This, sadly, was not up front among the Heads of State and Government at the G20 in Hamburg, but at the Y20 in Berlin, which was hosted a month earlier to compile the worldwide perspective of young people into a report to be presented to the G20 host, government Sherpas and beyond. The stage was set for the daunting undertaking of 70 young people aged 18-35 to create a 30 page report on issues from climate change to global trade to counter-terrorism to empowering women to medical emergencies, and present it to Angela Merkel in 6 days time.
Accompanied by Anna Barker for the first half of the process and Pegah Moulana for the second, I set out, as the UK Representative, with two key aims: that the youth angle on President Trumps withdrawal from the Paris Agreement was a tough one, and that the document as a whole was sharp grammatically and clear of the drivel which so often plagues policy documents. We also set out to get Mental Health Awareness, which is still very much in its infancy in the vast majority of the world, on to the agenda, and unlike any year before it was. I ended up on the climate committee, renamed Climate First, and pushed forward the agenda that the G20 leaders must ground the Paris agreement more deeply by involving more sub-state actors like cities, businesses and state/county/provincial governments in the process. Furthermore, with a firm belief in presenting more solutions than problems, we sought out and adopted several innovative ideas concerning waste disposal, carbon trading and preventative measures to prevent the developing world from making the same polluting mistakes.
However, the event was not without its controversy. As you may expect, several national representatives could not support many issues of equality which we champion in this country. As a consequence, rather than explicit messages of support, more subtle methods had to be found. There was also disagreement in the room whether gender quotas with fixed percentage targets were morally right, with an eventual compromise being met that we must attain a more gender balanced society in all spheres of life. Perhaps the most visible UK contribution into the final touches was pushing through the decision that the document should be in UK rather than US English, as a visible sign of defiance against the Trump climate and immigration agendas which were addressed in the document. Furthermore, the UK and Australia established an English language committee go through the final document making grammatical and wording differences to the document, to ensure it was easy to understand, consistent and youth-friendly, the whole process taking a team of 6 over 5 hours well past midnight.
Finally the day came to present to Merkel, a colossus on the world stage having now served as Chancellor of Germany for nearly 12 years. The presentation took place at the heart of the Chancellory in a large circular room with delegates, translators, TV cameras, the press. She walked in with a smile on her face holding her hands in the familiar diamond shaped clasp which has become her trademark. I had not won the randomly selected place to present on behalf of climate change, though with a seat at the inner table had the opportunity to add supplementary information to Chancellor Merkel, firstly emphasising that the G20 was a place to make a statement to Trump on his withdrawal and to start building sub-national networks to bulwark the agreement in place. I also addressed an issue that had been underrepresented in the presentation so far – a mistrust in her. Well, not just her, but all the politicians, and the process as a whole which seems to review the same issues every year to the tune of billions of pounds and end up with non-action and lies. She seemed to, in her own discrete way, frustratedly agree.
However, with the G20 now over I can see that, in part, I was wrong. The summit still ended with no cast iron guarantees but it had sent a message. The message spread across social media of Donald Trump being snubbed by foreign leaders, and statement after statement on the Paris agreement. I don’t pretend to believe that the Y20 is solely responsible for this, but it brings to mind one of Aesop’s maxims, “Sticks in a bundle can’t be broken but sticks taken singly can be easily broken. Same applies to people.”
Imagine university life without international students; no more foreign crushes, fewer accents to make fun of, a decline in offers of suspicious local alcohols, culminating, its fair to say, in a void once occupied by life-long friends. A deeply toxic, and ugly, culture of isolationism and anti-intellectualism is threatening these things and more, every day hitting our towns and cities through the tabloid press and pandering to a vocal minority at the expense of international students and everyone else.
Recently at a House of Lords committee meeting hosted by Educating Beyond Borders, the damage being done to Britain’s international students by this ideology was laid bare. It emerged that bizarre new lengths are being taken to surpass simply the indignity of being uprooted and booted out after graduation as now some people are being forced out before completing their degree! This has unfortunately come about as many students need to complete a work placement before attaining a degree but the UK government has refused to recognise this as part of the course. This is just part of a campaign by the government to cut immigration figures, which international students are included in, by deliberately making it more difficult to study in the UK and remain after study.
It is has a real impact upon us all too, as most universities cannot sustain themselves without the extra income from international students and may be forced to drastically reduce the number of available courses if this were to continue further. Business people gave a stark warning too, that this brain drain will inevitably create a skills shortage forcing high paying jobs to relocate to Europe and elsewhere. Among representatives of the public sector too there was concern that our NHS, our schools and our infrastructure could fall into ruin in pursuit of a Fortress Britain. Confusingly there seemed to be a consensus in the room among people from all backgrounds despite this apparently being the ‘will of the people’, but there was one sole defending voice in the room, a representative from the government who defended this strategy by throwing out meaningless phrases about tough choices. It seemed, I fear, that their presence was more to give an illusion of consultation and debate in order to stifle the real thing.
The promise of a ‘Global Britain’ has been churned out by government post-Brexit, but surely to realise this vision a path that doesn’t cause the Chinese media to nickname Theresa May ‘Student Hater’ is needed. A Global Britain must play to all its advantages, and already having a 10% share in all international students, which adds up to a £3.5 billion industry feeding into all other aspects of national life, is not something to gamble with for a few cheap votes. Like so many other issues out there among the hustle of the post-Brexit parliament our collective voices barely rose to a whisper. The whisper though, is there. We need students, we need graduates, we need you to make a whisper into a roar.