KIGALI (CU)_The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) kicked off on Sunday (19 June), with four forums, including the Commonwealth Youth Forum, which commenced with the participation of hundreds of youth leaders from all corners of the world. They came together for the opening of the three-day Forum in Kigali, where the participants are expected to address a range of critical social, economic and environmental challenges that are being faced by the member states.
Held under the theme ‘Taking Charge of Our Future’, the gathering focuses on how the pandemic, climate change and conflict disproportionately affect young populations, whose education, training and employment opportunities have now been axed. With young people making up 60 per cent of those unemployed across the Commonwealth, it is critical to ensure this group of individuals are prioritised in the association’s policies.
“Today’s challenges and issues are more complex than decades ago. The world is slowly coming out of the pandemic, a crisis that affected our lives in many ways,” Chair of the Commonwealth Youth Council, Kim Allen, said. “Climate change, loss of biodiversity, hate and discrimination, economic turmoil resulting in high unemployment rates, the digital divide, mental health, inequalities in education and health, conflicts, and political instability, to name a few, all happen due to human actions and certain situations beyond our control. Amid these challenges arise the opportunities to create a positive change.”
He went on to note that the skills and abilities of the youth delegates and partners of the Commonwealth are needed “to drive the change we want”. “Now is the time to act,” the chair of the Youth Council added. “We have to progress the efforts taken in the past through strategic and transformational approaches.”
Allen’s views were echoed by the Chair of the CYF Taskforce, Alodie Iradukunda, in her address. “I am in awe of the spirit of service and duty that prevailed more than ever throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Young people across the Commonwealth played an integral role in the handling of this crisis, demonstrating yet again the great value that lies within the drive and brilliance of young people,” Iradukunda said. “I am here to reassure our leaders that we have not waited to be called upon. We understand what is at stake when it comes to the numerous issues that our world faces today.”
The policy recommendations made by the young leaders at the Youth Forum will be cemented in a Youth Declaration at the end of the three-day event, which they will present to the Commonwealth leaders ahead of the Executive Sessions on Friday (24 June).