Leaders of today: Declaration endorsed at youth forum in Rwanda

PHOTO: Ministry of Youth and Culture Rwanda

Young leaders representing 54 Commonwealth countries have presented a six-point action plan on youth development to Heads of Government gathered for a seminal meeting in Rwanda.

The 25-page 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‘.

It underscores the importance of considering young people as equal partners in government decision-making and asserts their vital role in shaping the future of the Commonwealth and achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, a statement said.

The declaration was revealed 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.

Papua New Guinean Kim Allen, leads the CYC. He urged young people to be solution-focused and action oriented, saying: “Let us reflect on our past efforts and mistakes, assess current situations, identify our strengths, and refine our vision and objectives to move forward. 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 said: “I see young people with courage, determination, talent, vibrancy, and innovation. You are not tomorrow’s leaders. You are the leaders of today.

Meanwhile, Small Island nations are calling for strengthened global support for ocean and climate change action, just days before Commonwealth leaders convene in Kigali, Rwanda, to decide on the group’s priorities for the next two years.

During a breakfast meeting co-hosted by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Fiji Government in the margins of the summit, High Commissioner Jitoko Tikolevu addressed an audience of mainly envoys from fellow island nations, from Tuvalu to Cyprus to The Bahamas.

He said: “The ocean and climate are inextricably inter-connected and the health of our oceans dictate the livelihoods of millions of people around the world, from the Pacific to the Atlantic… The challenges facing our oceans and its resources are diverse and complex and yet our answer is simple, we need action!”

Tikolevu added that the ocean’s function both as a ‘carbon sink’ and a source for nature-based solutions for climate change adaptation, warrants more acknowledgement in climate negotiations, which focus mainly on reducing carbon emissions.

Head of Oceans and Natural Resources at the Commonwealth Secretariat, Dr Nicholas Hardman-Mountford, said: “The harsh reality of climate change is that it affects all sectors of society, and all realms of the planet, including the ocean. The climate crisis is also an ocean crisis. Action Groups under the Commonwealth’s flagship ocean programme, the Blue Charter, are each responding to climate change under their respective themes.”

This week’s discussion at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) will lead into next week’s United Nations Oceans Conference, scheduled for 27 June to 1 July in Lisbon, Portugal. They also take place less than six months ahead of the world’s most important climate summit of the year, the UN Climate Change Conference COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt this November.