I was privileged to attend various events as a delegate and participants at the Commonwealth Youth Forum. The landmark event was attended by over one thousand young people from the Commonwealth Nations in-person and virtually. The Pre - Commonwealth Youth Forum event held virtually from 10th to 12th of June, 2022, and featured interesting conversations around three major panel session topics including: “Are Governments Solutions to Climate Change?” Are young people the answers to the global health crisis? and a panel session around the topic YOUth are the Employers of Tomorrow!. The three panel sessions which featured coordinated interesting discussions and experience sharing among young people, created the needed momentum that made the in-person Forum the event to look forward to.
The official Commonwealth Youth Forum which happened in-person in Kigali held from June 19 through 21 created several platforms for discussions in matters relating to sustainability, health, and economic development, among others. The first plenary session featured a panel discussion around the role of youth leadership and other actors in effecting needed change. The sessions led to the sharing of stories of hope and successes among participants, as well as examples of best practices led by young people in their communities and countries. Other activities including Youth Action Lab, Reimagining Sustainability, as well as the launch of the Commonwealth Youth for Sustainable Urbanization and Sustainable Clean Energy Group also featured as part of the activities for the day 1 of the Commonwealth Youth Forum. The Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) hosted a season on Youth Leadership, which featured discussions on motivation to advance the goals of sustainable development as well as the way forward in terms of meaningful engagements in the sustainability space.
On the first and second day of the Commonwealth Youth Forum, the Youth Action Lab on Sustainability: Environment, Climate Change and Blue Economies had us in breakout sessions, where each group identified a major global challenge that is of concern to them, and came up with a solution to address the problem, drawn from the initiatives led by the participants in their respective countries. It was really touching listening to the realities of others, and inspiring learning from their stories of hope, force of will, and passion for sustainability.
The couple of days that followed also followed in like manner, featuring facilitated discussions, panels, side events, and launch of youth-led initiatives. Other activities included city immersion on the second day, and night run on the third day, which concluded the Commonwealth Youth Forum. The last day of the Commonwealth Youth Forum also featured the Commonwealth Startup Festival, which saw the celebration and award of some Commonwealth Youth that are implementing solutions to address some of the world’s greatest challenges, cutting across sectors, including Green Economy, Digital Inclusion, Trade and Export, and Agricultural Productivity.
Across the events and forums, a unifier that seemed to be integrated in every conversation is the unquestionable importance of young people in the achievement of the goals of sustainable development. Young people we regarded as leading innovators, passionate, leaders of today across discussions.
The Secretary General of Commonwealth - Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland QC at the closing ceremony of the CYF asserted that “young people are making the difference in every country in our commonwealth” and with the right support and the ability to shape decisions, young people have the potential to transform the future of our commonwealth”. “Youth have ingenuity, creativity, energy, courage, that we need to achieve the sustainable development goals by 2030” “Youth have everything we need to build a better world” These assertions gives credence to why young people should be given the opportunity for co-creation and meaningful engagement at the decision making table. In another session, she mentioned that “the real innovators are people under the age of 30”, in her speeches on the importance of youth engagement in the committed efforts of the Commonwealth Nations and Heads of State towards Delivering a Common Future.
CHOGM2022 provided platforms for the youth voices to be heard on matters of concern to us. Demands for co-creation of our future, and meaningful engagement of young people at the decision-making table were made, and we were assured by the words of the Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland - Secretary General of Commonwealth, that our voices have been heard.
As a youth myself, the sessions and discussions were inspiring and highly invaluable, with several opportunities to share experience from the realities of Nigeria and Africa with the other talented and experienced participants across the Commonwealth Nations. Listening to their success stories and challenges delivered a sense of solidarity in the sustainability movement and reassurance that together we are stronger and better positioned to achieve the shared objective of sustainability. I am excited and inspired by the space the Forum has created to ignite passion, facilitate networking, and activate youth for changemaking, and I look forward to seeing the initiatives that every participant has taken with them from the Forum.
I am thankful to WWF UK for the privileged opportunity to make my voice heard, and contribute meaningfully to the discussion aimed at better shaping our world, and taking back our future, while expanding my international networks of changemakers.
- Elujuo Opeyemi, Regional Mobilizer for Africa