The Breakfast Club

Noelyn Wagapu-Tuza

A new generation of Commonwealth leaders met with heads of government, on the sidelines of CHOGM. They called for increased recognition of young people and their role in reform, and greater investment in youth development.

A ten-member youth delegation had a unique exchange with Commonwealth heads of government over breakfast in Perth, Australia. The objective of the meeting, which took place on 30 November 2011, was to identify how young people can contribute to the reform and renewal of the Commonwealth. In presentations to 12 Commonwealth leaders, the youth representatives outlined the highlights of their own four-day deliberations – the Commonwealth Youth Forum – which was held in nearby Fremantle on 24-27 October.

“We are here today to offer ourselves as partners in development, partners for peace and partners in building democracy,” said Noelyn Wagapu-Tuza, Pan Commonwealth Youth Caucus Chair. “With over 1.2 billion young people in the Commonwealth, the future rests with us. Our mission today is for you to believe in us and for you to invest in us… We come from regions and countries where millions of youth want to join in making the Commonwealth stronger and more resilient.”

Dalbir Singh, Asia Regional Youth Caucus Chair, announced the creation of a new Youth Council. “As the Commonwealth itself is going through a major change, we, the youths, are also proactively aligning ourselves to serve the Commonwealth better, ensuring it stays relevant and inclusive,” he told those gathered. “We are in the midst of finalising a new structure to be called the Commonwealth Youth Council [that] will be the special purpose vehicle for us to better engage and foster meaningful partnerships.”

Heads of state commended the Commonwealth’s youth programme. The prime minister of Tonga, Lord Siale’ataonga Tu’ivakano, said that he, himself, was a product of the programme, having benefited from its certificate and diploma training. South African President Jacob Zuma told the young people, “The Commonwealth can speak across the globe, and you carry this potential to help the Commonwealth to do even better than it is doing.”

The meeting in Perth was the third time that such a dialogue had taken place during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and underscores the importance the Commonwealth places on youth engagement at the highest level. Samuel Kavuma, Africa Regional Youth Caucus Chair and a member of the Eminent Persons Group, praised the decision to include the voice of young people at such a high level meeting. He added, “This does not only raise the profile of young people in the Commonwealth but is a demonstration to the entire world that the Commonwealth values the contribution young people offer and that they are an asset and partner in development.”

About the author:

Noelyn Wagapu-Tuza is Pan-Commonwealth Youth Caucus Chair


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