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Colloquia CHOGM Youth Forum delegates demand action on education and unemployment By 2015, there will be three billion young people in the world – the largest-ever number to transition into adulthood – with 2.5 billion living in developing countries where they will face greater challenges and inequalities than any other social group. The Commonwealth Youth Forum provides a platform for youth leaders to discuss issues and policies with the decision-makers and stakeholders of the Commonwealth. This year’s forum, held in Hambantota, Sri Lanka, put forward the theme of ‘Inclusive development – stronger together’ with a fierce determination Young representatives address Heads of Government during the Youth Forum global f i rst quar ter 2014 www.global -br ief ing.org l 83 commonwealth network The theme of the 2013 Commonwealth People’s Forum, which met at CHOGM, was ‘Equitable growth and inclusive development: beyond 2015’, which saw a focus on the next steps for international development after the conclusion of the Millennium Development Goals. The forum, organised by the Commonwealth Foundation, provides an opportunity for civil society representatives to meet Commonwealth leaders to discuss development issues. The forum takes place every two years in the run-up to CHOGM, with 2013’s meeting hosted by a consortium of Sri Lankan organisations. The keynote speech was given by Dr Jemilah Mahmood, member of the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination team and former chief of Humanitarian Response at the United Nations Population Fund. She reminded delegates that it is only just over a year until the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) mature, but warned of too much attention being given to the goals themselves at the expense of wider development issues. “One of the main problems with the MDGs is that there is so much focus on goals with not enough emphasis on getting the foundations right – this includes the processes and frameworks that build the enabling environment for people and to ‘leave no one behind’. Speaking at the forum’s opening ceremony, Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa said: “Today, youth aged 15 to 24 represent one fifth of the world’s population, with 60 per cent of the total youth population living in Asia. “In Sri Lanka too, youth comprise a significant percentage at 26 per cent of the total population. This most energetic group of our population needs to be engaged, enabling them to contribute to the development process.” The forum demanded that more attention be given to marginalised young people – those with disabilities, girls and young women, migrant youths – to ensure that their voices are reflected in future development frameworks and policies. Forum leaders went on to emphasise the value of a complete and relevant education, suggesting that policies should be reformed to improve access to valuesbased education, as well as entrepreneurship and practical skill-building opportunities through technical, vocational education and training. Addressing the forum, Barbara Kasumu from Elevations Network said: “Vocational and technical training qualifications need to be valued at the same level as traditional academic routes. “Education alone does not guarantee employment outcomes and more must be done to ensure that work experience is fully integrated into a young person’s learning experience.” Growing youth unemployment was also recognised as a major issue. Delegates drew attention to the need to promote social entrepreneurship and create enabling environments and policies that reflect and address vulnerable work situations. Speaking after a session on youth employment, delegate Rachael Kalaba from Zambia said: “I was very impressed with the philosophy of the young speaker Ravi Theja Muthu from India, who told us that if we can’t get out of the box that restricts our entrepreneurial endeavours, then we should destroy the box and think in new ways.” The issue of gender and sexual education, rights and discrimination was raised by speakers. Delegates called on all Commonwealth member states to enforce laws that prohibit gender based violence and female genital mutilation. The executive for the new Commonwealth Youth Council was also elected and will be chaired by Ahmed Adamu from Nigeria. Forum looks at development beyond 2015 


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