We must recommit ourselves to young people

Katherine Ellis

The theme for International Youth Day this year highlights an important and growing issue, on which there is a need for more focus and research – youth migration and development. 

Young people represent a significant share of international migrant numbers – in 2010 there were 27 million international migrants aged 15-24 globally. For young people in the Commonwealth and elsewhere, internal or international migration creates opportunities for personal and professional development. 

But for every opportunity that migration presents, there are also challenges that confront vulnerable and marginalised young migrants – discrimination, lack of access to basic social services, sexual and other health risks and lack of support networks. 

To migrate is to make a life-changing decision. Young people should have ‘the right to move’, but they should also have ‘the right to not move’. The rights of both should be protected and supported, particularly in the context of societies affected by climate change and conflict, where young people and children are particularly vulnerable. 

The focus on youth migration on International Youth Day should cause decision makers to reflect on the kinds of policies and measures required to manage migration optimally and protect the vulnerable. 

Forty years ago this month the Commonwealth, through the establishment of the Commonwealth Youth Programme, committed itself to advocating for young people’s rights and voices to be at the centre of development. A significant part of the Commonwealth’s focus is providing support to young people by establishing and strengthening youth-led networks and institutions that can amplify their voice and drive change. 

Later this year at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka, the Commonwealth Youth Council will hold its first General Assembly, establishing an autonomous youth-led entity that will be the official voice for youth in the Commonwealth. 

So as we celebrate International Youth Day, we call on:

– Governments, the private sector, civil society organisations and stakeholders to focus on the issues and talents of young people: those who are migrants, students, unemployed, entrepreneurs and leaders or advocates for change. Let us partner with young people to develop and implement strategies to ensure their perspectives are recognised in societies and advocate for investments in young people. The return on such investments is extremely high

– Young people and youth-led organisations – continue to share your perspectives and collaborate for positive change in the world. Let us commemorate this International Youth Day by recommitting to the young people of the Commonwealth and the world

About the author:

Katherine Ellis is Director of Youth Affairs at the Commonwealth Secretariat


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