#YearOfYouth – 10th Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting London September 2023

10th Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting London September 2023

CCYDN At The 10th Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting

Article written by Devika Malik – Asia Representative – Commonwealth Children & Youth Disability Network / Co-Founder – Wheeling Happiness Foundation

The 10th Commonwealth Youth Ministers’ Meeting took place at Marlborough House, London from 11th – 15th September 2023, under the theme of Aiming Higher: Delivering More for Young People in the Commonwealth.

The summit brought together government ministers, senior officials, young leaders, Commonwealth Youth Networks and representatives from development organisations and civil society from 56 Commonwealth nations & territories; who deliberated throughout the week to invest in and promote young people’s development, who constitute 60% of the Commonwealth’s population.

The week began with a preliminary meeting where the ministerial delegations reviewed the progress on the commitments since the last Commonwealth Youth Ministers’ Meeting (CYMM) held in Uganda in 2017; and the youth leaders gathered to strategize & deliberate on their concerns, to ensure that their views can be incorporated in policy decisions taken during the course of the week at 10CYMM.

The week saw many milestones recognising 2023 as the Commonwealth “Year of Youth”; the 50th Anniversary of the Commonwealth Youth Programme established in August 1973; the 10th Anniversary of the signing of the Commonwealth Charter, and the establishment Commonwealth Youth Council. The Commonwealth Youth Awards Ceremony for 2023 also took place at the St. James Palace where Ms. Maya Nanan from Trinidad & Tobago was awarded as the Commonwealth Young Person of the Year by Prince Edward, Duke of Edinburgh; recognising the work of her organisation – Autism Siblings and Friends Network. The Commonwealth Secretariat staff that has contributed to the execution of the Commonwealth Youth Program (CYP) also received recognition, marking the 50th successful year of the CYP. The week was brought to a close with an Expo where Commonwealth Youth Networks & Commonwealth Accredited Organisations had a chance to display their work, liaison with each other and garner the support of attending delegates towards the work being done to bridge the gaps and ensure a brighter future for all.

10CYMM saw deliberations and tangible commitments across four themes: education, employment, environment and engagement. People with disabilities represent 18% of The Commonwealth’s population, therefore, in representing the voices and interests of youth with disabilities, the Commonwealth Children and Youth Disability Network (CCYDN) ensured that disability was recognised as a cross-cutting theme in all four agendas, thereby securing the agency of young people with disabilities in decision making.

The Commonwealth Children & Youth Disability Network was represented by CCYDN Co-Chair Parmi Dheensa and CCYDN Asia Representative Devika Malik at the 10CYMM. Through its participation CCYDN reiterated the importance of and focus on young people with disabilities in decision making spaces across the themes of engagement, employment, environment and education. CCYDN highlighted the barriers that youth with disabilities face, whether it is in accessing education and employment; accessing meaningful engagement at decision making platforms or combatting the adverse effects of climate change and much more. CCYDN also highlighted how The Commonwealth can make its engagement platforms more accessible for changemakers with disabilities through the provision of accommodations like accessible meeting infrastructure, sign language interpretation services and use of various technologies to facilitate meaningful contribution by youth with disabilities. The recommendations were well received and duly noted for future events by The Commonwealth Secretariat. CCYDN representatives also perused and suggested amendments to the Ministerial Outcome Statement of the 10CYMM, to ensure that disability rights and inclusion is well threaded throughout and leaves no one behind. As a result, we are glad to note that the ‘Marlborough House Commitment for Youth Development’ clearly states that “The visibility and agency of youth with disabilities should be considered in this space.”

The highlight of CCYDN’s contribution to the 10CYMM were the two tools / commitment documents tabled by CCYDN during the roundtable discussions to safeguard the agency of young people with disabilities in decision making forums, to raise awareness, train and enhance inclusive & accessible youth work practice among youth workers, practitioners and youth serving organisations; namely, the Commonwealth Youth Code of Practice (CYCoP) and Global Disability Children and Young People’s Charter (GDCYPC); both drafted in consultation with young people with disabilities across the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth Youth Code of Practice (CYCoP) provides guidance to governments & Commonwealth Networks, Associations and organisations with key areas to consider and comply with in facilitating their efforts for fostering inclusive, accessible youth participation. This Code of Practice enshrines the commitments towards Representation & Safeguarding of young people as well as the responsibilities of Persons in Positions of Power & Trust towards young people. The CYCoP also outlines accountability & grievance redressal mechanisms to safeguard the meaningful participation of young people.

The Global Disability Children and Young People’s Charter (GDCYPC) is a fundamental human rights Charter for countries to take measures and protect the rights of persons with disabilities and commit to anti-discrimination; full and effective participation and inclusion in society; equality of opportunity; accessibility and the rights of children and young people with disabilities within the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Children & Youth Disability Network (CCYDN) has advocated with CYP to ensure that this charter amplifies & synthesizes the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child and the SDGs. The GDCYPC strengthens the inclusive & accessible approach to the meaningful engagement, employment, education and sustainable future of all youth.

Both of these resources tabled by CCYDN received the support of the Commonwealth Youth Council as well as many of the Commonwealth Youth Networks and Accredited Organisations that had the chance to peruse the documents in details during the Expo. As all parties have agreed to extending the ‘Year of Youth’ initiatives until CHOGM 2024 to ensure maximum and sustained impact; CCYDN will continue to garner support for these critical safeguarding tools in order to ensure that the CYCoP and GDCYPC are ratified by Commonwealth Nations during CHOGM 2024.

Overall, the 10th Commonwealth Youth Ministers’ Meeting (10CYMM) saw a range of tangible outcomes for Commonwealth Youth, including AI training opportunities, scholarships, stronger youth networks, new laws to protect vulnerable people, and more opportunities to shape policy; and CCYDN is proud to have been able to secure the voice of young people with disabilities within these commitments.

In reflecting on the proceedings of the week, Layne Robinson, Head of Social Policy Development at The Commonwealth Secretariat noted that,

“We recognize young people as essential contributors to the development and progress of our nations, and emphasize the need for comprehensive and inclusive youth-focused policies and programmes.” The Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, encouragingly noted during her address that young people are the ‘leaders of today, not just the future.’

In order to continue the momentum gained at 10CYMM, CCYDN held a virtual follow-up meeting with Commonwealth Youth Networks and stakeholders titled Disabled Youth Leadership, Representation and Disability Human Rights: Youth Advocacy Reimagined’; and CCYDN is also partnering with the Commonwealth Youth Council to develop & deliver the new addition of the ‘I AM ABLE’ campaign across the Commonwealth.