“We all win if the door is open for young people to contribute seriously and meaningfully in decision-making” – Katherine Ellis, Commonwealth Director of Youth Affairs
Young leaders from the Commonwealth Pacific region have ended a six-day conference in Honiara, Solomon Islands, with a call for greater inclusion in good governance and leadership efforts.
“Governments, regional organisations, donors and non-government organisations need to acknowledge young people, who make up 60 per cent of the population in the Pacific,” they said.
“We stress the importance of being involved in high-level decision-making to ensure that youth concerns are considered in development strategies. We also call for more capacity-building opportunities designed to build leadership skills such as youth parliaments, youth summits and youth councils.”
Around 40 representatives from 14 Pacific countries attended the Commonwealth Pacific Youth Leadership and Integrity Conference at the Commonwealth Youth Programme Pacific Centre, to build their leadership skills and enhance their contribution to development.
Their discussions focused on good governance, democratic and political processes, leadership models, conflict resolution and effective communication.
Katherine Ellis, Commonwealth Director of Youth Affairs said: “Young people bring vital and fresh perspectives to all kinds of societal issues. It is also important to tap into their innovation and creativity on all fronts, rather than involving them symbolically or only on youth issues. At the Commonwealth, we see young people as assets, so we are committed to supporting member governments and youth leaders to find avenues for authentic youth participation to occur.”
At the opening of the conference on Monday, 17 September, the Duke of Cambridge told the young participants that he was inspired by their involvement in the Commonwealth. The Prince and his wife were visiting the centre as part of their Diamond Jubilee tour of Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
On Wednesday, youth leaders visited the Solomon Islands Parliament to learn more about how young people can be involved in political processes.
They were hosted by the Young Women’s Parliament Group, which gave a presentation on a recent mock parliament on women’s issues held in the Parliament building. The mock parliament strictly follows parliament rules and protocols, but is held with women from civil society playing the roles of the politicians and officials.
Tarita Sione, Commonwealth Regional Youth Caucus Representative from Samoa, said the mock youth parliament model is valuable for the education and empowerment of young people: “Sometimes we face misperceptions – people say ‘oh, children are making decisions’. But what young people gain from the experience is confidence, inspiration, awareness and the opportunity to analyse and to advocate on youth-related issues.”
The issue of youth participation in decision-making is being explored in a joint research project by the Commonwealth Youth Programme and Victoria University in Australia. The project will examine to what level young people from the Pacific participate in decision-making, and how they think it can be improved.
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