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Commonwealth Youth Forum: "Health and youth in decision making"
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Commonwealth Youth Forum: "Health and youth in decision making"

Amanda McClintockYoung people from around the globe are in Fremantle on the west coast of Australia this week to take part in the Commonwealth Youth Forum.

Amanda McClintock, 19, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Queensland,  reports on two opening day workshops focusing on health issues and the involvement of youth in policymaking.

Youth impact and participation in decision making – Monday 24 October

The beginning of this session consisted of introducing each person and going around and discussing previous experiences as a part of group, as well as youth programs and what works in various different group situations.

Motivation is a very important factor in decision making and making a group situation work. Having an equal footing has also been found to be very important. Experiential learning for people to gain experiences on the job, rather than just by sitting in a classroom and reading textbooks.

Members of the group suggested that giving young people leadership roles is very effective as it gives young people the knowledge that they are in control of the events and decisions being made in their name.

Many people said they have found it beneficial to be a part of groups and organisations that have been involved with the government in making decisions. Another member of the group discussed the importance of including people from every walk of life regardless of race or religious diversity. A group member from Nigeria discussed the importance of the implementation of resolutions and decisions.

Without implementation, motivation to work hard and make decisions dies down, as there are no results from this work. There were three members in the group who represent Girl Guides, all of whom unanimously agreed that education was essential, as was inspiring youth to work towards their goals. This was echoed by other members of the group who also agreed that the inspiration of working towards a goal is a motivating factor in young people doing the best that they can in any particular area.

It seems that all of these factors are very similar to general participation in events and decisions being made in the Commonwealth. During the Commonwealth Youth Forum in particular, it is important that there is an understanding in regards to the implementation of the recommendations that are being made to the Heads of Government. Without any action on these recommendations, the time being spent in the Forum is pointless.

Inaction would, in turn, reduce the willingness of youth to participate in both these types of activities and in other initiatives across the Commonwealth. The key point coming out from this discussion is the importance of implementation, not just having someone listen to what people say, but rather listening and acting upon recommendations.

Health – Monday 24 October

After sitting in on the youth impact discussion where people all had unanimous opinions, it quickly became clear that the health group members are significantly more outspoken. There are so many health issues that they are interested in and passionate about that there are many more arguments.

The main question is, how can you focus on one particular health issue and disregard the rest? Or how can you focus very broadly on health issues and not look into specifics? Discussions revolved around what health issues are important and what health issues could possibly be discussed by organisations such as the United Nations in the context of the Millennium Development Goals.

Some members firmly believe that the forum should be focussing on youth specific issues as they are creating a youth communiqué and therefore it should be regarding youth issues only. There is no disagreement that youth related issues are very important especially considering that at least 50% of the Commonwealth is aged 29 and under.

However, as much merit as this idea may have, there is also a good argument for focussing on health issues pertaining to the broader community. Many of the health problems experienced by adolescents are as a result of previous childhood experiences especially in regards to mental health and substance abuse. Also, many health problems experienced in youth will effect people as they move into adulthood – for example cancer and other non-communicable diseases and sexual health issues.

So there is a strong argument for maintaining a broader focus as part of being the health thematic group of the Youth Forum.  Whilst no final decisions have been made upon this issue yet and there is still a wide debate, there is a positivity that all the members of this group are passionate about health related issues and as such, these recommendations are likely to be a thorough and true representation of what matters to the people attending the forum in 2011.

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About me:

“I am a working-class girl, full-time university student and mental health advocate from sunny south-east Queensland.

“Living in a small country town after growing up in the city only increased my passion for making a difference in my community and further afield, and for speaking up about the issues that matter most. Youth have a voice and it needs to be heard. Stand Up, Speak Up and Be Heard!”

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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