Catherine presenting at Commonwealth Futures

Commonwealth Futures: advocating for change

Published on 15 January 2020
Catherine Ge Headshot
Catherine Mingxi Ge

Catherine is a student at the University of Sydney, Australia, where she is studying for a Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws (LLB).

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The Commonwealth Futures: Youth Perspectives Symposium provided an invaluable opportunity for young people to engage in meaningful conversations at pan-Commonwealth levels, discussing and offering policy recommendations for key issues impacting the future of the Commonwealth.

I applied for the Commonwealth Futures programme because I want to be an advocate for change. The path towards social cohesion and global unity is one that must be paved together, and it is only by coming together that we can help unleash the leadership potential of all youth across the Commonwealth. Having volunteered with numerous not-for-profit community groups, the symposium’s energy and vision for a more cohesive future deeply resonated with me. I was particularly drawn by the opportunity to converse with like-minded youths about important global, social and political issues at the symposium, and to together refine two of the CHOGM 2020 themes and contribute to shaping policy outcomes that will bring us closer to achieving a fairer and more sustainable future for all.

Putting ideas into action

Spending time with passionate young people across the Commonwealth left me feeling recharged and inspired. It was incredibly energising to hear and learn from keynote speakers as they addressed the forum’s two key themes of ICT & Innovation and Governance & the Rule of Law. As a law student, one of the insights that stood out for me was the need for collaboration between legal and industry bodies, in order to strengthen the legislative frameworks that will enable us to achieve each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

Likewise, the conversations within our focus groups also broadened my thinking and honed my creativity, as we shared our unique perspectives and worked together to formulate innovative yet pragmatic policy recommendations that will feed into the Commonwealth Youth Forum and CHOGM 2020, one of which being the creation of a ‘Commonwealth Youth Innovation Fund’ that would equip young people with the skills of the future. As one of several delegates who presented on the final day of the symposium, the feedback of expert panellists was also very valuable, inspiring us to realise that while policy reform is necessary, it is only the beginning. The road towards social cohesion starts with each individual, as we all take the lead to effect change within our communities. Of course, in addition to the valuable perspectives, I also established genuine connections with other delegates which will enable me to propel greater change in future.

Youth empowerment for innovation and unity

Today’s youth in the Commonwealth network represents both its hope and energy for the future. As the leaders of tomorrow, young voices are particularly important in international policy reform as they bring fresh and diverse perspectives to the table. It is only by increasing youth participation at every level of governance that we can build a more resilient global community that speaks to the diverse experiences of all Commonwealth citizens. Having attended the 60th Anniversary Reception of the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan (CSFP) at the Cyprus High Commission in London, the need to give voice to young people could not be more evident. The breadth and depth of research projects of Commonwealth scholarship holders was a true testament to the importance of higher education and youth empowerment in fostering innovation and promoting global unity.

These valuable insights gained at the symposium have furthered my commitment to continuing to empower youth, from facilitating discourse on this issue, to running workshops and volunteering at not-for-profit organisations. Additionally, I have already published an article in Lawyers Weekly, one of the most-read publications in the legal field in Australia, sharing the knowledge gained at the symposium with the goal of inspiring more young people to take the lead in building a more just and cohesive society.

Working together to advance social cohesion

One of the highlights of the symposium was the opportunity to share thought-provoking conversations with so many young leaders. Given the complexity and multifaceted nature of our future issues, it is absolutely vital that students and colleagues from across the Commonwealth pool together their knowledge and resources and work creatively and collaboratively to solve them. Indeed, the diverse educational and cultural backgrounds of youth delegates at the symposium enabled us to tackle these issues from an interdisciplinary perspective, generating more innovative and effective policy recommendations.

Having established genuine friendships and connections, I look forward to continuing the discourse with fellow youth delegates and industry professionals, and ultimately working together to create a pan-Commonwealth network that empowers youth and celebrates their diverse contributions in advancing social cohesion.

Finally, I want to express my sincere gratitude to the ACU, the Commonwealth Secretariat and The University of Sydney for this incredible opportunity, and Cumberland Lodge for hosting us and providing an atmosphere of learning and collaboration.