Group photo of smiling scholars

Commonwealth youth leaders convene in the UK for the inaugural Commonwealth Futures workshop

Published on 09 December 2019

Taking place at Cumberland Lodge, UK, from 1-3 December 2019 ‘Commonwealth Futures: Youth Perspectives’ brought together more than 60 student and youth leaders from across the Commonwealth, to explore the role of young leaders in building social cohesion.

The inaugural workshop in the Commonwealth Futures series, this three-day symposium – organised in partnership with Cumberland Lodge, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the British Council – gave students a platform to interrogate two of the themes of next year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) to be held in Kigali: ICT and Innovation, and the Rule of Law, with the outcomes directly feeding into policy dialogue with world leaders at the Commonwealth Youth Forum 2020 in Rwanda.

Academics and leading professionals working in the fields of justice, governance, artificial intelligence and innovation, inspired delegates to consider the challenges facing our Commonwealth – from internet access to access to justice.

Working in groups – facilitated by experts from Cumberland Lodge, the ACU, the Commonwealth Youth Council and the Commonwealth Secretariat – delegates were tasked to devise tangible solutions that could help address these global challenges.

Revealed in final group presentations, these young leaders developed a range of ideas and solutions – from a Commonwealth Youth Innovation Fund to ‘The Roots Academy’ – that will feed into the work of the Youth-Led Task Force who are preparing policy documents in the run-up to CHOGM. Each group received critique and feedback on their presentations from representatives of the ACU, British Council, Cumberland Lodge and the Commonwealth Secretariat, as well as HE Yamina Karitanyi, UK High Commissioner for the Republic of Rwanda.

Students from ACU member institutions, Commonwealth Scholars and Commonwealth youth leaders and the Commonwealth Youth Council attended the first Commonwealth Futures workshop, representing 29 countries of the Commonwealth.

Dr Joanna Newman, Chief Executive and Secretary General of the ACU, said: ‘With two-thirds of the 2.4 billion people living in the Commonwealth under the age of 30, the voices of young people have never been more important. Through the Commonwealth Futures series, we will be empowering young leaders and providing a platform to directly influence policymakers and help shape the future of our global community.’

A core element of the Commonwealth Futures programme centres on youth-led group work projects – giving delegates the space and freedom to devise their own methodologies, ideas and practice and to learn fro the great wealth of expertise across the Commonwealth.

Layne Robinson, The Commonwealth’s Head of Social Policy Development, commented: ‘This forum gives our young people from diverse backgrounds a platform to discuss the key issues affecting them, from climate change and inequality to unemployment and poverty, and to contribute to the policy statement of the 2020 Commonwealth Youth Forum. Their feedback will be part of a wider consultation with youth leaders about the unique needs of young people in their countries.’

Canon Dr Edmund Newell, Chief Executive of Cumberland Lodge, added: ‘Cumberland Lodge has been supporting students and young people from the Commonwealth for more than 70 years, nurturing and inspiring them to work towards positive change in the world.

‘We are convening this symposium to give voice to young people from across the Commonwealth through a policy-focused forum that addresses key issues affecting their future. It will also give Commonwealth students at UK universities the chance to contribute to international policy conversations We look forward to seeing how the outcomes of these discussions go on to influence policy around ICT innovation and the rule of law in the Commonwealth.’

In 2020, students from across the Commonwealth will convene in India and South Africa for the next two Commonwealth Futures workshops.

More information

‘Commonwealth Futures: Youth Perspectives’ is the first event in the Commonwealth Futures series – run by the ACU and the British Council – which will provide young people will a platform to reflect on global challenges in different cultural contexts, through a series of youth workshops taking place in India, South Africa and the UK.

Each workshop will focus on the role of student leaders in creating cohesive societies, and address the question of ‘What future do young people want for our Commonwealth?’ – with the outcomes of each workshop directly feeding in to the Commonwealth Youth Forum at CHOGM 2020 and the British Council’s Going Global conference in June 2020.

Find out more here