The Commonwealth Secretariat has officially launched the 2023 Year of Youth, which it describes as “a seminal 12 months devoted to the celebration and empowerment of the 1.5 billion under-30s living in the Commonwealth”.
This is according to a Commonwealth Secretariat press statement, which explains that “Youth-related issues like climate change, access to education, skills, employment, and political, social and economic participation, will take centre stage throughout 2023, with Commonwealth Heads of Government committing to prioritise collaborative action.”
The statement noted that Commonwealth young people will feature in a variety of high-profile events which are aimed at spotlighting issues facing their well-being and prosperity.
In addition, “His Royal Highness Prince Edward, The Earl of Wessex, will act as the Quality Youth Leadership Ambassador throughout the 2023 Year of Youth. In this role, His Royal Highness will support the inclusion of young people and shine a light on the valuable contribution they have made to member states. Further Youth Champions and Ambassadors will be announced in due course,” it said.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland spoke at the launch event in January, which was held for in-person attendance at Marlborough House in London, United Kingdom and also streamed online.
“It is my absolute pleasure as Secretary-General to be here launching the Commonwealth Year of Youth and I am excited that the next 12 months will bring Commonwealth leaders, stakeholders and citizens together to celebrate and empower our 1.5 billion young people.
“Young people are at the heart of the Commonwealth Charter. Despite the many challenges they face, young people give so much towards every aspect of the social, economic, political and cultural life of our 56 member countries.
“The Commonwealth’s future success rests with them. So today we commit to investing in and promoting their development and engagement at community, regional, national and pan-Commonwealth levels throughout this year and beyond.”
In her remarks, the secretary-general affirmed that 2023 is a special year for the Commonwealth, noting that it coincides with three milestones: the 10th anniversary of the Commonwealth Charter; the 10th anniversary of the Commonwealth Youth Council; and the 50th anniversary of the Commonwealth Youth Programme.
“On Commonwealth Day, we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Commonwealth Charter, which is the definitive expression of our shared values,” she said.
Meanwhile, according to the Secretariat website, the Commonwealth Youth Programme was established to deliver support for young people under the age of 30 to reach their full potential.
The secretary-general in her remarks noted that through the Commonwealth Youth Programme, “our secretariat has advanced 50 years of work in the service of young people, promoting their empowerment and building the capacity of governments and youth workers to contribute to their advancement. And this work has included the support of 13 pan-Commonwealth youth networks engaged in advocacy and action on critical development issues, and they have been the voice, power and essence of what we’ve done and what we can achieve.”
The secretary-general also underlined, “I think we must remind ourselves of the seriousness of the moment, because this is a critical juncture as we grapple with the social, political and economic pressure created by the COVID-19 pandemic, by instability and conflict, and by the intensifying impacts of climate change.
“We’ve all been hit by so many exogenous shocks, but we are at the mid-point of delivery for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and right now, we all know we are off track.
So in our urgency to turn the tide, I’m convinced that our capacity to attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be determined by the extent to which we empower young people and equip them with the knowledge, the skills and the tools to secure peaceful, prosperous and sustainable futures.
“That is why our shared commitment to come together is really so important. We have a unique opportunity to take everything we have learnt through the 50 years of the Commonwealth Youth Programme and apply those lessons to the present and the future,” she added.
The launch featured the unveiling of the 2023 Year of Youth logo and website and gave an overview of the most prominent youth-focussed events that will take place throughout the year. These include but are not limited to: Commonwealth Day, the Commonwealth Youth Games, the Commonwealth Global Youth Work Conference, and the Commonwealth Youth Awards Ceremony.
The press statement noted that the planning of the Year of Youth will be overseen by an Advisory Committee who will take responsibility for ensuring events and activities reflect the diverse, talented and vibrant youth population within the Commonwealth’s 56 member countries.
According to the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Commonwealth’s 56 member countries (including Brunei Darussalam) have a combined population of 2.5 billion people, of which more than 60 per cent are under 30 years of age.