By Sohanur Rahman, Student

07 May 2018 - 17:40

“The youth of today is the future of tomorrow” - We are all familiar with the well-known proverb. However, in my opinion youth are not just the future, but also very much the present and partner of today. The meaningful and equal engagement of young people in shaping the global development agenda is critical. Statistics has shown that, over 60 percent of the population in the Commonwealth is under the age of 30, which means 1.2 billion are young people in the Commonwealth. By 2031, these youths will be in the leading positions. So, the future of the Commonwealth depends on a billion-young people. Furthermore, the youth are the driving force in the socio-economic developments of nations across the globe. Their innovative solutions are the social actors of positive change. 

It was an honour to attend the Commonwealth Youth Forum 2018, which is a platform to strengthen our reputation as young leaders, and showcasing our collective vision to others in the global arena. It was one of the greatest experiences and lifetime's learnings I ever had, interacting with a set of energetic young leaders from 53 Member States, who gathered in London to celebrate a theme of 'Powering Our Common Future'. This forum is very supportive of building cross-culture connections and networks, to mobilise young people and to conduct youth-led initiatives and influence decision making, ensuring that their voice is heard in the future. It’s a free space where young people from different countries, cultures and religions can come together to reaffirm our common values and shared views. 

Before joining this forum, I was clueless of what the role of youth in the Commonwealth. It has been amazing meeting a majority of the inspiring young people, the next leaders and hearing of Bangladesh Youth views and receiving an incredible opportunity to be in the presence of Members of the Royal family and Heads of Government including our Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina whilst discussing themes of Prosperity, Sustainability, Fairness and Security in our communities. Among these themes, climate change and sustainability were one of the key points of the whole discussion in the Youth Forum, especially in regard to small state members, Climate vulnerable country like Bangladesh of the Commonwealth. At the Commonwealth Youth Forum, we have explored the mechanism to strength youth-led action on climate initiatives and the enhancement of youth participation and leadership in climate policy implementation framework at all levels, including the implementation of the Paris Agreement and Commonwealth Blue Charter. Queen’s ambassador to Commonwealth HRH Prince Harry also emphasized the importance of youth leadership platforms at the Commonwealth Youth Forum.

In addition, I have also attended a session titled `Commonwealth100’, a Common Purpose’s youth leadership development programme, supported by the Scottish Government, the British Council in Bangladesh and Bank of Zambia. Commonwealth100 have introduced to us the idea of open source leadership to maximize the impact of young leaders in both their professional and civic lives, which equips the next generation with 21stcentury leadership skills. The Commonwealth100 guiding model was launched in Dhaka in last October, by Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury MP, Honourable Speaker of the Bangladesh Parliament. This platform is truly empowering to share spaces with other youth doing incredible work.

Geographical boundaries and time zones are now no obstacles as young people are increasingly connected through the internet and social media. We can now work towards a fairer, more secure and prosperous future. In the discussions of the forum, we have spoken very clearly on what we want by participating in discussions and action-planning sessions.

Commonwealth Youth Forum also highlighted pressing issues like unemployment, global security and inclusion, promoting youth entrepreneurship and innovation through invest in young people. This forum has widened my knowledge and areas of expertise; it has enabled me to become politically active at global diplomacy and allowed me to share my Active Citizen’s work with the global community. For shaping a common future, this forum has really opened my eyes to see what the Commonwealth offers to the young people and what changes need to be made. It also allowed me to build new networks across the globe.

As an observer, I have also joined the largest ever meeting of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth Youth Council, with more than 500 young people taking part. The General Assembly is the highest decision-making body of the Commonwealth Youth Council. This CHOGM 2018 has brought new hopes; the hope of new beginnings, fulfilling commitments and real change for the 60 percent that have often marginalized and set apart from the decision-making process. I whole heartedly thank the British Council for giving me the opportunity to participate in such a prestigious programme. I count myself as a proud Active Citizen to be able represent my country at the global level.