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Young people from the Commonwealth get the royal treatment

PICTURED: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex and Secretary-General: Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC speak with attendees of the The ‘Your Commonwealth’ Youth Reception

THE DUKE and Duchess of Sussex made their first appearance at a Commonwealth engagement following the Duke's appointment as Commonwealth Youth Ambassador.

The ‘Your Commonwealth’ Youth Reception took place on Thursday (Jul 5) in celebration of the Commonwealth Youth Leadership workshop, which is designed to give aspiring leaders strategic skills to bridge the gap between young people and their governments and also to advocate for greater inclusion of young people at all levels of decision making, policy planning and implementation at national and regional levels.

Thirty-five delegates from the Commonwealth Youth Council and other Commonwealth youth networks attended the workshop at The Commonwealth headquarters in London. The workshop brought together 120 young people, scholars, youth leaders, and youth representatives of High Commissions who worked together to generate ideas about the type of Commonwealth they want to see in 2040.

The reception, hosted by Secretary-General: Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, saw speeches from Tijani Christian, Chair of the Commonwealth Youth Council, as well as Ms Scotland and The Duke of Sussex.

Addressing the audience at Marlborough House, Ms Scotland shared her excitement at Their Royal Highnesses involvement in the Commonwealth Youth Forum and the important role young people have in building the future of the Commonwealth.

“It is a special delight for us all to be assembled here with His Royal Highness as – supported by Her Royal Highness – broad new prospects for involvement and engagement as Commonwealth Youth Ambassador are added to his already illustrious career of public service in and for our member nations,” she said.

The Duchess of Sussex meeting guests during the Your Commonwealth Youth Challenge reception

“In our nations, as in our networks, there is immense diversity – there are also rich and distinctively Commonwealth strands of common purpose. The Commonwealth Youth Council, our Commonwealth Youth Networks, Commonwealth scholars, fellows and civil society organisations are living expressions of this unity of vision.

The mutual support and cooperation they offer bring to fruition the inspiring commitments and aspirations of our Commonwealth Charter.”

Tijani Christian followed Ms Scotland, and echoed her sentiments of working alongside His Royal Highness and dealing with issues affecting the Commonwealth today.

We, the young people of the Commonwealth, are pleased to work alongside you [Duke of Sussex] in ensuring all young people across the Commonwealth have their voices heard and their ideas taken into account.

We are all here representing the diversity of the Commonwealth – the youth council, the network, high commissions, commonwealth organisations –in you we see the hope of the commonwealth and the world. The power and importance of our network and institutions cannot be underestimated. We are building bridges across the commonwealth, dealing with the most pressing and vital issues affecting young people today.”

Mr Christian also discussed some of the key topics addressed during the workshop, which included the development of the education sector. He said: “We the young people have a unique perspective and some of the ideas that came of the challenge was to ensure we have a more robust system that involves a rigorous curricular and takes into account entrepreneurship and innovation, because young people are indeed leading the way.”

The Duke of Sussex makes a speech during the Your Commonwealth Youth Challenge reception

The Duke of Sussex took to the podium and reiterated the importance of bridging the gap between young people and their governments and his role as Commonwealth Youth Ambassador.

“As many of you know, earlier this year, I was honoured to be named The Queen’s Commonwealth Youth Ambassador. My job as your ambassador is to listen and learn from you, amplify your voices and to bring your ideas to the attention of decision makers. It only seems right that as the youth of today, you should play a part in shaping the policies that will make the future better for everyone.”

The Duke of Sussex also urged young people to tackle some of the biggest issues facing the planet including health care, governance and climate change. “When talking about the future, recognising the advances and progress we make year by year and day by day, we know the potential of what can be achieved by 2040 is limitless.”

At the garden party, the royal couple spoke to participants of the workshop and members of Commonwealth organisations, youth council and networks, including Vice Chairperson Policy & Advocacy for the Commonwealth Youth Council, Nafula Faith Wafula.

The Kenyan activist and poet spoke of her interaction with The Duchess of Sussex and their shared desire to advocate for gender equality.

“It was amazing to engage with them because they’re very aware of the issues young people face. We had the Duchess and we spoke a lot about gender equality and youth engagement as well the bottom-up approach to development issues.”

Jamaica's Benjamin Fraser, a Representative on the Commonwealth Students' Association, spoke about how the workshop and Commonwealth Youth Forum has benefitted him and continues to provide opportunities for youth “I grew up in the more rural side of urban Jamaica – to be here shows that opportunities exists for youth to grow, to get exposure and do things you didn’t even think about. You just need to work hard, surround yourselves with the right people and be.”

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