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What’s the Commonwealth got in common?

More than a quarter of the world’s countries belong to the Commonwealth.

It’s a diverse network that spans the global north and south. It’s a unique platform that can influence decisions affecting a huge number of people. And with more than two thirds of its total population under the age of 30, young people’s voices are more important than ever.

Last month, leaders from the Commonwealth’s 53 countries met in London to discuss some of the biggest challenges affecting the world today – including unemployment, gender inequality and climate change.

Kenyan ICS volunteer and VSO Youth Adviser Felix Owino attended the Commonwealth Youth Forum and spoke to youth advocates about just what it will take for us to end extreme poverty this generation.

The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting took place this year in London
© Shutterstock
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting took place this year in London

There were so many different kinds of young people present at the Forum. This was really exciting to me because it represented exactly the kind of society we need to build: a place where no one is discriminated against based on their social differences and everyone’s opinion is valid.

I was curious about what other young people thought of the role of the Commonwealth, and what makes young people a powerful force in the world today. Here’s what some of them had to say:

Felix with Esther in London
© Felix Owino
Esther, from Kenya, believes in the shared values of the Commonwealth

What does the Commonwealth mean to you?

“To me, the Commonwealth is about bringing people together with the common goal of achieving something good. I like it because it gives us more freedom to speak and share ideas and support one another.”

- Esther, Kenya

Felix with Talisa
© Felix Owino
Trinidadian Talisa hopes that politicians' promises are delivered

What are your hopes for after the Summit?

“I hope that the impact of the Summit goes beyond just talks and sentiment. There have been lots of lofty goals discussed, so it’s important that these are taken seriously and things actually happen afterwards. I hope that government leaders continue to think about youth and realise how important we are. More needs to be done than simply giving young people a voice – they need to follow this up with real actions.”

- Talisa, Trinidad and Tobago

Felix with Edith in London.
© Felix Owino
We're all fighting the same issues, says Kenyan advocate Edith

What’s positive about Commonwealth leaders meeting here in London?

“It’s positive that Commonwealth leaders have gathered here to tackle some real and important issues. Often at meetings like this, discussions will be about things that aren’t necessarily relevant to all of the attendees. However, the fact that leaders have decided to look into the issue of youth unemployment, which is something that affects all countries across the Commonwealth, makes me feel like there’s going to be significant positive change as a result.”

- Edith, Kenya

Felix with Elizabeth in London.
© Felix Owino
Elizabeth from Tonga is wanting to tackle three areas when she returns home

How will you continue to take action when you return home?

“I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to fully represent the voices from my area and ensure they’re listened to. The three main things I’m eager to get involved with when I’m back home will be prioritising education for all, empowering underrepresented groups and tackling climate change.”

- Elizabeth, Tonga

What's next

This forum has confirmed to me that people can achieve so much more when they’re united. As young people around the world come together to make change, leaders are starting to take notice.

We have to work towards the ultimate goal of securing a better future for the next generation.

Saving the world from poverty is our job.