Student delegates to a Model Youth Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) at Old Parliament House in August chose four sub-themes to set the agenda for debate to reflect the ‘youth’ theme of the meeting: These were Youth and Education, Poverty and Youth, Youth and Gender, Youth and Health.
Meeting in the old House of Representatives chamber, delegates were students from the Australian National University where a branch of CommonYouth was established earlier this year. Each was invited to represent a Head of State from a Commonwealth country of which they were not themselves nationals. Although in the main Australian citizens— many with overseas backgrounds— participants also included overseas students, including those from Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Singapore, China, Taiwan, Nigeria, Thailand, Botswana, Pakistan, India, The Philippines, New Zealand and Afghanistan.
In their final communiqué, the ‘Heads of Government’ agreed that education should be a cornerstone of all government policy and that access to education be provided to all women. They also called for a lowering of costs of education in their respective nations and their entry into multinational relationships regarding the transfer of knowledge and labour between them.
One of the recommendations on theme of Poverty and Youth was that regional alliances of Young Entrepreneurs be established between Commonwealth nations to maximise capacity for youth in development. On Gender, ‘Heads’ agreed to focus on gender equality in the implementation of youth empowerment programs to reduce existing gender disparities.
Participants said they found the experience useful as an exercise in learning about the procedure of Commonwealth decision-making, with some being interested in attending the Commonwealth Youth Forum, one of the side events of the November CHOGM.
The motivation for those taking part ranged from a general interest in the Commonwealth and international relations to youth leadership opportunities, a career in diplomacy, the opportunity to develop skills in public speaking, advocacy and negotiation. Some also named learning to think from the perspective of a different culture as an important reason to take part.
HE Mr Charles Muscat, High Commissioner Malta, the host nation for CHOGM, gave a small reception for Youth CHOGM representatives where he was presented with a copy of their communiqué for handing over to the Prime Minister of Malta, Joseph Muscat.