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Kigali, RWANDA – June 21, 2022: 4.40am (Nuku’alofa Times/CHOGM Media): The Commonwealth People’s Forum 2022 kicks off at the Hotel M here in Kigali this morning, with the focus on “Our Health, Our People, Our Future”.

Two days of interesting discussions are on the table for participants from the 54 member Commonwealth countries, as the Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting side meetings continue here.

Included are participants from the Pasifika, who have gathered with their counterparts from across the Commonwealth here in the capital of Rwanda.

Organised by the Commonwealth Foundation, the People’s Forum believes our planet and its people are facing challenges on an unimaginable scale.

The Foundation is the Commonwealth’s agency for civil society and support people’s participation in democracy and development.

“Recent events, most especially the COVID-19 pandemic, have exposed fragilities and weaknesses across every aspect of our politics, our culture and our social structures. This has taken place on top of massive change, the nature and pace of which is unprecedented in human history,” the Foundation says.

“We need much better ideas – and more powerful, diverse voices – to properly hold ourselves, our governments and all those who exercise power to account. We need the voices and the ideas to lead the transformation of systems and attitudes that entrench inequality and marginalise so many.”

The Commonwealth People’s Forum 2022 will ask and try to answer the big, important questions of our age. How do we harness the best of humanity – the forces of love, compassion, equality and justice – to advance our common future and protect our planet? How do we work together to build – or re-fashion – our institutions so that they support a world that leaves no one behind? And what role could – or should – the Commonwealth of Nations play in these vital steps towards a better world for all its people?

‘A society for all’ is how the World Summit for Social Development defined an inclusive society, in which every individual, each with rights and responsibilities, has an active role to play. At the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development lies such a society – a just, equitable, tolerant, open, and socially inclusive world in which the needs of the most marginalised are met and that the voices of future generations are heard.

That vision is made explicit in the Sustainable Development Goals, most especially SDG 16, with its explicit call for the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies, access to justice and effective, accountable and inclusive institutions. It also comes through strongly in the core values and principles laid out in the Commonwealth Charter.

Achieving the ambition of SDG16 will only be possible if we are honest about the challenges of equality and inclusion; if public institutions are held to account and open to scrutiny; if private power is democratically controlled; and if governance systems actually deliver on citizens’ needs.  In the age of the fourth industrial revolution, we must also ensure that the benefits and opportunities of progress are available to all in the form of dignified lives, decent work and protection and support of those in need.

The People’s Forum 2022 will be an opportunity for a collective and interactive exchange of ideas about the issues that matter most to the 2.4 billion citizens of the Commonwealth in 2022 as they recover from multiple crises and look ahead to a more just and inclusive world. It will do this by bringing together diverse voices and perspectives to challenge, engage and inspire a future that includes everyone.

Youth Forum

Meanwhile, by 8 am on the second day of the Commonwealth Youth Forum, buses filled with young people from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, the Americas, Europe and the Pacific, wheeled into the welcoming arch of the Intare Conference Arena in Kigali, Rwanda.

The young delegates speak a range of native languages and some communicate through sign language, but all at the Youth Forum were ready to talk to each other and agree what role they would jointly play in tackling the unprecedented challenges facing the Commonwealth.

These young people are all acutely aware of the climate challenge, and every one of them had woken up one day to the devastating news that a novel virus called Covid-19 was wreaking havoc in their country, taking lives, disrupting their education services and threatening their prospects.

But what they also had in common was an unwavering commitment to come up with an action-oriented plan to address the Commonwealth’s social, economic and climate challenges, working in partnership with governments, and local and international organisations.

Youth Declaration

Building on the work of the previous day and guided by their theme “Taking Charge of our Future”, more than 350 young people sat around tables to work on a Youth Declaration that will be handed to Commonwealth Governments for consideration during their summit.

Speaking at a plenary on how youth can champion innovation for transformation and development, young, multi-award-winning water, sanitation, and hygiene activist from Bangladesh, Shomy Chowdhury, underscored the importance of their collaboration.

“We all know what is happening in the world, we see the numbers, we watch the news, we get the statistics but what is beautiful about this Forum is it brings us all together.”

Throughout the day, focused on innovation, partnerships and skills development, governments and organisations demonstrated their support for youth.

“As young people, you are supremely gifted, fearless and innovative. Your countries, the entire Commonwealth, cannot grow without your sustained involvement and collaboration,” the Hon. Harries Madze Bulunga, Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Eswatini charged them.

Taking charge of our future

In a fireside chat with young people, Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports, Evans Opuku, described them as ‘‘the demographic dividend for Africa and Pan Commonwealth”, and stressed the importance of including young people in development strategies.

Pointing to the theme of the Forum, Hon. Deputy Minister of Information and Technology of Namibia, Emma Inamutil said: ‘‘Advocating for better communities, voicing for the vulnerable sections of the community should be embraced by the youths. We need the young people to take charge of the future, discover their mission and fulfil it.’’

Today’s meeting also saw the launch of the A4HPV – a Taskforce under the Commonwealth Youth Health Network focused on advocating for action towards cervical cancer elimination.

  • Coverage of the CHOGM2022 in Kigali, Rwanda has been made possible with the support of the Commonwealth Foundation.

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