CHOGM in South Asia after 30 years:
A great milestone in capacity building of Lanka’s youth skills
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting is scheduled to be held
at the BMICH, Colombo in November 2013. The last CHOGM meeting held in
the South Asian Region was in India during the period November 23 to 29,
1983 and the 23rd CHOGM meeting to be held in Sri Lanka 30 years
thereafter can be considered an important event not only for Sri Lanka
but also for the entire South Asian Region.
Youth to the fore
With the culmination of the 23rd CHOGM meeting, the Chairmanship of
the Commonwealth heads of States will be conferred on the President of
Sri Lanka for two years commencing November 2013 until the next CHOGM
meeting to be held in Port Louis, Mauritius in 2015.
Meanwhile, the 9th Commonwealth Youth Forum is scheduled to be held
at the International Convention Centre, Hambantota during the period
November 10 to 14, 2013. The Ministry of Youth Affairs and the National
Youth Services Council are already playing an important role in this
A Youth-Led Task Force (YLTF), consisting five youth leaders from
Commonwealth member countries and five youth leaders from Sri Lanka,
with co-chairs from each group will be responsible for the planning and
the organising of the CYF. The Task Force will consist of five youth
leaders from Commonwealth member countries and five youth leaders from
Sri Lanka, with co-chairs from each group and is responsible for the
entire program, including the daily agenda, themes for plenary sessions
and the identification of resource persons, among others.
This will, no doubt, be an important juncture in the development of
international relations of Sri Lanka. Therefore, I consider that this is
the opportune moment to emphasise the importance of the Commonwealth
Youth Program and its history.
The development plans that came the world over, both in developed and
developing countries, after the Second World War paid greater attention
to youth development related activities, the psychological aspects and
the hopes and expectations of youth being considered most important.
At the same time the United Nations defined “youth” as those between
the age groups of 15 to 24 years and launched special programs worldwide
for their benefit with a view to improving their knowledge in Youth
Development Activities. Some countries have introduced training courses
leading to the award of university degrees and diplomas in the youth
related fields. Presently the Commonwealth Youth Affairs division also
is being considered an important institution within the commonwealth
The Commonwealth organisation is the second largest International
Organisation in the world, the largest being the United Nations.
Currently 54 countries hold membership of the Commonwealth. The
membership of Fuji was suspended on December 8, 2006 due to a power
struggle within the country leading to a coup d'etat. Zimbabwe withdrew
voluntarily its membership on December 7, 2003 after its suspension of
membership on March 19, 2002.
At present several countries are seeking membership of the
Commonwealth. They are Algeria, Somaliland (a self-declared nation that
is internationally recognised as an autonomous region of Somalia),
Madagascar, South Sudan, Sudan, Surinam and Yemen.
The population of the member countries of the Commonwealth worldwide
is around 228 billion (2,280 million) therefore hosting the 23rd meeting
of the CHOGM and at the same time holding the Commonwealth Youth Program
as well the commonwealth Economic Forum in the country will be of
immense benefit to our nation.
The Commonwealth Youth Program is dedicated to the development of
youth activities in the 54 member countries of the Commonwealth. Its
Headquarters is located in London. To facilitate the activities of the
Commonwealth Youth Forum, four regional centres had been established,
viz. African, Asian, Caribbean and South Pacific. The African Regional
Youth Centre is located in Lusaka, Zambia. The Asian Regional Youth
Centre is located in Chandigarh, India. The Caribbean Regional Youth
Centre is located in George Town, Guyana and the South Pacific Youth
Centre is located in Honiara, Solomon Islands. The Commonwealth Youth
Centre for Asia, which was established in 1975 and located in the Indian
city of Chandigarh co-ordinates the youth development activities of
Asian countries, viz., Bangladesh, Brunei, India, Malaysia, Maldives,
Pakistan, Singapore and Sri Lanka. In the year 1984 two other regional
centres were established in South Pacific and Caribbean: Georgetown,
Guyana. The average age of more than half of the population of the
Commonwealth member countries is 30 years and investing in these young
people will be of paramount importance in achieving the “Millennium
In this regard, I wish to refer to the “Coolum Declaration” in 2002
when the Commonwealth Heads of Governments made clear their
determination to address the question of poverty alleviation by
harnessing the skills, knowledge and energy of a highly motivated
The CYP Asia Regional Centre currently runs programs extracted from
the New “Plan of action for Youth Empowerment 2006-2015”, an overarching
implementation agenda that provides a blueprint for youth development.
It is relevant for governments, development partners, youth networks and
young women and men who are valued partners in the process.
The Commonwealth Youth Forum (CYF) 2013 will be held for five days
from No. 10-14, 2013, in Hambantota.
The CYF is organised with several objectives including ‘To allow
youth leaders to exchange ideas and cultures, for youth participants to
build skills and network, and to work toward identifying the most vital
challenges and opportunities facing young people at present ‘The four
days will be allocated for the main forum of the Commonwealth Youth
Forum while one day will be set aside for sightseeing.
Participants of the CYF will have the opportunity to take part in
professional skills development programs, capacity building activities
and cross-cultural programs. These are the events and activities being
planned for this year's CYF.
The General Assembly of Commonwealth Youth Council (CYC) will hold
its sessions during the Commonwealth Youth Forum. The new officials for
the Assembly will be selected during the session.
The General Assembly, the platform representing the voice of youth,
will be an independent body, where their views can be raised freely. The
General Assembly of the CYC will meet once in every two years and will
be the highest decision-making organ of the CYF.
Newly elected youth leaders of the CYC and co-chairs of the CYF
Youth-Led Task Force will interface with the Heads of Governments so as
to share among themselves the experience they gain in their activities
and to decide as to how the youth groups can work together with
governments in order to achieve their objectives during the ensuing two
The other important event is the award ceremony which will be held to
recognise and appreciate the accomplishments of award-winners from
across the Commonwealth. The foreign delegates and their local
counterparts will voluntarily participate in community projects locally
arranged, which in turn will contribute to major national developments
initiated by the government.
Arrangements will be made for the participants to be taken on
site-seeing visits to places of historical and cultural significance,
some of which are classified as ‘world heritage sites”. Such visits will
enable us to show the world the rich heritage of the Sri Lankans and the
organising capacity of the country.
The writer from the Sri Lanka Foreign Service is the Director (Middle
East) Ministry of External Affairs, Colombo.