The 2016 International Meeting of The Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS) took place in London from 3rd-7th October. The meetings were hosted by High Commissions of various member countries and brought together members from RCS Branches and networks to share experiences and plan for the future.

The Youth Meeting, held on the first two days to precede the Branch Meeting, in my personal opinion, was the highlight of the week. 60% of the 2.3 billion total population of the Commonwealth is under 30 years of age. It is on the heels of this youth constituency and the power it wields in leadership, innovation and technology that the Commonwealth will thrive on in the coming years.

The youth acknowledged that the Commonwealth represents diversity of membership unparalleled even on the global stage — a unique cultural tapestry bound together by common values and aspirations. However, the youth perspective of the Commonwealth is that it has largely been a network that has little or no relevance to the younger generation, but rather a relic, significant to older individuals still romanticizing colonial events and their linkages in this modern era.

This is why we collectively revere the RCS as a platform that young people can use to give relevance to the Commonwealth.

The youth agreed at the meeting that they have a role to play in the current RCS structure. We will add youth perspectives to Commonwealth conversations, promote the RCS through our activities, initiatives and events, and offer skills and expertise to branches in our home countries. The Associate Fellows (AFs) believe that they are an asset to the RCS and agreed to serve as Commonwealth ambassadors to give the network visibility in their countries. We will do this by connecting to people who share common values with us, serve as role models and mentors for younger generations and build a network of leaders and professionals from diverse fields to influence national policies and shape global issues.

The RCS on the other hand was discussed to have a role and responsibility towards the youth. The organization is expected to help raise the profile of youth by providing the platform to promote their work and give visibility to their social action initiatives. It should also provide opportunities to Associate Fellows in training, capacity building and funding.

In going forward into the future, the Youth Meeting reached a consensus that the common niche for the RCS to pursue is youth empowerment. This means more engagement with youth, more interaction with them, more connectivity through social media and more capacity building to create change. Ultimately, we believe in a Commonwealth of change that is relevant to our communities and transforms the lives of people at the grassroots.

Speakers at the meeting included John Loughton (RCS Trustee), Claudine Beaumont (Google), Michael Sani (Bite the Ballot), PJ Cole (Lifeline Networks), Leon Ward (British Youth Council), Kishva Ambigapathy (Commonwealth Youth Council), Layne Robinson (Commonwealth Secretariat), Hamza Patel (British Council Active Citizens) and others. Read about our Youth & Education work to learn more.


The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Royal Commonwealth Society.