Commonwealth Youth Exchange Council (CYEC)

The Commonwealth Youth Exchange Council became a subsidiary charity of the Royal Commonwealth Society in February 2014.

CYEC is an education and youth development charity which was founded in 1970. Its mission is the development of young people, educators and their institutions through promotion of Commonwealth and intercultural understanding and inter-change. CYEC works to further its mission through a wide range of partnerships across the Commonwealth.

Two thirds of the Commonwealth’s population is under 30 years of age. Young people are therefore vital stakeholders in the future of the Commonwealth and are crucial partners in development. CYEC’s work is based on supporting young adults to experience the core Commonwealth values of Democracy, Diversity and Development and to contribute to a forward looking 21st Century Commonwealth.

CYEC has three main programme areas:

  • Youth Programmes
  • Commonwealth Teacher Exchange Programme (CTEP)
  • Raising Awareness of the Commonwealth and its Values


Youth Voice and Programmes for Youth

CYEC aims to support youth-led development activities and networks that promote interchange, skill-sharing and young people’s voice and leadership in the Commonwealth and internationally. All CYEC’s youth programmes contribute to the Commonwealth Plan of Action for Youth Empowerment (the PAYE) and are informed by the key principle of youth participation. By youth participation we mean enabling young people to take an active part in decision making, and giving them the opportunity to have a 'voice' in society and in the Commonwealth. CYEC activities are therefore designed ‘by and with’ young adults as opposed to ‘for’. CYEC also advocates on behalf of young people and works with young adults to provide opportunities for youth voice and to support youth-led development in their countries.

The Commonwealth Youth Forum (CYF)

CYEC is proud to have founded the Commonwealth Youth Forum in 1997 for the Edinburgh Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and to have continued to support its institutional development as a key platform for youth voice in the Commonwealth. CYEC convenes the Commonwealth Youth Forum biennially in partnership with the Youth Affairs Division (YAD) at the Commonwealth Secretariat and works in support of the host government and a Youth-Led Task Force. The CYF provides young people from representative youth structures (national youth councils and youth parliaments) with a platform to share their views and make recommendations. Recommendations from the CYF guide CYEC’s advocacy and programmatic work with young adults.

Past Communique Statements can be found here. There has been continued institutional development including, since 2007, a Youth Dialogue held with Heads of Government. In 2013 the Commonwealth Youth Forum inaugurated the first general assembly meeting of the Commonwealth Youth Council, the new representative structure for young people in the Commonwealth.

Commonwealth Local Government Youth Forum

CYEC has worked in partnership with the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) to facilitate a youth forum dimension to their biennial international meeting - the Commonwealth Local Government Conference. We developed the first Young Professionals Forum in Cardiff 2011 and also helped convene the 2013 Kampala youth platform which had a focus on the post 2015 Development Agenda.

Recommendation documents from Cardiff and Kampala can be found here.

Programmes for Emerging Leaders

Commonwealth ChangeMakers Young Leaders Programme, South Asia

Commonwealth ChangeMakers is an emerging young leaders training programme developed by CYEC and piloted in South Asia during 2013. Its aim was to increase the capacity of youth civil society in South Asia to engage with Commonwealth values and human rights. Given their demographic significance, young people are central to any debate on democracy, human rights and progressive reform, yet remain a largely untapped asset. By empowering them as change-agents and advocates for Democracy, Diversity and Development, their potential as shapers of a renewed Commonwealth, based on shared values, can be unleashed. Mindful that the South Asia region has witnessed human rights and social cohesion concerns, and was due to host the 2013 CHOGM in Sri Lanka, this project aimed to progress thinking and debate around key issues across the region/whole Commonwealth, by using the platform of Commonwealth Values and the new Commonwealth Charter document. Commonwealth ChangeMakers commenced in late 2012. It trained 16 youth facilitators to deliver the programme, which involved over 150 young people in the countries of Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Designed as a multiplier programme, groups of young leaders participated in a modular and highly interactive training programme to develop skills and awareness of a rights-based approach to development. They then cascaded their learning via social action projects to other young people and local communities, engaging over 1,200 people. 60 Commonwealth ChangeMakers also participated in a regional forum held in Sri Lanka to share experiences. The pilot programme was supported by a human rights and democracy grant from the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. Delivery partners in the region were the British Council and Democracy House in the Maldives. 

Commonwealth Youth Fellowship Programme (CYFP)

The Commonwealth Youth Fellowship programme aims to provide emerging young leaders with an opportunity to meet and develop skills and recommendations in a pan-Commonwealth policy context. CYEC believes it is crucial to create new opportunities for Commonwealth Citizens to work together on priority issues. To date the CYFP has focused on climate change and gender issues: 

Commonwealth Youth Climate Initiative
In 2010 the programme had a focus on climate change, which is a major Commonwealth issue, especially for small island developing states (SIDS), for whom rising sea levels are an existential threat. The Fellowship aimed to link up active youth climate change coalitions from various parts of the Commonwealth and had participants from Canada, Trinidad, Australia, India, Nigeria and UK. The Fellowship help to develop new networks between the coalitions, and the group also worked on a peer education resource for Commonwealth youth constituencies. Subsequently, some participants attended the Durban COP and the Commonwealth Youth Forum and have been actively engaged in youth policy development in this area.

Building Bridges
In 2012 the programme picked up the Commonwealth theme of Women as Agents of Change. Working with a planning team of young women, CYEC developed ‘Building Bridges’, which was designed to explore the perceived policy gap that exists for young women in both youth and gender empowerment. 20 young women, representing youth, civil society and Commonwealth organisations, participated in a programme which had a transformational leadership development component alongside workshops to explore the situation of young women in the four regions of the Commonwealth. Hosted in UK, the Fellows had opportunities to interact with policy makers and MPs. A Statement of Recommendations has been published and an active Commonwealth and gender Facebook network established. This was a youth-led initiative, supported by CYEC. The report can be found here.

Sport for Peace and Development - Games without Frontiers

In 2012, working in partnership with the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Sports Division and Glasgow City Council, CYEC delivered a residential training programme for 30 youth and community leaders. This explored the concept of intercultural learning from the perspective of Sport for Peace and Development (SPD), using examples from Europe and the Commonwealth, and ion the context of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014. The project has been written up and articles published, and has contributed to a Commonwealth youth position paper on SDP in the run-up to the Glasgow Commonwealth Games (2014). The report can be found here.


CYEC provides support and capacity building to young people to enable them to take up opportunities for advocacy at the national and global/Commonwealth level. CYEC works in partnership with other youth and development agencies, and was a founder-member of the DfID-CSO Youth Network.

Youth Exchange Advisory Service                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

CYEC has been supporting the development of locally-managed, high quality two-way group youth exchanges since it was established in 1970. These exchanges link young people in local communities with their peers across the Commonwealth and aim to promote skills for leadership, employability, active citizenship and inter-cultural understanding and contribute to cultural relations. CYEC has enabled over 100,000 young people to participate in youth exchanges and other forms of youth mobility and has disbursed more than £2million in grant aid. The Youth Exchange Advisory Service includes consultancy, capacity building training programmes, youth residential programmes and provision of educational resources and toolkits. 

Further information and resources to help you organise a Commonwealth youth exchange can be found here.


Visit the old Commonwealth Youth Exchange Council website

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