Am now back on home soil writing this in retrospect which means I’ve lost some of the intensity and perspective my earlier blogs had, but all the same I’ll do my best to capture the final days of the 2011 Commonwealth Youth Forum starting with Day 3.
Day 3 started with a keynote from Sami and Canadian Senator Segal from the Eminent Person’s Group touching on the work of the EPG and skating over some of the recommendations they’d made.
The Eminent Person’s Group was put together from a number of high flying individuals (ex-presidents/ministers/high ranking officials and a youth Rep – Sami) who were brought together to look at the Commonwealth and make recommendations to CHOGM on their findings. Unfortunately the EPG report was prevented from being released publicly prior to CHOGM. However both Hon. Michael Kirby and Senator Segal touched on the issues it dealt with and shed some light for us.
After the morning session we broke into our groups again to look at our recommendations. As this point our thematic group had separated into 3 smaller groups to deal with our specific recommendations. The group I worked in was looking at Financial Access (see Day 2’s blog which also refers to this) as a key to enabling young people to be partners in improving the livelihoods of all people’s across the Commonwealth. Our group, like most others, had some very heated and intelligent debate (although from the outside it was clear everyone was already on the same page but were just expressing different angles of the issues!). Building on earlier conversations within Thematic Group 5 and the words of all our guest Speakers (with particular references to the EPG) our group felt very strongly that rather than another communiqué of 15 or so recommendations we needed to do something different. Something bold, attention grabbing and out of the box. This idea developed into a strong proposal to have one recommendation regarding financial access which would have benefit to a wide range of stakeholders and have the capacity to implement many of the other recommendations at a grass roots level with young people at the helm.
The gist of our proposal was for the Commonwealth Heads of Government to support/establish an independent youth led governing body to oversee the administration of a youth development fund.
Our thinking behind this wasn’t to magically solve every other problem addressed by every other recommendation but rather to be more strategic and powerful in our communiqué by A) positioning Young People as partners willing and ready to act and take responsibility for implementing solutions B) aligning to the ideas behind the EPG report as shared with us by our guest speakers (and to think outside the box!) and C)to position the Communiqué in such as way that is demanded an answer – having only one recommendation essentially would mean that any answer from CHOGM would directly relate to our recommendation rather than a a vague wash over 15 recommendations.
All of this then led to the question – how do we get the other delegates on board who have all been working very hard on their recommendations and might struggle to let go of what they’d expected (15 recommendations across the 5 thematic groups)….We didn’t have the opportunity to find the answer to this question as like every other day at CYF we were over scheduled and ran out of time and being ushered into the next session.
The next session of the day was a ‘Learning Journey’ which was essentially an opportunity to step away from pressures of the commonwealth and engage with an activity from Fremantle and surrounds. Delegates had a choice of 3 Learning Journeys when they registered prior to the forum so our activities were already planned and programmed. My choice was a trip to Penguin Island which included a talk from the staff on the Island, some photos with 10 penguins who’ve been rescued and were unable to be re-released (they were too scared of live fish to get in their pond!), followed by a cruise around the aquatic park (including a close up encounter with dolphins!), a guided walk around penguin island, where we were lucky enough to spot a humpback whale, all of which was followed by an ‘Aussie BBQ’, complete with Kangaroo skewers! I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon, particularly our encounter with dolphins who I’d never seen in the wild before.
On returning to the Esplanade (again running late) we went straight back into our thematic groups. Our thematic group had been one of the largest with 20+ people so it was quite surprising to start this session with only 4 people! The group were a little concerned but after waiting over half an hour and having only 2 more people arrive we decided to get into it as this final session was about confirming our recommendations before heading into the initial consensus process slotted to start at 7pm.
Unbeknown to us there was a number of separate meetings happening between delegates, planning team and others in response to some concerns/grievances raised by a number of delegates earlier in the day. Our group was quickly brought up to speed as members of our thematic groups who’d been in these meetings arrived to apprise us of the situation close to planned starting time for Consensus. There were 2 issues being raised, one in relation to the rude handling of a presenter who had to be cut off due to scheduling issues (this presenter was a last minute one during a lunch break) and the other in relation to how representatives had been chosen for the CHOGM Youth Dialogue planned for Sunday 30th October.
Without getting into too much detail, just to give you some context – these issues had resulted in some very angry and upset delegates who wanted the issues dealt with promptly and consequently representatives took to the stage at the beginning of consensus to air grievances and request a response from the Planning Team.
As I’d mentioned previously our thematic group had been discussing proposing the complete change of the default draft and replacement with just one recommendation and it was important to have this conversation BEFORE beginning consensus, however we were now broaching that idea in a room of people with mixed emotions (many confused as they’d been unaware of the issues and didn’t really understand why they were being raised publicly, many upset and disillusioned as a result of the issues being raised and many just frustrated and wanting to get started on consensus). So, slightly scary for me as I was the one chosen to ask the person chairing consensus to let us broach our idea!
I am not brave. I am not confident. I am not good with words. I am not good with conflict resolution. I was terrified.
The chair was less than pleased to be asked to postpone beginning consensus AGAIN to allow us to speak. I must have said something right however as he did give us permission to allow our spokesperson to speak.
Following our proposal the Chair asked our group to go and prepare draft text to consider but in the meantime the rest of the delegation would continue with Consensus as planned.
I’m going to talk more about this process from here on in another blog regarding evaluation but suffice to say it was a very long, exhausting night.