Interview – ‘The Commonwealth Is a Pioneer in Youth Affairs’ [interview]

Pierre Moukoko Mbonjo, Minister of External Relations, talks about Cameroon’s celebration of the 2015 Commonwealth Day.

What reasons could be adduced for the choice of the theme for this year’s Commonwealth Day celebration?

The theme for this year’s Commonwealth Day is “A Young Commonwealth.” It is an appeal to the Commonwealth countries to continue investing in young people, by creating opportunities for them and by addressing their most critical challenges. It is an appeal for member states to remain steadfast to their commitment to continue empowering young people as enshrined in the 2013 “The Magampura Commitment to the Young People: Young People at the Centre of Sustainable and Inclusive Development.”

It is also an aocacy call for the world to erect the concerns of young people as one of the pillars of the Post 2015 Development Goals. The world will soon launch a new global development agenda (The Post 2015 Millennium Development Goals) this year, and there are concerns that the non-inclusion of young people in the UN High Level Panel could mean that their concerns may not be addressed adequately. Summarily, the absence of young people on the Panel means that others spoke on their behalf. In a democratic setting like ours, no social group can claim to adequately express the concerns of another better than its own members.

The Commonwealth’s simple message is that young people are an asset. Hence, they should be empowered to realise their potentials so that they may contribute fully to national development. Their continuous marginalisation will significantly impede national development. Recent development worldwide reveals to us the dangers of this situation especially as violent extremist groups are increasingly identifying and exploiting these potentials for their pervasive ends.

What has the Commonwealth been doing in member countries to give youths reasons to hope?

The Commonwealth is a pioneer in the domain of youth affairs and it would be fastidious trying to give you an exhaustive list of its work and achievements in this domain. However, permit me to mention just two of them. The Commonwealth was the first international organisation in the world to tackle the issue of youth empowerment. In 1973, the Commonwealth launched the Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP) which was the first in the whole world.

The Organisation realised that one of the greatest challenges faced by young people after their education and training was that of securing a stable employment. The CYP was launched and has been endowing and sharpening the skills of young people in different domains. In order to enable young people to become self employed by creating their own businesses, the Commonwealth launched the Commonwealth Youth Credit Initiative (CYCI) in 1990.

The CYCI provides business support and non-collateralised credit to young people who wish to establish micro enterprises. Other long-term objectives include preparing youth entrepreneurs to access credit from larger financial institutions, improving awareness amongst financial institutions about the creditworthiness of young persons and identifying potential co-financiers for the replication and expansion of the initiative.

The starling success of the initiative in certain Commonwealth countries, clearly explains why certain local youth credit initiatives such as PAJER-U, PIFMAS, PIASSI and the National Civic Service Agency for Participation in Development are modelled along the lines of the CYCI.

What are some of the values propounded by the Commonwealth that could inspire youths in Cameroon to aspire to leadership and management positions and shunning extremist ideologies?

The Commonwealth has a set of fundamental values which are enshrined in its charter. Basically, these values includes the promotion of democracy, human rights, good governance, the rule of law, individual liberty, egalitarianism, free trade, multilateralism, tolerance and world peace.

Tolerance is one of those values which the Commonwealth seeks to inculcate in young people. The espousement and appropriation of this value may transform a young person in to a great leader. In an association like the Commonwealth which prides itself of its immense sociological diversity, successful leadership entails the acceptance of alternative if not contrary views and approaches to issues.

Steering the youths clear of extremist ideologies such as propounded by Boko Haram could be achieved by engraining our young people with the values and principles of the Commonwealth outlined above. These values have been popularised in Cameroon and all other Commonwealth countries since 2011. It was a recommendation by the Commonwealth Heads of Government after their 2011 Meeting that held in Perth, Australia.

Source : Cameroon Tribune

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