Our Youth Council leader became Trinidad & Tobago's youngest Senator

Nikoli Edwards, a Commonwealth Youth Council leader. Aged 25, he was sworn in as a temporary independent Senator by the country's President, Anthony Carmona, in January 2017

Nikoli Edwards stands up for young people. In 2015 he was elected to the Commonwealth Youth Council (CYC), where he’s now Vice Chairperson of Policy, Advocacy & Projects. CYC is the officially recognised voice of the 1.2 Billion young people of the Commonwealth. And it’s the largest and most diverse youth-led organisation in the world.

Mr Edwards is also founder and chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago Youth Convention. He’s clearly made an impression on that country’s political leaders. President Anthony Carmona swore him in as a temporary independent Senator on 11 January 2017. Read about Mr Edward’s progress as a Senator, and more about youth empowerment around the Commonwealth in 2015-17:

Nikoli Edwards was elected to the Commonwealth Youth Council (CYC)in 2015, where he’s now Vice-Chairperson of Policy, Advocacy and Projects.

In Trinidad and Tobago’s Senate, independent Senators are selected by the President as representatives of civil society. Mr Edwards was appointed as a temporary Senator while a permanent one was out of the country. And so he became the youngest ever Senator in Trinidad and Tobago’s history.

In his maiden speech to the Senate, he spoke of the importance of young people having a voice in creating national legislation:

“I’d like to take this opportunity to say how grateful I am to be addressing this honourable chamber,” he said. “For me, and to many other young people across Trinidad and Tobago, this signals hope. It signals that there is in fact opportunity for young people.”

He was speaking during a Senate debate on the Miscellaneous Provisions (Marriage) Bill 2016, during which he argued passionately against early marriage.

In a statement, Mr Edwards said, “By allowing a youth voice to occupy the independent bench of the Senate, my appointment has demonstrated the commitment by President Carmona to the youth of Trinidad and Tobago.

“I hope to bring a youth and civil society perspective to the Senate that is informed by my interactions with many youth organisations and individuals across the country and the Commonwealth.”

Katherine Ellis, Director of Youth at the Commonwealth Secretariat, said, “Nikoli is to be congratulated on his achievement. It is wonderful to see the passion with which he is already advocating on issues that are important to young people.

We hope to see more Commonwealth young leaders moving into positions where they can directly influence policy in their countries.

More progress in youth empowerment in 2015-2017

The Secretariat aims for young people to be more integrated and valued in political and development processes. It delivers support to members to improve their youth policy environments. And it empowers young people to participate effectively in the spheres of development that impact them.

In 2016/17, the Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP) surpassed four of five results targets with minor delays in the fifth (Sports for Development and Peace/ SDP). It achieved “Highly Satisfactory” ratings across indicators, substantiated by the findings of a thorough independent evaluation of the CYP.

In the previous financial year, 2015/16, the Secretariat supported 24 members to strengthen their policy environment for youth empowerment. Three of these countries and two regions saw significant progress:

  • Anguilla adopted the Youth Parliament guide, using it to establish a national Youth Parliament.
  • Australia used the global Youth Development Index (YDI), which charts the social, political and economic situation for young people in 185 countries, to develop a national-level YDI.
  • Bangladesh finalised its Youth Policy and Action Plan.
  • Pacific and Caribbean Youth ministry and National Statistics Office officials received training and used the YDI toolkit to inform regional and national plans for monitoring Sustainable Development Goals progress.

We supported 11 members in furthering the professionalisation of youth work, and saw four tangible results:

  • Jamaica’s Professional Association of Youth Workers became a registered Civil Society Organisation, and new competency standards in youth work were operationalised.
  • Malaysia adopted youth work as a priority in its national youth policy.
  • Sri Lanka’s Youth Workers Association revived past policy commitments to professionalise youth work.
  • Sri Lanka and India developed youth worker courses and outcomes frameworks for the assessment of youth work practice through support provided to their professional youth work bodies.

In March 2016, we held the 2nd Conference on Youth Work in partnership with the Government of South Africa, the University of South Africa and the National Youth Development Agency.

That conference laid the foundation for a Commonwealth Alliance of Youth Workers Association, and a Commonwealth Consortium for Youth Work Qualifications.

The Commonwealth continues to play a leading role in global affairs. The wonderful thing about the Commonwealth is the strength we all derive from our ability to share our experiences and learn from each other.

J.V. Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji

Another major achievement of the conference was a set of agreed priorities around youth work. These resulted from consultations on professionalising youth work involving key sector stakeholders from 25 countries. The framework, used to guide discussions, was derived from the six indicators as listed within the Professional Youth Work: Concept and Strategies publication. It covers areas of youth work ethics, qualifications in youth work, youth work research, and theory and practice in youth work.

Eight Eastern and Southern African countries initiated policy and institutional reform reviews to bolster youth entrepreneurship. This followed a regional workshop for senior officials from Youth, Labour and Trade ministries, and young entrepreneurs , in partnership with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development , the International Labour Organization, and non-governmental organisations, in Tanzania, May 2016. The reviews were based on the previously launched Policy Guide on Youth Entrepreneurship.

There was an impetus for Sports for Development and Peace (SDP). This was driven by two causes – recognition in the SDG preamble of the “growing contribution of sport to the realisation of development and peace”, and debates in the run-up to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games around integrity in sport.

The Secretariat was invited to join UNESCO’s Permanent Consultative Council of the Intergovernmental Committee for Physical Education and Sport. This followed recognition of our publication Sport for Development and Peace and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

We gave technical support to four countries in their implementation of SDP. One, Sierra Leone, saw progress in the development of an Action Plan for their National SDP Strategy and funding allocated in their 2016 budget for the first time. Another, Belize, developed a National Sports Policy 2016-2025, drawing on Commonwealth tools and guidelines.