Launched in 2016 by the Commonwealth Secretariat, Common Ties is an initiative which seeks to connect with and engage young leaders from around the Commonwealth who are temporarily based in the UK for study or work. Last Thursday – 25 May 2017 – saw the anniversary of the initiative’s launch marked by a conference and networking event at the Royal Overseas League in London. CHEC board member Eva Ekehorn attended the event, along with communications officers John McDonnell and Rebecca Story.
The conference began with a ‘Commonwealth Fair’, in which Commonwealth Accredited Organisations ran stalls sharing information about their work. This was a fantastic opportunity for the young delegates to ask questions and find out more about the activities of different organisations within the Commonwealth: the CHEC stall proved popular, with publications such as the Human Ecology Journal and recent ‘Bees and Pollinators’ report providing starting points for many stimulating discussions.
Following the Fair, Commonwealth Young Professional Sina Mario officially opened the event and provided some welcoming remarks on the theme for the afternoon: ‘Building Lasting Ties with the Commonwealth – Connect, Engage, Contribute’. In particular, Sina expressed her hope that the event would not stand alone, but instead would be ‘a stepping stone towards more fruitful networking and engagements in the future’.
After further remarks from partnership lead Emma Kerr, the Royal Overseas League’s Jackie Yu Hon Lam and keynote speaker Rafiullah Kakar on the importance of inspiring and empowering youth members of the Commonwealth, the delegates and accredited organisations broke away into small group workshops on a variety of themes. CHEC was pleased to take part in a roundtable workshop on the topic of ‘How are Climate Change and Migration Patterns Affecting the Health, Education and Wellbeing of Young People?’ – a question very relevant to many of our projects!
In the workshop, Eva Ekehorn introduced CHEC’s work, speaking briefly on what we do and highlighting our role as an educational organization aiming to raise awareness of the relationship between humans and their environments. On the topic of climate change in particular, Eva put it to the room that ‘we are all climate change activists in some way, whatever we do: but if we don’t understand the consequences of our actions, how can we be expected to change them?’
After introductions from the other Commonwealth organizations present – including the Association of International Accountants, the Commonwealth Association of Science, Technology and Mathematics Educators, the Royal Commonwealth Society and the Commonwealth Consortium for Education – the floor was opened for debate and discussion, with the organizations asking how they could better work together to engage young people and tackle climate change. The conversation that followed was lively and thought-provoking: with representatives from countries such as Mauritius, Trinidad, Nigeria and Kenya, and scholars from across the sciences and humanities, there were a truly diverse range of viewpoints offered. Topics covered included the importance of educating young people about the science behind climate change, misconceptions surrounding climate change, and how grassroots approaches can feed into policy and wider action. The passion and depth of knowledge of the delegates as they spoke about issues in communities that they had worked with was evident and inspiring: it was a privilege to join in discussion with them and everyone around the table was left with plenty of food for thought.
Though it seemed that no-one wanted the event to end, the afternoon eventually wound down with an informal networking session: this was a great chance for delegates and organisations to chat in more depth about issues that had arisen throughout the various sessions. CHEC left the conference with a whole range of new connections and new ideas, as well as a renewed awareness of the enormous potential for change that Commonwealth organisations and members can achieve when working together: we are already looking forward to next year’s event!