Commonwealth Youth Parliament opens at Red House

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Joe Pitaluga of Gibraltar, a representative of the “National Labour Party” responds to “New Political Movement’s” Amaris Skeete of Trinidad and Tobago during the 11th Commonwealth Youth Parliament at the Red House on Monday. – AYANNA KINSALE

Youth representatives of over 50 states and territories gathered in Port of Spain to debate the Remote Work Bill as the 11th Commonwealth Youth Parliament (CYP) opened at the Red House on Monday.

This is the event’s first in-person session after the covid19 pandemic and the first time it has been hosted in Trinidad and Tobago. The session will end after three days of debate.

Speaker of the House of Representatives Bridgid Annisette-George told the youth parliament, “The theme of this year’s CYP is Youth Involvement in Parliamentary Democracy, and it affords an opportunity to let youth speak on an issue of relevance.”

She explained, “Our Parliament is one of the member branches of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, which is a voluntary global association of 56 countries working together in accordance with shared values in fields such as democracy, human rights, sustainable development, international peace and security, small states, gender equality and, most pertinent to our undertaking over the next three days, youth.

“The CYP is a forum that caters to youth between the ages of 18 and 29 years, across the Commonwealth to obtain first-hand experience of the processes of parliamentary democracy, while engaging with current parliamentarians and parliamentary officers, and facilitates the forging of links with other youth of like interests.”

The highlight of CYP 2022 activities, Annisette-George said, is its debate on the Remote Work Bill 2022.

“The subject matter touches on concerns of top policy which has gained prominence due to the pandemic and the work methodology which shall remain part of the work landscape for the foreseeable future.”

Secretary-general of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Stephen Twigg said, “Speaker Annisette-George spoke very powerfully about sustainable development goals and the importance of young people in taking them forward.

“We are now halfway through the period of them being adopted in the UN in 2015, and the goal of achieving them by 2030.

“It was always going to be challenging to achieve those goals, but the covid crisis has made that even harder.”

Addressing the pandemic’s effect on young people, he said it has caused a learning crisis, and its impact was worse for the poorest and most excluded from the education system.

Acting President Christine Kangaloo called the 56 young people from across the Commonwealth “uncompromisingly dedicated to learning the fundamentals of parliamentary democracy and unendingly devoted to immersing themselves in the experience of leadership and sacrifice.”

She said their participation was of paramount importance as the UN recorded the birth of the eight-billionth person on the planet. She added that 60 per cent of the people of the Commonwealth were under 30, and invested youth leaders were needed.

“If not these 56 young people, then who? And if not now, when?”