A speech by The Duke of Sussex at the Commonwealth Youth Roundtable, Lancaster House
Thank you Lord Ahmad.
And Thank you for the invite! It’s great to be here today with you all.
For those of you who don’t know, I took on the role of Commonwealth Youth Ambassador at CHOGM last year.
And, nearly 12 months into the job, I can honestly say I feel more passionate than ever about the huge opportunity we have here:
To empower young people across the Commonwealth, you who are here in this room today, and the millions around the world who are part of this global collective of change makers.
Some may say it’s our responsibility, but I see it as our privilege, to equip you with the tools and the platform you need – to continue your cause driven work at the highest level – driving positive and effective change.
What has struck me the most is that you’re changing behaviours every day by the way that you’re choosing to live, and therefore the example you are proudly setting.
You are rejecting old hierarchies, antiquated systems and biases; you are looking at the world with fresh eyes, and breaking rules and boundaries that no longer apply to enable a better future for everyone.
You are authentic in your passion for social change, you genuinely care about preserving the environment and you focus your lives on working within your communities for the betterment of those around you.
What you are doing day in and day out is nothing short of outstanding. And I applaud your tremendous efforts.
My wife and I spent the last few months travelling across the Commonwealth from Tonga and Australia to New Zealand and Fiji, and I recently visited Zambia at the beginning of December.
In all of these places, it’s been incredibly humbling to see how young people like yourselves are creating innovative and clever solutions to the diverse challenges you face – whether it be better mental health for everyone, eradicating extreme poverty and improving access to education for girls, or highlighting the very real effects and daily battles of climate change.
It’s clear to me that the 1.4 billion youth of the Commonwealth are the most valuable advocates.
The power of connected and informed young people is difficult to ignore.
However – it is our duty to make sure you have the tools and the support to rise above the red tape, the naysayers, the challenges you face – and to operate to the best of your ability, because when you come together – the whole world benefits.
As I have spoken to young people on my travels, one of the recurring themes is the lack of mental health support for those under 30 and the remaining stigma and absence of services available.
And while this may seem streamlined, and even niche to some, what I have come to understand so deeply is that all health is interconnected – our mental health, our planet’s health, the health of our communities. We do not survive, and certainly do not thrive without the acknowledgment and understanding that in addressing one problem, we are paradoxically solving another. That is the power you hold in your hands.
Lord Ahmad has spoken about the four themes of CHOGM – and if I may, I’d like to highlight the theme that, for me, makes all the others possible – and that is sustainability:
“Sustainable development is defined as the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. “
This echoes exactly what I was just saying – that it’s all interconnected. That WE are all interconnected. That in tackling the core issue, we solve a multitude of challenges. This applies to education, stigmatisation, and our greatest asset – the environment.
There is now, more than ever, a pressing urgency to saving the planet – the clock, as you all know, is ticking.
You are all already doing the work and it is our job to ensure that your views are being heard and acted upon, at the highest levels.
Not tokenistic where one could say “yes, yes we heard from the youth,” but to actually listen, process, and action policy change to reflect tangible needs and quantifiable results – from you.
You are working to secure your own futures – and those who hold the levers of change are starting to recognise the enormous, relatively untapped value in what you are doing.
This year, as we mark the 70th anniversary of the modern Commonwealth, and with the theme: ‘A Connected Commonwealth’, there is a great opportunity to harness the talent, energy and intellect of young people as an overwhelming force for good.
As someone who is about to become a father, I am acutely aware of our shared responsibility to make this world more resilient and its inhabitants more accountable for the next generation.
The only way to see real progress is not by chance, it’s by change.
Let’s get to work.