Tynwald has contributed to the first virtual Commonwealth Youth Parliament (CYP)
Tynwald intern Kieran Skehan (pictured, bottom left) and law student Hannah Cowin were among 59 delegates aged between 18 and 29 from across the Commonwealth nominated to participate in the week-long event held from December 14 to 18, which saw the Speaker of the House of Keys and chairman of the Isle of Man branch of the CPA, the Hon Juan Watterson SHK, deliver the ceremonial speech from the throne during the opening proceedings on December 15.
Organised by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) the Commonwealth Youth Parliament offers young people the opportunity to experience parliamentary democracy, meet other young leaders and discuss a range of global issues.
The event’s virtual format allowed delegates representing 32 different Commonwealth parliaments from all nine CPA regions to connect across 17 time zones.
Youth delegates acted as Members of Parliament for the fictional jurisdiction of ‘Commonwealthland’. They were split into two political parties, with a third group of independent Members. The central issue of the week was a mock Bill proposing a new COVID-19 Youth Relief Fund and a Statistical Bureau for Youth Unemployment. Sessions were designed to replicate real parliamentary processes and included intra-party meetings, Prime Minister’s Questions, committee hearings, a debate on the Bill and a mock press conference.
Kieran said: ‘Despite the challenges that a virtual event of this kind presented, it was really good to be able to talk about such issues with young people around the world. It became clear that there is a lot that unites us and that there are plenty of young people interested in politics and bringing about positive change. Several of the Commonwealth’s youngest politicians participated in the event as presiding officers including Lord Fakafanua, youngest ever Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Tonga, the Hon Sharie de Castro, youngest female politician in the British Virgin Islands and Senator Jordon Steele-John, the youngest Senator in Australia who was elected in 2017 aged 23. It was really interesting to get to hear Senator Steele-John share his experiences of politics and what it was like for a young person with a disability to serve his constituents and his views on what needs to change in politics to enable more young people to stand and bring about change.
‘In the mock Bill committee sessions, an expert from the International Labour Organisation came to speak about youth unemployment during COVID and answer any questions. I was given the role of vice-chair of the session, assisting with inviting the guest to give his presentation and participants to ask their questions. It was interesting to note a difference between the Isle of Man’s political system and that of others around the world, as committee chairs on the Island are political roles, whereas in other jurisdictions they are non-partisan.’
Writing to Mr Speaker at the conclusion of the event, the CPA Secretary-General Stephen Twigg thanked him for the ‘insight and guidance’ of his speech which had helped to ‘contextualise the debates’ and served as a springboard for discussions.
Mr Speaker, who attended the first Commonwealth Youth Parliament as a delegate 20 years ago, said: ‘The Commonwealth Youth Parliament demonstrates how the CPA is a powerful force for giving young people a voice, advancing youth engagement in parliamentary democracy and fostering future leaders.
‘I am proud to have represented the Isle of Man 20 years ago as a CYP delegate and honoured this year to have contributed to the opening event and had the opportunity to witness young people share experiences and explore challenge and change at a time of global uncertainty.
‘Tynwald is highly experienced in harnessing virtual technology to ensure the continuity of parliamentary proceedings and I congratulate the organisers on the success of this first virtual Commonwealth Youth Parliament.’
The next physical Commonwealth Youth Parliament will be held in 2021. To find out more visit https://www.tynwald.org.im/education/outreach/Pages/CYP.aspx