It’s perhaps once in a blue moon that a young Pacific islander gets acquainted with Prince Harry of Wales.
Samoa’s Tahere Siisiialafia got a chance to not only meet His Highness, but also had the opportunity to voice her strong opinion on youth empowerment in the presence of United Kingdom Prime Minister, Theresa May, in London on Monday this week.
Tahere is the Chairwoman of the Pacific Youth Council and she is attending the Commonwealth Youth Forum as a member of the International Task Force that drew the youth forum together, while also acting on the electoral board that facilitates the Commonwealth Youth Council elections this year.
The Youth Forum, together with the Business Forum, Women's Forum and People's Forum opened on Monday, which leads up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London this week.
The theme for this year's forum is “Powering Our Common Future”. Panels and breakout sessions focused on four priority areas which will be at the center of C.H.O.G.M. negotiations - sustainability, security, prosperity and fairness.
The first day started with a roundtable discussion with Mrs. May and his Highness Prince Harry, to discuss on youth concerns and accelerating their efforts.
Tahere urged the need for certain structural changes in order to elevate the work of young people in the Pacific region and that it is imperative that the Commonwealth must reach the region beyond beneficiary relations and transform discussions into practice and action.
“So much amazing work and achievements are ongoing in the region, however, governments, private sector and all development agencies must commit to enabling and releasing the full potential and capacities of young people so that their efforts accelerate in fostering sustainable, secure, prosperous and fairer communities,” Tahere.
“Indeed, engaging young people is their conceding right as equal partners in development.”
With that said, Tahere raised the lack of and very little representation of the Pacific at global levels.
A press statement said this year’s Pacific representation comprised Fiji, Nauru, Kiribati, Tonga, Papua New Guinea and Australia.
Each had two national youth delegates except for Australia, having a handful of national delegates, the statement said.
According to the statement, the role of national youth delegates is to reshape based on best practices, policies for the four priority areas, and to elect new leadership for the Commonwealth Youth Council for the next term.
Tahere states: "It is utterly imperative that our Pacific region is well represented in such global spaces. We cannot ignore the fact that we are becoming a more global community and thus it’s vital for our young Pacific people to engage and have a strong voice to influence global policies and frameworks, especially on climate change and oceans.
“Young people have never been so connected as they are today, and we need to see the value in engaging at the global levels to ensure that our Pacific region is not left behind and our young people missing out on opportunities."
In light of her statement, Powering Our Common Future has kicked off with Prince Harry officially appointed as the Commonwealth Youth Ambassador.
His Highness then announced that her Majesty the Queen has extended Commonwealth Scholarships to 150 scholarships for young people across the Commonwealth and now renamed as the Queen's Commonwealth Scholarship.
It's a positive start to this year’s Commonwealth Youth Forum and a provision of possibilities and opportunities for young people of the Commonwealth, the statement said.
Tahere hopes Governments and all development stakeholders will commit their support for young people beyond mere recognition and enable their engagement across national, regional and global levels.
"We young people are powering the now and future of the Commonwealth,” Tahere added.