Commonwealth Secretariat Youth Division


Marlborough House Pall Mall
London SW1Y 5HX UK

Telephone: (44) 20 7747 6500



Year established: 1973 Number of staff: 22

Number of members: 52 active member countries

Annual expenditure:

£3 million in 2014–15

Officers (2015):

Secretary-General: HE Kamalesh Sharma

Deputy Secretary-General: Deodat Maharaj

Director, Youth Division: Katherine Ellis

Aims and objectives:

The Commonwealth Secretariat’s Youth Division has been delivering the Commonwealth Youth Programme – focused on the political, social and economic empowerment of young people across the Commonwealth – for more than 40 years. The Commonwealth seeks to amplify the important role and contribution of 15–29-year-olds in nation building, and give this generation a platform to voice their ideas and concerns.

Main activities:

The Youth Division aims to engage and empower young people, provide thought leadership on youth development, and support governments, youth practitioners and young leaders to create environments that enable young people’s social, economic and political potential. By working with youth ministries, youth development organisations, youth workers and youth leaders to develop enabling environments, facilitate connections, build capacity and inspire action, the Commonwealth effects systemic, sustained and/or catalytic change that cascades to grass-roots impact for young people.

Supporting member governments:

The Youth Division provides technical assistance and capacity building related to national youth policies, and creates youth development frameworks, guidelines and tools. It advocates for increased investment in youth ministries and programmes, and for stronger global youth policy frameworks, and convenes regional and international ministerial meetings for policy development and sharing of good practice, including the regional Youth Ministers’ Meetings taking place in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific throughout 2015, and a pan- Commonwealth Youth Ministers’ Meeting hosted every four years – scheduled to next take place in 2017 in Uganda.

Supporting youth voice and youth networks:

The Youth Division facilitates and supports the establishment of regional and pan-Commonwealth youth networks.

These include:

• Commonwealth Youth Council
• Commonwealth Students Association
• Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs (in Asia and the Caribbean, and soon in East Africa) • Commonwealth Youth Climate Change Network
• Commonwealth Human Rights and Democracy Network
• Commonwealth Youth Sport for Development and Peace working group
• Commonwealth Correspondents

The Division also convenes youth forums alongside Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings and ministerial meetings, to empower young people to design and drive youth-led initiatives, to have a meaningful voice and to provide access to decision makers. Key Commonwealth youth forums include:

• Commonwealth Youth Forum, hosted biannually at CHOGM and scheduled for Malta, November 2015

• Commonwealth Students Congress, hosted every three years as part of the Commonwealth Education Minister’s Meeting

Youth Development Index (YDI):

Launched in 2013, the YDI is a global first that measures the status of young people in 170 countries around the world across five domains that are critical to youth development: education, health, employment, and civic and political participation. The YDI informs policy makers about young people’s needs and opportunities, indicating success stories and where investment may be needed. It also acts as a data advocacy tool, highlighting the importance of gathering statistics on key youth indicators.

Professionalisation of youth work:

This includes facilitating youth work education and training, setting competency standards, celebrating good practice, and advocating for national and international youth worker associations. A current focus is the development of a global consortium of higher education institutions to deliver a Bachelor of Youth Development Work degree. We also advocate for greater recognition of youth work during Youth Work Week each November, when we also announce the Commonwealth Youth Worker Awards.

Sport for development and peace:

The Youth Division assists member countries to develop policies and action plans that link sport
to outcomes in areas such as health, education, gender equality and social cohesion, at community and national level. It convenes the biennial Commonwealth Sports Ministers Meeting for development of policy and sharing of good practice, and supports the Commonwealth Advisory Body on Sport.


YourCommonwealth is a youth blog featuring written and video content generated by young people, students and youth leaders. Managed by the Youth Division, the website’s contributors come from across Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe and the Pacific.


Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development Work:

The Awards recognise outstanding young people in the Commonwealth whose development projects have had significant impact on their communities, countries and across the globe. The Youth Division manages the programme and hosts the award ceremony during Commonwealth Week each year.

Recent publications:

A list of recent Commonwealth youth and sport for development and peace publications may be found at

For the latest YDI report, see