Reflection by: Janelle Syms

The day began with a tour of Palace of Westminster, in which we got to see the House of Lords, House of Commons, and House of Parliament. Learning about the development of democracy was truly insightful, and presented some eye-opening revelations in regards to how modern society is conducted.

Our day continued with a round-table discussion in the presence of Hon. Emilia Lifaka, the CPA Chairperson, Ms. Dawn Butler, the first African-Caribbean woman to be elected into British Parliament, Lord Purvis of Tweed, and Mr. Jarvis. Ms. Butler presented the key-note address in which she urged Youth Parliamentarians to hold our governments accountable for ensuring that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were met. The theme for this year’s Commonwealth day was ‘Towards a Common Future’, and emphasis was placed on encouraging participation among the youth, deeming us ‘ambassadors for change’

Myself, and fellow delegates were placed in groups and discussed ways in which political participation can be encouraged among the youth in Commonwealth countries. We highlighted the importance of Government officials listening to the opinions of the youth, and taking such opinions and thoughts into consideration before implementing policies and practices that will ultimately impact future generations. Focus was also placed on encouraging political education, allowing for citizens to become aware and have a greater understanding of the political process, as well as issues facing their country and the global community. Following our discussion, our suggestions for implementation were presented to the panel, and will later be presented at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

Following our discussion with the panel, our day continued with the Commonwealth Day observance at the Westminster Abbey. The Royal Family, and other important delegates were in attendance, and it was a surreal moment to be in the presence of such important world leaders, celebrating the diversity and community of the Commonwealth.

The day concluded with the Commonwealth Day reception at Marlborough House, where I had the opportunity to meet His Royal Highnesses Prince of Wales, and the Duke of Cambridge. Overall, it was an honour to represent the Cayman Islands, and participate in the Commonwealth Day experience. The opportunity allowed me to gain insight on the importance of youth participation in our democratic systems, as well as how countries can make an impactful difference when minds work together towards a common goal.

Matthew Welds

Participating in the 2018 Commonwealth Day celebrations was both an honourable and thought-provoking experience. Throughout the day, we took part in various discussions, tours, and observances which were all extremely enjoyable. We began the day with an insightful tour of the Houses of Parliament which discussed the history, and political significance and development of Parliament in the United Kingdom. All delegates participated in various roundtable discussions focused principally on the Commonwealth Day theme, ‘Towards a Common Future’. The theme aims to consider how global issues are collectively affecting the Commonwealth, and ways to create a better future for all citizens through exploring sub-themes such as sustainability, safety, prosperity and fairness.

As a part of the roundtable discussions, myself and the other delegates also participated in break-out group discussions where we discussed ways in which the various Governments in the Commonwealth could strengthen connections, and increase political interest and participation amongst youth in their Member States. While in these groups we offered suggestions on how this can be achieved, and later presented our recommendations to the panel presiding over the discussions. This was particularly empowering, especially when our recommendations were being made to receptive ears, who were eager to act on these suggestions. All of our suggestions were later presented at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) being held that same day.

The panel consisted of several esteemed members including Ms Dawn Butler, the first elected African-Caribbean woman to become a Government Minister in the UK, who also gave the Key Note Address. Her speech was both inspiring and eye-opening and highlighted many issues affecting African-Caribbean citizens throughout the Commonwealth, and called for a stronger relationship between the Member States.

Following our in-depth discussion, we travelled to the Westminster Abbey for the Commonwealth Observance. In attendance at the Observance were the Commonwealth’s most eminent leaders including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Being in the presence of these world leaders was the most memorable part of the entire experience for me. The Observance highlighted the unity and diversity throughout the Commonwealth as discussed by Prime Minister Theresa May in her address to us attendees.

My day concluded with a trip to the London Eye overlooking the city along with other delegates. This experience highlighted many opportunities for development regarding youth empowerment throughout the Commonwealth and offered us the ability to voice a valid opinion on matters that are directly affecting the youth. More specifically, it highlighted a need for more youth-focused initiatives which promote participation in our democratic system, as well as a need to encourage more involvement with wider Commonwealth initiatives like this now, more than ever, in the Cayman Islands.


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