BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Investing in youth development is critical to achieving equitable and sustainable development, the Commonwealth Secretary-General said on Wednesday.

Speaking at the Commonwealth Youth Meeting for Senior Officers (Asia Region), Patricia Scotland said youth development is often one of the first casualties of national funding cuts and is seen as the least urgent in terms of investment.

“Sometimes there is inadequate infrastructure to support the needs of young people, especially where economic downturns have led to significant cuts in youth services and programmes,” she said in a speech during the opening of the three-day meeting, which is being held in Brunei for the first time. 

The potential of young people to drive positive change means we need more investment in youth, Baroness Scotland said.

“Yet resources are limited, and there are so many other competing national priorities. This means we have to be more innovative, and work in creative partnership, sharing knowledge and expertise.”

The secretary-general said both government officials and stakeholders face significant challenges when financing youth development programmes, and must also grapple with lack of legal and regulatory frameworks.

“Our youth policies [need to] have practical recommendations for actions and interventions that prioritise and tackle the specific challenges young people face. Yet the reality is that very often policy actions are not implemented on the scale needed to make real impact,” she said.

“Investing in youth is critical to achieving inclusive, equitable and sustainable development for present and future generations. So we need to design and deliver national youth strategies.” 

Asia has the largest youth population among the Commonwealth regions, with 1.7 billion young people under the age of 25.

During the three-day meeting — which involves senior officials from Brunei, Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore, and Sri Lanka — delegates will focus on regional youth issues to improve the livelihoods and well-being of young people in the Commonwealth.