KIGALI, Rwanda — Jamaica’s two candidates for a place on the Commonwealth Youth Council (CYC) were among the 10 elected to serve for the 2022-2024 term in what seasoned watchers of the biannual meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government believe is a good omen for Kamina Johnson Smith.
Johnson Smith, Jamaica’s minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, is seeking to replace Baroness Patricia Scotland as the next head of the Commonwealth Secretariat, but will have to do so without the support of several Caribbean Community states, which have, in the past, coalesced around a single candidate for the post.
This led to whispers that Jamaican youngsters Everton Rattray, who had been shortlisted by the Electoral Board of the CYC for the post of vice-chair with responsibility for partnership and resources, and Nahjae Nunes who had been shortlisted for the position of vice-chair in charge of policy and advocacy, could feel backlash from delegates of countries that are backing Scotland.
But at the closing ceremony of the 2022 Commonwealth Youth Forum at Intare Conference Arena in Kigali on Tuesday, the two Jamaicans were installed as members of the CYC.
Nunes — a seasoned youth leader with close to a decade of grass-roots, local, regional and global experience in leadership, advocacy, policy development and social justice — was not at the forum, but his colleague, Rattray, was there to bask in the applause of the hundreds of delegates.
Rattray later agreed that Jamaica must be doing something right with its young people who continue to impress the world.
“Jamaica consistently tends to have a good reputation in the international space and I think it is a true reflection of the strong youth representation that we have locally,” Rattray told the Jamaica Observer as he accepted that the election of the two Jamaicans was big news for the island.
“It is something for us to really reflect because sometimes as Jamaicans we don’t see the global picture, and I do hope that when young people see other young people elected to the [Commonwealth Youth] Council to serve in this regard it is something they can realise as an opportunity,” added Rattray, a Prime Minister Youth Awardee for Leadership who, in 2017, was the youngest person to be appointed youth adviser to the Jamaican Government.
He told the Observer that nine months ago he had not seen himself representing the largest youth organisation in the world with its more than 1.4 billion young people.
“But it just shows the possibility and that there is the potential, so if you put your mind to something it is limitless to what you can achieve,” declared Rattray.
The seasoned youth leader would not be drawn into commenting on the contest for the Commonwealth secretary general’s post despite the presence of a fellow Jamaican in the race.
“As the incoming vice-chair for partnership and resources I am committed to working, whatever the result is, to represent the voice of the young people across the Commonwealth. My mandate to serve is to the 54 countries and I have to make sure that the issues of the young people of the Commonwealth are truly reflected so that I can bring those concerns to the secretary general,” Rattray said.
The youth forum concluded with a six-point action plan on youth development which is to be delivered to the heads of government.
The action plan is the product of months of deliberation by youth leaders before being finalised at the forum in Kigali under the theme ‘Taking Charge of Our Future’.
It underscores the importance of considering young people as equal partners in government decision-making and asserts their vital role in shaping the future of the Commonwealth and achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.