The collaboration between AIESEC and the Commonwealth began last year when Emmanuel Niyonzima, who served as the Member Committee President of AIESEC in Rwanda for the term 22/23, signed a Memorandum of Understanding on behalf of AIESEC International at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting held in Kigali, Rwanda in 2022. This landmark agreement led to AIESEC joining hands with nine other prominent youth-led and youth-serving organisations to establish the Commonwealth Alliance for Quality Youth Leadership. This alliance includes esteemed organisations such as Volunteer Service Overseas International, Rotary International, India’s youth organisation, Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan, and the Big Six, a collective of leading international youth-serving bodies, comprising Scouts, Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, YMCA, YWCA, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award.
The focus of the 10CYMM revolved around four pivotal dimensions of youth development: education, engagement, employment, and environment. AIESEC’s principal advocacy efforts were concentrated on the realm of education. Given the emergence of transformative technologies like artificial intelligence and augmented/virtual reality, coupled with disparities in digital access and education, particularly in less developed and rural areas, there is a pressing global learning crisis. Conversations during the meeting underscored the need to scrutinise the relevance of curricula and to modernise and decolonise education systems, ensuring they respect the cultural nuances of individual nations and territories. Stakeholders in the roundtable discussions emphasised the significance of fostering skills and values rooted in global citizenship among young people to address the increasingly intricate challenges posed by issues like climate change, peace threats, and inequalities.
In representing AIESEC, Chester contributed through a series of interventions highlighting AIESEC’s role in providing non-formal education and practical experiences to young individuals, with a strong emphasis on promoting cross-cultural understanding and leadership development. At the same time, he shed light on the obstacles faced by civil society organisations like AIESEC, including the lack of support from governments and the corporate sector, as well as the need for the means and expertise to reach remote and underserved communities and official recognition within education systems.
On behalf of AIESEC, Chester also had the incredible opportunity to meet with Prince Edward, Duke of Edinburgh, as the newest member of the Commonwealth Alliance for Quality Youth Leadership. Along with the Big Six collective, we discussed our observations at the meeting and potential ways forward for youth development.
Attendance at 10CYMM was conducive to bringing numerous insights and key takeaways to AIESEC.
First and foremost, AIESEC possesses the potential to become a prominent advocate for non-formal education. Among the myriad youth organisations offering practical experiences and skill development, AIESEC distinguishes itself as one of the few global youth networks that are entirely youth-led, extending to its global leadership. The organisation’s leadership development model and its inner and outer journey framework, while not entirely unique, place AIESEC in a prime position for educational systems to draw inspiration from for embedding values and skills in young individuals. It is imperative for AIESEC to focus on its unique strengths and demonstrate its impact on external platforms and in global dialogues.
Additionally, AIESEC cannot operate in isolation. As a part of civil society, it is vital for AIESEC to engage in partnerships with like-minded organisations that share a commitment to global citizenship and youth development. Collaborating with governmental institutions and the private sector allows resources to be pooled and actions to be magnified. Purposeful partnerships also hold the potential to enhance the credibility of AIESEC’s work by securing formal recognition from universally renowned organisations like the Duke of Edinburgh Awards. Such recognition not only validates AIESEC’s efforts but also opens doors to significant opportunities and collaborations, enabling the organisation to reach and impact more young people worldwide, furthering their personal and professional development. In our interconnected world, partnerships are pivotal to realising the vision of a global community of socially responsible and globally aware youth leaders.
Another recurrent theme throughout the meeting was “intergenerational dialogue.” Beyond fostering cross-sector collaboration, it is pivotal to involve young people systematically and grant them a meaningful role in co-creation. This involves providing relevant training and context by older generations holding positions of authority, and while AIESEC is primarily composed of young individuals, it bears a unique responsibility to advocate on behalf of its members and promote opportunities for intergenerational dialogue. Promoting genuine intergenerational dialogue serves as a bridge between generations, fostering mutual understanding and facilitating the exchange of fresh insights and innovative ideas. This dynamic exchange not only benefits AIESEC but also contributes significantly to addressing global challenges.
Lastly, the AIESEC network extends far and wide. The presence of AIESEC among ministers and decision-makers responsible for youth development strategies across numerous Member States of the Commonwealth was an honour. A notable meeting took place with Madame Myriam Dossou-d’Almeida, the Minister of Youth Development of Togo, who fondly recalled her AIESEC membership during her university days and commended the organisation for its role in fostering solution-oriented and proactive young people. Her journey from being an AIESEC member to becoming the Minister of Youth Development in Togo is a testament to the global reach and impact of AIESEC, showcasing how the organisation instils in its members the values of leadership, cross-cultural understanding, and a commitment to positive change in the world.
Take a look at what Madame Myriam Dossou-d’Almeida, the Minister of Youth Development of Togo had to say about her experience in AIESEC and the advice she has to youth here
AIESEC looks forward to the opportunity to further advance its partnership with the Commonwealth, extending beyond the Year of Youth 2023 initiative. This historic collaboration between AIESEC and a governmental network could pave the way for more partnerships between civil society and the public sector, thereby catalysing positive change and empowering youth on a global scale.
Layne Robinson, Head of Social Policy Development at The Commonwealth Secretariat alongside Chester Shum, Global President of AIESEC.
Take a look at Chester’s video recap of the event here
AIESEC is one of the world’s largest youth-run organisations dedicated to developing leadership potential in young people through international exchange and volunteering opportunities. With a presence in over 100 countries and territories, AIESEC provides a platform for young leaders to engage in cross-cultural experiences and contribute to positive societal change.
For more information or media inquiries, please contact: Alysha Alva, Global Head of Public Relations for 2023, AIESEC International firstname.lastname@example.org