67th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference

Young Commonwealth leaders debate the future of work at 11th Commonwealth Youth Parliament in Trinidad and Tobago

52 young people from 31 Commonwealth jurisdictions* took part in a three-day mock Parliament organised by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA). The 11th Commonwealth Youth Parliament (CYP), hosted by the Parliament of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago at The Red House, Port-of-Spain, took place from 21 to 23 November 2022.

Participants aged 18 to 29 acted as Members of the Parliament of Kairi and Chaconia, a fictional island nation of one million citizens. They represented two mock political parties, forming a government and opposition.

At the opening ceremony, the Speaker of the House of Representatives of Trinidad and Tobago, Hon. Bridgid Annisette-George, said:

"This exercise provides real and earnest training, as if you were already in the role of a legislator. Use this opportunity to equip yourself with the tools to be an effective changemaker to bring about real solutions.”

Hon. Bridgid Annisette-George, Speaker of the House of Representatives of Trinidad and Tobago, speaks at the opening ceremony. For further images of the CYP11 please click here.

The CPA Secretary-General, Stephen Twigg, discussing the status of the Commonwealth in the modern world, encouraged young people to

“talk about what the Commonwealth means to you, what the Commonwealth means in terms of its history, the Commonwealth of today and the Commonwealth of the future.”

H.E. Hon. Christine Kangaloo, President of the Senate of Trinidad and Tobago, concluded that the 11th Commonwealth Youth Parliament “could not be happening at a better time, at a more opportune juncture in parliamentary history”, calling for young people to revitalise politics with honour and integrity.

H.E. Hon. Christine Kangaloo, President of the Senate of Trinidad and Tobago. For further images of the CYP11 please click here.

Hon. Anita Haynes, an MP in the House of Representatives of Trinidad and Tobago, acted as the Presiding Officer of the 11th CYP, with serving Members of Parliament from the British Virgin Islands, Saint Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago mentoring the young delegates throughout the week.

The 11th CYP centred on a mock Bill on remote working and flexible working patterns. Introducing the Bill at the start of the debate, Amaris Skeete (Trinidad and Tobago), Minister of Public Administration, said that the legislation

‘has the potential of legitimising new labour policies by promoting the welfare of all employees.’

In response, Shadow Minister Joe Pitaluga (Gibraltar) argued that the Bill would damage small businesses, isolate rural communities and endanger the privacy of citizens.

Deshawn Cooke, Jamaica, speaks at CYP

Deshawn Cooke (Jamaica), Prime Minister at CYP11, speaks during the debate. For further images of the CYP11 please click here.

A fruitful and wide-ranging debate ensued, with participants speaking powerfully on the varied implications of changing work patterns for the economy, mental health and the climate. A powerful speech on the impact of climate change by Tongan delegate Kilisitina Moala brought applause from both sides of the House. At the end of the week, the Bill was passed unanimously with several amendments.

Reflecting on the week, Danica Loulie-Wijtenburg (New Zealand) said:

“My time representing Aotearoa New Zealand at CYP11 was an incredible demonstration to me of the power and importance of youth civic engagement. Over only a few days, our members’ passion and dedication resulted in intersectional and creative advocacy on issues affecting us the most as young people."

Jinel Gordon (Jamaica), who acted as Leader of the Opposition during the week, added,

“CYP11 has been an incredible experience. The wholesome opportunity to network, make our youthful but impactful voices heard across the Commonwealth and improve our knowledge and understanding on democratic governance and parliamentary procedures will forever be etched in my mind.”

The Commonwealth Youth Parliament is the CPA’s flagship youth programme. Held annually, it is designed to introduce young Commonwealth citizens to the role and purpose of Parliaments as democratic institutions and providers of good governance. The 11th CYP was the first time since 2019 that the event has been hosted in-person due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff from the National Assembly of Zambia, which is in the process of establishing its own youth Parliament, attended to observe how the programme is managed.

Above: Watch the youth-led press conference from CYP11. Members of the Trinidadian press questioned members of the government and opposition parties on their experience.

Earlier in the week, the CPA Secretary-General Stephen Twigg met with the two Joint Presidents of the CPA Trinidad and Tobago Branch – the President of the Senate, Senator Hon. Christine Kangaloo and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Bridgid Annisette-George, MP at the Red House in Port-of-Spain. He also accompanied Speaker Annisette-George and Hon. Keith Scotland MP on a visit to Woodbrook Secondary School to speak to young people about the Commonwealth.

CPA Secretary-General Stephen Twigg with Hon. Bridgid Annisette-George, Speaker of the House of Representatives of Trinidad and Tobago, visit a school in Port-of-Spain. For further images of the CPA Trinidad and Tobago Branch visit please click here.

* The CPA Branches represented at the 11th Commonwealth Youth Parliament included: Anguilla; Australia Federal; Australian Capital Territory; Barbados; Belize; British Columbia; British Virgin Islands; Falkland Islands; Ghana; Gibraltar; Guyana; Isle of Man; Jamaica; Jersey; Kenya; Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; Malaysia; Manitoba; Montserrat; New South Wales; New Zealand; Nevis; Nigeria; Rajasthan; Saint Lucia; Sierra Leone; South Australia; Sri Lanka; St Helena; Trinidad and Tobago; Tonga; Turks and Caicos; United Kingdom; Wales.