Katherine Mcindoe is the 2013 Royal Commonwealth Society Essay Competition winner and one of New Zealand's representatives at 33Fifty: The Commonwealth Youth Leadership Programme.
From 17-20th July this year, I was one of six young New Zealanders representing our country at ‘33 Fifty: the Commonwealth Youth Leadership Programme’ in Glasgow and Edinburgh, a programme run by Common Purpose as one of the Legacy 2014 projects linked to the Commonwealth Games.
Why “33Fifty”? The conference was inspired by the fact that 33% of the world’s population lives in the Commonwealth, and 50% of those are under 25: therefore, we as Commonwealth youth make up an incredibly large and potentially influential group. With this in mind, the conference brought together 100 young people (aged 18-25) from around the Commonwealth to pool our ideas on how the youth of the Commonwealth can tackle the challenge of moving towards low-carbon economies.
Over the four days, we visited Scottish businesses working in the green sector and listened to presentations from wonderful speakers both about lowering carbon emissions and about effective leadership. By the end of the course, we had come up with projects that we can (and hopefully will) undertake as part of the collective move around the Commonwealth towards low-carbon economies.
One of my highlights was visiting the Edinburgh headquarters of Pelamis Wave Power, the world’s leading innovator in wave power technologies. With a base in Orkney, testing wave power machines in the North Sea, Pelamis is proving the extraordinary potential of wave power as a viable renewable energy source in the future, and for me symbolises the incredible innovation in green technologies that Scotland can offer to the rest of the world.
The other most valuable part of 33Fifty for me was meeting my fellow participants from around the world. Not only are they all smart, creative, friendly people, but they are already engaged in addressing the issues they are concerned about, whether that is through tertiary study, full-time work, or setting up NGOs, businesses, or community initiatives. In this environment, if you have an idea, being young is no reason to delay putting it into practice: in the climate change area (in which we simply don’t have the time to delay), I think that this attitude is vital.
I was lucky enough to stay on in Scotland, alongside 10 other participants, to represent 33Fifty at the Commonwealth Business Conference, where I was tasked with representing the group on one of the panels. As we discussed what we had learnt from the 33Fifty experience in preparation for the panel, we kept returning to two central ideas. The first is that the best and most effective leadership can only occur when a range of diverse perspectives are included: with 31 Commonwealth countries represented at 33Fifty, we were struck by the many benefits of collaborative decision-making. The second is that, with young people making up such a large proportion of the Commonwealth, our input must be taken seriously, rather than considered only after decisions are made.
It was an honour to represent New Zealand at 33Fifty, and to meet and work with some incredible young people from around the Commonwealth. I am very grateful to the New Zealand Society for their financial support, which enabled me to take part.