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Commonwealth Youth Climate Network Tackling Climate Change: a Commonwealth agenda for young people


What is the Commonwealth Youth Climate Network (CYCN) ?


The Commonwealth Youth Climate Network (CYCN) was set up in 2009 to build the capacity of young climate activists across the Commonwealth and the globe. The launch summit which took place in 2009 at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London attracted over 70 young people from across the Commonwealth and featured workshops, panel discussions and presentations from various international organisations. In 2010, with support from Commonwealth Youth Exchange Council and the Commonwealth Secretariat 10 leading young activists on Climate Issues from around the Commonwealth came together for a week to share learning, visit various projects and plan the production of a practical learning resource. They also decided to develop a tool-kit as well as a fellowship programme.  The network’s core membership includes representatives from the National Youth Climate Coalitions of Australia, Canada, India and Nigeria and the Caribbean Youth Environment Network in addition to activists from the UK, Cameroon, Zambia, Sierra Leone, Singapore and the Maldives. Membership is open to willing individuals and organisations from across the Commonwealth. This connection of youth leaders with expertise on climate issues from across the commonwealth enable sharing of experience and expertise, development of common actions and campaigns to influence change through their collective voice. Because the commonwealth is a unique global network linking South and North, small and large, members of the network believe that it is well positioned to facilitate communities worldwide to effectively combat climate change whether through campaigning to influence policy, adopting more sustainable lifestyles or educating the population. was set up to build the capacity of young climate activists across the Commonwealth and the globe.

What have we done so far ?


Our 2009 launch summit at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London attracted over 70 young people from across the Commonwealth and featured workshops. Panel discussions and presentations from organisations such as Tearfund, the UN Programme on Youth, the Commonwealth Foundation, Baroness Kinnock of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and pioneer of sustainable development theory and action Jonathan Porritt. In 2010, with support from Commonwealth Youth Exchange Council and the Commonwealth Secretariat we brought together 10 leading young activists on Climate Issues from around the Commonwealth together for a week to share learning and projects. In 2011 we sent a team at the 8th Commonwealth Youth Forum in Perth, Australia, to lobby our governments and youth delegates. Currently we are finalizing the production of a tool-kit to be launched (TBC) in June 2012 at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro. Young people across the commonwealth and worldwide will then have access this resource covering education, advocacy, practical action and transformational leadership.

A pan-commonwealth  programme dedicated to developing a clear and shared vision for the future of young people,  and to  save succeeding generations from the impacts of climate change.

Empowers young people to be able to translate climate change scenarios into effective policy development and improved understanding of impacts on young peoples’ health, well-being and economic success in a sustainable future.

Aimed at facilitating the exchange of experiences and the advancement of collective knowledge among young people and their communities in tackling Climate Change.

Supports policy development process and practical actions,  and ensure that all stakeholders, both public and private, are clear on their roles and responsibilities combating climate change.

 The  Commonwealth  youth climate network( CYCN)  was created during the Young Commonwealth Climate Summit, held in London-october  2009.

The network is run by a  team of dedicated  professionals and young people  from across the Commonwealth with suport from the Commonwealth Youth Programme in partnership with a number of Commonwealth institutions and the  Institute of Commonwealth Studies.

CYCN seeks to engage governments and the Commonwealth Secretariat to ensure the implementation of the Commonwealth Lake Victoria Action Plan and the Port of Spain climate change consensus

The network works in strategic partnership and in conjunction with other commonwealth institutions, raising awareness, facilitating training and sharing youth best practice.  

Meet some of the foremost leaders and youth workers  in the commonwealth as they share their experience and expertise on the issues and developments shaping the future of young people in combating climate change.

derek1Derek Oakley Born in Dorset, England, Derek Oakley is driven by a passion for learning and action for social change, particularly through informal education and the arts. He has over five years experience as a consultant, employee and volunteer with organisations including Oxfam, the British Youth Council, the National Youth Agency and Civicus and  has worked in areas including intercultural dialogue, youth participation, gender and leadership development. Having worked on projects in Africa, the Caribbean, Europe and the Middle East Derek is currently Youth Engagement Coordinator at Plan UK and a director of Free Radicals.

TIMOTHY SAM is from Sierra Leone and he’s the international Project Director for the Young Leaders (SL). With over ten years of experience in children’s rights and environmental issues through public speaking and facilitation, Timothy brings an extensive understanding and application of management skills with emphasis on Project Management. As part of his contribution to young people, Timothy served as a member of the Advisory Board of UN Voice of Children Radio, and he also worked as a producer/presenter on the Children’s radio dealing with children’s rights and environmental issues.  He was nominated to participate in the Operation Days Work Project in Norway via Plan International, where he helped raise funds to support youth projects in Africa. Timothy is also a Member of the Commonwealth Youth Parliamentary Association. He is one of the recipients of the runner-up award of Social Entrepreneur Competition, for his outstanding contribution to young people. He has obtained his Bachelor of Arts Degree (History & Political Science), and currently studying for a postgraduate  degree at  the University  in   London.  He is currently working with a coalition of youth network in the UK on a research project, which aims at formulating a Climate Change project and stimulating youth interest.

sarika picSarika  Katoch is based in India and she is the Asian Regional Chairperson of the Commonwealth Youth Caucus and Coordinator of the Commonwealth Youth Policy Group on Climate Change. For the past 15 years, Sarika has given vision and leadership to the Indian Youth Community and across the Commonwealth, and worked for a number of International and National Non Government Organizations and government bodies.  In recent years, Sarika founded the voluntary group-Trigarta Vasundhara Rang Manch.   Sarika has traveled widely around the world, on Youth Regional  Advisory Board Meetings,  workshops on Climate Change in Singapore, the 7th Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting at Colombo, Sri Lanka, and has participated  in Commonwealth  Election Observer Group in Ghana’s Parliamentarian and Presidential  elections  in 2008. She was part of the Hundred Member Indian Youth Delegation to China supported by both Governments of Indian and China. In response to her achievements in youth work, Sarika was honoured as Young Champion on the occasion of 60th anniversary of Commonwealth in London in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth. Sarika  has also received several other national awards, including  best National Service Volunteer of State for the year 2002 ,  ‘Youth Star’ by BBC World Service Trust for exemplary work and also appreciation award from  the Red Cross Society.  Sarika is now focusing on leaving a legacy for youth engagement in tackling Climate Change around the Commonwealth. She was a member of the Planning Team of the Young Commonwealth Climate Change Summit 2009. Sarika is also pouring her heart into creating resourceful youth network designed to engage the Commonwealth Youth caucus.

Esther bestEsther Agbarakwe is from Nigeria, West Africa. She has been a very passionate youth advocate for sustainable development for more than 6 years. She is the Africa Regional Coordinator UN Youth and Children Major for the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (UN CSD). Esther also Coordinate the Nigerian Youth Climate Coalition (NYCC) which she co-founded .Esther has been highly active in Earth Charter Initiative’s youth network. She is the Earth Charter Youth Group coordinator of ECYG Calabar and Manage the Earth Charter Youth Special. The Earth Charter takes a special interest in promoting youth activism in sustainable development. She is a Group member of the “First Steps Campaign” a youth group that was birthed during the 2008 Civicus Youth Assembly and happens to be one of the committee members. Esther was actively involved as the African representative at the International Organising committee of the 5th World Water Youth Forum in Istanbul in March 2009, In May 2009, She was supported by the German Government for Participation at the UN Commission on Sustainable Development 17th session held at the UN headquarters in New York for her work on Youth in Sustainability in Nigeria where she delivered the Youth Opening Statement for the Youth and Children Major Group. In response to her youth work in the Niger Delta, She was awarded the Prestigous Deskeyser & Friends Foundation 2009 full Fellowship in Germany where she will meet with some 14 Fellows around the world! Esther strongly believes in Inter-generational equity and partnership for sustainability. She is a young leader in Nigeria and has already achieved a great deal. Esther is also the focal person for the CommonClimate Initiative  in Nigeria.  I encourage you to visit her blog: http://esthertransformationalleadership.blogspot.com

new melodyMelody Hossaini, at just 24, Melody is one of the leading youth sector figures in the United Kingdom and increasingly recognised internationally. Melody is currently a Global Youth Sector Consultant. She is one of the founders of the UK Youth Parliament,  and in 2005 she  was elected to Chair the Board of Trustees.   In 2005, she won the prestigious ‘Volunteer of The Year Award’ from the Home Office. More recently, honoured to accept ‘Woman of The Future Award 2008’ as well as ‘Asian Woman of Achievement’ as ‘Outstanding Achievements in the Youth Sector’ as presented by Prince Charles. In September 2008 Melody attended PeaceJam in LA, where she worked with 6 Nobel Peace Prize Winners such as The Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu to implement Global Peace Resolutions linked to Youth Engagement. In 2007, Melody was trained by Al Gore, on Climate Change and has taken on several international project management roles since, including leading in the development of a youth strategy which was presented at United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Bali December 2007 and more recently delivered Project Management and Leadership Training to young people across East Asia Pacific and Middle East and is now preparing training for young people in South America. Melody is also currently managing the climate activities of British Council globally. Melody has also supported the Commonwealth youth agenda on Climate, as she was one of  the facilitator s for   the Commonwealth Youth Round Table on Climate Change. In October 2008, Melody attended an Al Gore conference where she spoke to Al Gore about how young people can be better engaged, and it is due to this conversation that Melody is now working with Al Gore’s Climate Project to Pilot a global initiative to better support young people taking action on climate change. In 2006, she graduated from Oxford Brookes University with a 2:1 in LLB (Hons.) qualifying Law degree. Melody has an extremely cosmopolitan background, having lived in 4 countries and speaking 6 languages”

cholabestChola Simwanza is a very passionate youth worker based in Zambia. He is an outstanding young leader, IT specialist, Ecumenist and Counselor. He has worked with a number of local and international youth organizations. He has been involved in planning and organising various youth programmes on a national and world level. Chola helped organise the Civicus World Youth Assembly 2007/2008, as a steering group committee member.  He is a Group member of the “First Steps Campaign” a youth group that was birthed during the Civicus Youth Assembly and happens to be one of the committee members and helped in the designing of the website. Chola has worked with youth from all over the world in so many areas that affect the youth such as Climate Change/environment, Ecumenism, HIV/AIDS, Gender, etc.  Having an IT background he has been involved in the promotion of ICT, web related programmes, design of programmes , web groups, blogging so as into utilize the internet as a source of information. Chola was  a member of the Planning Committee of the Young Commonwealth Climate Change Summit in London. He is also working on creating some innovative Climate projects, in order to serve national interests in tackling Climate Change. Apart from his excellent work as a youth activist, Chola is also a devoted religious leader and he is one of the youth commissioners of the World Council of Churches, Echos commission on youth, and coordinates the communications sub group.  He also works for the Council of Churches in Zambia as a National Coordinator volunteer intern. Chola is also an active member on the Africa level under the All Africa Conference of Churches, helping with the youth networking and currently is charge of communications of the 4 regional youth groups, thus the North, South, East and Western.

ajan777Ajan Fofanah is a teacher, Public health practitioner, agriculturist, environmentalist  and has long standing experience working with young people both in the UK and in developing countries. When Ajan first heard about the Young Commonwealth Climate Change Network, he was very thrilled and sprung into action.  A few weeks later, Ajan had wholeheartedly offered to serve as an unpaid project consultant and an Adviser to the organizing committee, and also accepted the job of being one of the facilitators of the Summit. Over the past few years, Ajan has grown tremendous passion in Climate Change issues.  Ajan is concerned about the ‘Effects of Climate Change on Public Health’ and how to promote awareness of these effects on the Health of populations, especially young people.  In a philanthropic gesture aimed to empower young people and to discourage deforestation, Ajan had successfully launched a One Thousand acre cashew plantation project, as his contribution to agricultural development; help tackle the effects of climate change, and to   supporting some farmers to grow tree crops that are more sustainable.  Ajan holds a BSc (Hons) degree in Community Health Care, and further pursued post graduate studies in Public Health & Health Promotion.  Ajan has participated in numerous training sessions on youth matters, and obtained a Masters degree in Programme & Project Management, at the University of Warwick.

Troy RuttsTroy Rutt is responsible for the Institute of Commonwealth Studies’ seminar series and conferences. He co-ordinates and publicises the Instititute’s events as well as updating relevant sections of the Institute’s web pages. He assists in the promotion of the Institute and dissemination of publicity and informational material, strengthening links with other organisations and individuals, including the alumni, friendship and membership networks maintained by the Institute.  Troy also manages the marketing of the postgraduate programmes.  He edits the Institute’s newsletter, Commonwealth Matters, which comes out termly, and the Annual Report.  Troy has previously worked at the University of Leicester, Birkbeck College and City University where he has worked in student related positions. Passionate about young people, Troy has been instrumental in the development of the Young Commonwealth Climate Change Summit. Part of his role is to work alongside the planning team in developing the agenda of the Summit, and strengthening links between institute and the team. Troy  helped   to facilitate the Summit, and  maintained  a network of external contacts and publication of the Summit materials.

victoria777Dr Victoria teVelde has led Commonwealth Policy Studies Unit (CPSU) since 2007 and oversees all aspects of the think tank’s work.  Victoria also supervises PhD students in areas of Commonwealth Studies, Governance and Multilateralism at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies.  Victoria’s research areas include democracy, governance and international institutions.  Prior to joining the CPSU, Victoria has specialised in foreign affairs research for several organisations including the House of Commons and the Financial Times Group.   As someone who is passionate about young people and environmental issues, Victoria has been involved in promoting young people’s interest in influencing policies and programmes on Climate Change in the Commonwealth, and also supports the Commonwealth Youth Network on Climate Change. She holds a PHD from the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London and has published numerous articles and reports on foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

Dr. Roselle Antoine MBE has been recognised as an ebullient educator, unique literature specialist and consummate entrepreneur, and has over 25 years experience.    As President of The Roselle Antoine Foundation, an international charity, Dr. Antoine embodies the role of civic ambassador in the field of human development.  In recognising her sterling qualities, nationally, Her Majesty The Queen conferred the MBE on Dr. Antoine in Her New Year Honours’ 2006, for her extraordinary services to education and community affairs. She has also  received serveral other accolades.  Recently Dr Antoine was appointed a Board Member of The Council for Education in the Commonwealth.  Dr Antione has also been the coordinator of the National Youth Conferences in the UK. Her fervor for young people surfaced publicly in this campaign to engage young people in tackling Climate Change. She believes that ‘engaging with young people and linking with other institutions and government agencies will achieve meaningful actions on climate change’.

dsc007421Messeh  Kamara, is a visionary young leader with extensive experience in creating and directing non-profit, community-based & youth organisations. He has been involved in public advocacy and youth work since childhood. Messeh who just turned 22, has already met many world leaders, and has written and participated in various child rights and youth development reports and articles. Messeh has travelled to a number of countries in order to speak at youth conferences and contribute to the work of international development agencies. He has worked as coordinator for a Youth and Climate project at the Commonwealth Youth Affairs Division. As result of his excellent work, he was invited to share Youth Perspectives on Climate Change at the World Urban Youth Forum in China. He was also a contributor to the 2009 Clinton Global Initiative University’s Climate Change agenda. Subsequently, he created the Young Commonwealth Climate Network, and together with his colleagues launched an ambitious plan to host the 2009 Young Commonwealth Climate Change Summit in London, and served  as Director and Secretariat Coordinator for the Summit. Messeh was recently invited as a keynote speaker at the Swedish European Union Presidency Summit  on ‘Human Rights’, focus on children.   Apart from his work  as  Youth  and  Human Rights Activist, Messeh is  also studying Law at the University of London.

Featured Speakers and facilitators:

Mark Collins, Director of the Commonwealth Foundation

Jonathon Porritt, Founder, Forum for the Future, Former  UK Commissioner for Sustainable Development

Juan Fernando Núñez , UN Programme on Youth, United Nations ,New York


The Commonwealth Youth Climate Network delegation at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil



Mr. Chola Simwanza

Lusaka, Zambia 

Chola is a very passionate youth worker, an outstanding young leader, IT specialist, ecumenist and counselor. He has worked with a number of local and international youth organizations and has been involved in planning and organizing various youth programmes on a national and global level. Chola helped organize the Civicus World Youth Assembly 2007/2008, as a Steering Committee member. He is a member of “First Steps Campaign”, a youth group created during the Civicus Youth Assembly and helped in the designing of the website. He has worked with youth from all over the world in climate change, environment, ecumenism, and gender.  With its IT background he has been involved in the promotion of ICT, web related programmes, design of programmes, web groups, blogging so as into utilize the internet as a source of information. Chola was a member of the Planning Committee of the Young Commonwealth Climate Change Summit in London in 2009 and also works on creating some innovative climate projects. Chola is also a devoted religious leader and he has been one of the members of the CYCN who attended the COP17 in South Africa, in 2011. Chola also takes care of its website.
Ms. Slater Jewell-Kemker

Ontario, Canada

 Slater is a young film maker from Canada who is introducing her generation to the Global Youth Climate Movement, through the Youth Constituency at the UNFCCC she has been supporting since 2009. Slater has grown up with the idea that she could create her own media and change the world by making films that address climate change and the need for our world to achieve sustainable development. She has been recognized by the United Nations, My Hero Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival, Cannes Film Festival and others for her filmmaking and activism. Slater has given numerous workshops on film and activism at film festivals and education conferences with the global youth community. She currently lives on a farm in the countryside of Canada. One of the best project of Slater is ‘’An Inconvenient Youth’’, a feature-length documentary that gives a voice to young people living and working on the front lines of climate change. The documentary captures the vibrant though under reported story of the global youth climate movement (http://aninconvenientyouth.com/).


Ms. Raquel Woods

Victoria, Australia

Raquel believes that education plays a crucial role in fostering values, citizenship, positive personal development and skills for young people. In her role as a teacher and student leadership facilitator at a Secondary School in Australia, Raquel believes, “we as citizens need to understand what sparks young people to achieve their personal best. We need to create meaningful opportunities for them to participate in issues they care about and empower them to be leaders of change.” Raquel uses student voice and leadership to tap into young people’s interests and strengths. She completed a student leadership audit of the school’s leadership program. She discovered the leadership program needed to reflect more student diversity and participation. Within two years of implementation, the College’s leadership program has tripled in size and young people are spearheading changes on policies, facilities, resources, infrastructure and curriculum.

Raquel’s passion and belief in others has improved the sense of self, understanding of others and school connectedness among many young people. Raquel understands the importance of young people and their future and is working with her colleagues to foster sustainable development, social justice and entrepreneurship in schools.

International Achievements: In 2011, Raquel was selected to represent Australia at the Commonwealth Youth Forum in Perth. Recently, Raquel has been selected as 1 of 6 youth from around the world to represent the Commonwealth Nations of 54 countries at the Rio+20 World Summit in Brazil.




Mr. Simon Matafai

Auckland, New Zealand


Simon Matāfai


  • …was the first ever Pacific Island Youth Delegate to represent NZ at a United Nations World Leaders Summit. His passion to stand for NZ youth has taken him to New York, Washington D.C, Australia, Dubai & South Africa.
  • Simon has recently been selected as 1 of 6 youth from around the world to represent the Commonwealth Nations of 54 countries at the Rio+20 World Summit in Brazil.
  • Additionally, Simon has been selected to represent SAMOA at the ONE YOUNG WORLD Summit in Pittsburgh, USA.

Not only does Simon believe in the power of the political voice.

He is also a firm believer in the power of music.

  • Simon began playing piano for Church at 10; he won his first choir competition at 14; and he then founded his own school of piano at 21. Simon was one of the conductors for the Rugby World Cup 2011 Opening Ceremony. Simon currently directs the Auckland Gospel Choir & 3 other choirs in the Grey Lynn Samoan Methodist Church. Simon also represents NZ on the Global Youth Music Committee that recently ran a world song competition.
  • Simon is also involved in many community projects from Pasifika Festival; Samoa Village, Miss World Samoa, Miss Samoa NZ, Pacific Mana Productions & the Samoa 2012 Steering Committee. He was named in the top 10 Young New Zealanders of the year for 2011.

As a former Avondale College student. Simon was the first ever Pacific Island to be elected as the Board of Trustees Student Representative and was also Deputy Head-Boy. He was also a recipient of the University of Auckland Chancellor scholarship to study Law, History & Music. Simon is a proud Kiwi-born Samoan from Saleaula & Salelologa.


Ms. Anam Gill

Lahore, Pakistan

 Anam is a young journalist from Lahore in Pakistan. In 2010 she has been actively involved with the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations when she attended their youth summer school with hundred other youth from all around the world. Anam has also contributed with articles to The News International, Dawn Group of Newspapers and The Express Tribune. She worked as Content and Outreach Coordinator for Forgotten Diaries a project that cover conflicts related to political and climate change disasters. Anam has been Program Associate at Interactive Resource Centre, and in 2011 she was member of International Jury 2011 for the Youth Video Competition known as Plural+ organized by the UN Alliance of Civilizations. Anam’s interest for environmental issues has became stronger recently when she join the United for Education and Sustainable Futures (UESF) campaign as Representative from Asia region. Anam also became the Outreach and Communications Coordinator for the Rio+20 Global Youth Music Contest and is dedicated to provide education to under privileged children and youth for a sustainable future.


Mr. Jean Paul Brice Affana

Yaoundé, Cameroon

Jean Paul is aware about the contribution of youth from the Commonwealth to advance the implementation of its agenda. In 2010 he attended the Commonwealth Youth Leadership Program in Rwanda where his activism with the intergovernmental organization became higher than expected. Trained as a Youth and Action Instructor by the Ministry of Youth Affairs of Cameroon with experience in social development and youth entrepreneurship, Jean Paul’s fields of interest include climate change, sustainable development, intercultural dialogue, peace-building, youth empowerment and human rights. He is not only dedicating his time, energy, skills, resources and passion to global youth work to support his peers in addressing issues they face and affecting their life, but he is also a social entrepreneur who shares his vision for a better world with others. That is why in 2009, the World Bank recognized his great potential to engage youth in fighting climate change in the essay he submitted to their competition. The same year, he co-founded Vital Actions for Sustainable Development (AVD), a youth-led organization which aims to educate people to be active eco-citizens in their communities. In 2010, he was elected Focal Point of youth at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Jean Paul is also involved with the Major Group for Children and Youth at the UN Commission on Sustainable Development and the African Youth Initiative on Climate Change. He attended the 8th Commonwealth Youth Forum in October 2011 in Australia.

More details of our Commonwealth Climate Ambassadors coming soon…

Posted by , June 7, 2009 2:54 pm

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