As you are no doubt aware, the 2014 General Election will be held next weekend. This election will determine the membership of the 51st Parliament and in turn decide the future direction of our country. Opinion polls, ministerial resignations, and scandalous political revelations aside, this election is shaping up to be the most important in a generation. It is encouraging to see that Advance Votes cast are already double what they were at this point in the last election, including those votes cast from overseas.
New Zealand is not the only Commonwealth country that is holding important elections in September. After 8 years, Fiji will finally hold a general election on September 17. Fiji's membership to the Commonwealth has been suspended since the 2006 coup, so it is heartening to see that positive steps are being made to restore democracy to one of our most colourful Pacific neighbours.
The Scottish independence referendum is also scheduled to be held on September 18. Rhetoric has been flying thick and fast from both sides of the debate and current polling data suggests that Scotland will gain independence from the Union - and perhaps become the 55th Commonwealth member state.
Whatever the outcome of these votes, the exercising of a person's democratic right to vote is very important. I do hope that with the lowest ever recorded voter-turnout in the 2011 General Election more people, and especially young people, do not take their right for granted and cast their vote before polls close next Saturday. It is our job to help those who may seem disillusioned with the political process or feel voiceless.
Have a great September!
Aaron Hape Executive Director
Commonwealth Youth New Zealand
2015 Commonwealth theme announced
‘A Young Commonwealth’ has been chosen as the theme for Commonwealth Day 2015, which takes place on 9 March.
Announcing the theme, Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma said: “People aged 25 or under account for the majority of the Commonwealth’s population, and play a vital role at the heart of sustainable development and democracy. ‘A Young Commonwealth’ recognises the capacity, contribution and potential of young people, particularly in 2015 when the world will define a new global development framework.
“The Commonwealth is also a family of dynamic countries at the forefront of innovation, growth and contributing global value. As a diverse and increasingly connected global network, we bring fresh perspectives and new ideas. We will always remain a contemporary and young Commonwealth.”
Commonwealth Youth Awards to recognise passion and excellence
Nominations are now open for the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Youth Work. The annual awards recognise the invaluable contribution of young people to development, in community, national and global contexts.
Part of the Commonwealth Youth Programme, the awards provide a platform to showcase and expand the work of outstanding young people across the 53-nation Commonwealth community.
Past winners have brought their talents and commitment to powerful ventures such as environmental waste management, solar energy in remote villages, online education communities, and youth leadership.
Nominations for 2015 should demonstrate how a young person’s work, whether professional or voluntary, has helped to promote a development goal, such as empowerment of marginalised groups, education for all, peace, democracy, human rights, health, sport and culture, or protection of the environment. The entry period closes on 30 October 2014.
If you’re not going to be in your electorate or can’t get to a voting place on election day, the easiest way to vote is in advance. Information on voting in advance will also be in your EasyVote information pack, which you will receive about a week before election day. Voting in advance in your electorate is easier than casting a special vote.
If you need help to read or mark your voting papers, a friend, family member or electoral officials can help. Just ask when you go to vote. Anyone who doesn’t speak English can take a friend or family member to the advance voting or voting place to help. If, for whatever reason, you’re unable to get to an advance voting place before election day, you’re legally entitled to have time away from work to go and vote on election day.
Judging begins for 2015 Commonwealth Essay Commpetition
The theme for this year's competition was 'Team Commonwealth', touching on both the XX Commonwealth Games and the spirit of friendship between Commonwealth nations. Young writers were encouraged to explore this theme and its relevance to their lives in fun, academic, witty and most of all creative ways.
Each year a team of dedicated judges from across the Commonwealth come together to review the thousands of essays, plays, letters and other creative responses submitted to the annual Commonwealth Essay Competition.
In 2014 fifty-six judges spent two months reading over 9,000 entries. Gold, Silver and Bronze awards were made and the very top submissions were forwarded to the Panel Judges.
The Panel Judges are a specially selected team of ten judges and one Chair, who each bring a unique set of skills and experience to the competition, but are all united in their passion for youth empowerment, writing and creativity in the Commonwealth.
Guest blog: Katherine Mcindoe on 33Fifty: The Commonwealth Youth Leadership Programme
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. She recently blogged about her experience with the programme and her time in the United Kingdom on the Commonwealth Youth New Zealand website.
SIDS 2014: "Tackling social development concerns among youth"
Small island developing states are especially vulnerable to external economic and environmental shocks. At the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States in Samoa, 1-4 September, the Commonwealth is partnering with the United Nations, governments and international organisations to help build the resilience of these countries.
Social development concerns came under the spotlight during the pre-conference Youth Forum, reports Steph Carter, 23, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Australia, as did the importance of representative youth networks. You can read Steph's blog here.