I rather hesitate to interrupt a large group of people who are clearly enjoying themselves! But, if I may, I just wanted to say how pleased I am to have come to the "People's Space" this afternoon and to have heard from many of you how the events here are helping you to understand what it really means to be part of the Commonwealth Family of Countries - and, indeed, helping you to find out what the Heads of Government Meeting is all about.
This is my first-ever visit to Uganda. I am so very pleased, at long last, to have the opportunity to see something of your country for myself. My wife and I are particularly looking forward to visiting the Source of the River Nile tomorrow.
I have been hearing how the “People's Space” has been developed by a close international partnership including the Commonwealth Foundation and the British Council, of which I am proud to be Vice-Patron. I have no doubt that the many thousands who visit the Space will retain different memories, depending on their particular personal background, training and interests. Among the many global priorities presented here, there are two which will particularly stick in my memory.
The first is Climate Change. The environment is one of the key themes of this CHOGM and I have just been looking at the Environment Pavilion here at the People’s Space. Ladies and Gentlemen, we all hold this Planet in trust for our children and grandchildren. Like any precious gift, we can choose to abuse it and pass it on damaged; perhaps even damaged beyond repair. Or we can try to think ahead and do our utmost to ensure there is a Planet left for our children to inherit. We only have one of them, but at present we are putting such pressure on it that Climate Change has become the greatest Challenge facing Mankind. It is literally a question of survival for Commonwealth friends such as Tuvalu and the Maldives as they face sea-level rise and, in common with many other countries, risks of severe weather-related disasters. It is also, of course, of vital importance for Uganda, whose fertile lands grow the most wonderful organic produce which, in turn, depends on the climate remaining stable, which in turn depends on the eco-system services provided by precious rainforests…
The other issue that really strikes home is the importance of helping young people into work. The ‘Prosperity’ pavilion tells an important story. United Nations estimates show that almost half of the World’s officially-registered unemployed are young people - and what is even more frightening is that this number shows an upward trend. Within the next ten years, more than a billion young people Worldwide will be reaching employable age. One of our greatest challenges, therefore, is to determine how will we bring them into the workforce.
A little over thirty years ago I created my Prince’s Trust in the UK to help disadvantaged young people achieve their full potential. An important part of its work has been the initiative established to provide access to finance and – crucially - mentoring to young people to enable them to turn their ideas into real businesses. The model seemed to work and, seven years ago, we started applying it overseas, as Youth Business International. The YBI Network is now active in thirty-nine countries (including twenty Commonwealth members) and has already helped to start nearly 90,000 youth-led businesses. They, in turn, have created employment for many hundreds of thousands of others. The Network now helps to start a new business every ninety-four minutes of every day.
I cannot tell you how delighted I am that Uganda has shown an interest in joining this global network and it gives me the very greatest pleasure to be able to launch, today, the latest programme in the YBI Network which will be called the Uganda Youth Business Trust. So many people have worked tirelessly to establish the new programme that it is invidious to single out any one partner. But I hope you will forgive me if I just mention the Loomba Trust and our Ugandan Trustees, who have been outstanding in their generosity and enthusiasm.
This opportunity is now squarely in the hands of the key players - young people, mentors and financiers. I hope you will seize it with both hands. I, for one, will be following your progress with the greatest interest.