A speech delivered by Prince Harry at the Opening of the Youth Forum, Queen Elizabeth II Centre

Published 16 April 2018

I am particularly honoured to be speaking to a room of inspiring young leaders in my first speech as The Queen's Commonwealth Youth Ambassador

Hello and good morning.

It's very exciting to be here with you today for the opening of the Eleventh Commonwealth Youth Forum.

I am particularly honoured to be speaking to a room of inspiring young leaders in my first speech as The Queen's Commonwealth Youth Ambassador.

When I was reflecting on how to make the biggest impact with this new role, I turned to the ultimate source of guidance on all things Commonwealth: the words of The Queen herself.

On the day of her 21st birthday, the then Princess Elizabeth gave an extraordinary radio address from Cape Town. With an eye on the future, and an already unflinching sense of duty, she made a commitment. She said that whether her life be long or short, it would be dedicated to the service of the people of The Commonwealth.

All of us here today can be grateful that it is a long life The Queen is still enjoying. Her Majesty's commitment has meant that The Commonwealth is a thriving family of nations, a common link between nearly two and a half billion people, and a defender of democracy, justice, and peace.

I believe firmly that central to The Queen's success in supporting The Commonwealth has been her constant focus on not just the Prime Ministers and Presidents of member nations, but of the people themselves.

From that speech in 1947 onwards, she has known that young people really make the difference. Her call to action was for her fellow young people to lead the way in making the Commonwealth "a more free, more prosperous, more happy and a more powerful influence for good in the world."

As I travel around the Commonwealth in my work on behalf of The Royal Family, it is striking to see just how different today's generation of young adults are.

You are connected. You have made positive use of technology to build relationships within your communities, nations and across the globe.

You care. You want your nations to be cleaner, your planet to be greener, your friends and neighbours to be treated fairly and with respect, no matter their ethnicity, their religion, or their status.

You are optimistic. The complicated challenges we face – climate change, inequality, conflict – they do not discourage you. Rather, they inspire you to persevere and effect change.

I am sure that it is the young people of The Commonwealth, not just those in its 22 Island Nations, who will lead the world's response to climate change. After all, you are the ones who are experiencing it daily, and we must do more to make these changes a reality and truly move the dial. After all, 60% of the Commonwealth is under the age of 30. And at 1.4 billion strong, it is you who are going to change the world.

The young adults I have met across the Commonwealth have shown me time and again that your generation understands something very important: that to tackle a big challenge, you need to focus on the root causes, not the symptoms -- something my father has believed for years, yet something society still struggles with.

This is what I have learned from people like Patrice Madurai who I met in South Africa two years ago. Patrice was concerned about poor education and employment outcomes in rural and impoverished communities.

What she realised is that one thing holding people back was a lack of formal identification documents that meant they couldn't sit their exams or apply for jobs. So she set up mobile clinics where people could take the vital step of registering for their citizenship.  Patrice wasn't looking for a short-term fix; she was finding a long-term solution.

As an environmentalist, Wen Shin Chia wanted to persuade people to behave more responsibly in how they lived their lives. She knew that the practice of pouring household cooking oil down the drain was badly affecting the water supplies to whole communities across Malaysia. But she knew that just telling people to stop wouldn’t work, so she set about changing this behaviour by offering free soap in exchange for used oil. She now recycles this used oil into eco-cleaning products and candles which are sold back into the communities.  This is just another example of changing mind-sets and tackling an issue at its root.

I know that serving as an ambassador to young people I am going to have to try to keep up with you.

I am working now to plan my first year in this role. And my hope is to convene young leaders from across The Commonwealth to discuss how best we can make Commonwealth platforms work for you, and to ensure maximum impact.

Both here in the UK and as I travel, my job will be to listen to you.  My duty will be to ensure that your ideas, concerns, thoughts, and hopes are heard. And my commitment will be to work with you to build better platforms for your leadership, and to help you collaborate and form partnerships with your peers across nations.

In my new role, I will work to support The Queen, my father The Prince of Wales, and my brother William, all of whom know that young people are the answer to the challenges of today. I am also incredibly grateful that the woman I am about to marry, Meghan, will be joining me in this work, of which she too is hugely excited to take part in.

Before I close, and in my first act in this role, I am delighted to announce that the Commonwealth Scholarships scheme will be expanded from 2019. Thanks to the generosity of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries, 150 new scholarships for study in low and middle-income countries will be made available by 2025.

This scheme, which is run by the Association of Commonwealth Universities, will enable more of our talented young people to access life-changing opportunities to study across The Commonwealth, for generations to come.

I am also proud that in recognition of Her Majesty The Queen’s extraordinary service to the Commonwealth, these scholarships will be known as The Queen Elizabeth Commonwealth Scholarships.

I want to end by thanking you. It is an honour to be The Queen's ambassador to a generation that inspires me every single day.

I am here to support you.

And I cannot wait to see what you are going to achieve together.

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