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Team QCT discuss justice and equal rights with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, President and Vice-President of The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, joined young leaders from the QCT network for a conversation on fairness, justice and equal rights as part of an ongoing series of youth-led discussions.

In response to the growing Black Lives Matter movement, QCT has been running a weekly discussion with young people looking at various forms of injustice on the experiences of young people today. This is part of the Trust’s wider work on considering historic injustice, which started in late 2019. QCT exists to champion, fund and connect young leaders around the world; this work is being driven by young people in its network and is helping to inform the Trust’s future direction.

In the special session last week, QCT was joined by The Duke and Duchess alongside Chrisann Jarrett, QCT Trustee and co-founder and co-CEO of We Belong; Alicia Wallace, director of Equality Bahamas; Mike Omoniyi, founder and CEO of The Common Sense Network; and Abdullahi Alim who leads the World Economic Forum's Global Shapers network of emerging young leaders in Africa and the Middle East.

In this film, we are sharing key moments from the conversation as participants discussed why these issues matter for us all today, the opportunity to come together to make a difference and the role young people play in driving systemic change for the better.

The group talked about how vital the young people of the Commonwealth are in forging an exciting future. The Duchess of Sussex described the conversation as ‘energising’ and ‘inspiring’.

The Duke and Duchess shared their collective hope and optimism for a better future driven by young people and acknowledged the energy and commitment stemming from the rising generation of leaders.

The Duke observed: “You are the next generation of leadership which this world so desperately needs as it goes through this healing process.”

The conversation covered how critical this moment is for advancing human rights and justice, and pushing towards long-term, practical solutions for the future, as well as the importance of challenging unconscious bias and acknowledging mistakes of the past.

The Duke of Sussex said: “We can’t deny or ignore the fact that all of us have been educated to see the world differently. However, once you start to realise that there is that bias there, then you need to acknowledge it, you need to do the work to become more aware… so that you can help stand up for something that is so wrong and should not be acceptable in our society today.”

The Duchess went on to say how unconscious bias can manifest in different and complicated ways: “It’s not just in the big moments, it’s in the quiet moments where racism and unconscious bias lies and thrives. It makes it confusing for a lot of people to understand the role that they play in that, both passively and actively.”

In looking to the future, the discussion explored specific actions that can be taken by everyone in pursuit of justice, fairness and equal rights as young people across the globe are pressing to address these issues. Advice from young leaders on the call centred around compassion, allyship, diagnosing and challenging systemic issues and creating opportunities for the right conversations to happen that can lead to change.

Alicia Wallace talked about taking action in this moment: “Right now is such a powerful moment because we can combine the things that we know already and the things that we’re learning with the raw emotion that we’re feeling right now…It’s natural to feel grief and rage, but we actually need to change that and turn it into an energy that can be used for real, sustainable action.” She added: “We each need to ask [ourselves] what is it that I’m willing to do right now, and how can I contribute to the change that we can no longer pretend is not necessary.”

Chrisann Jarrett spoke to the importance of being solutions-oriented and keeping the momentum going: “We all need to be in this for the long run. This is not a hashtag… It’s about being persistent with the demand that change must come and we’re not going to stop until it comes.”

Mike Omoniyi spoke about the importance of meaningful allyship and challenged people to go beyond social media: “After pressing send online, people need to roll up their sleeves and do the work… There’s a whole host of things that it means to be an ally but the impetus has to be humility, kindness and a willingness to learn new things.”

Abdullahi Alim continued the theme of learning and urged the next generation of leaders to learn from those who have tried to address systemic issues before, to value lived experience and to remember that “in any situation, it is always best to allow implicated groups to determine what the best course of action is.”

The Duchess echoed this need for understanding and how important it is for people to “know when to lead and know when to listen.”

As well as focusing on specific actions and ideas for the future, the discussion explored the history of injustice and why problems persist across the globe.

In the discussion, The Duke of Sussex emphasised the importance of this: “When you look across the Commonwealth, there is no way that we can move forward unless we acknowledge the past…and guess what, everybody benefits.”

The Duchess went on to say: “We’re going to have to be a little uncomfortable right now, because it’s only in pushing through that discomfort that we get to the other side of this and find the place where a high tide raises all ships. Equality does not put anyone on the back foot, it puts us all on the same footing - which is a fundamental human right.”

In the closing comments, the Duke said: “The optimism and the hope that we get is from listening and speaking to people like you, because there is no turning back now, everything is coming to a head. Solutions exist and change is happening far quicker than it ever has done before.”

The Duchess told the young leaders: “Keep up the incredible work and know that we are right there with you, standing in solidarity. We’re going to get there…and we have a lot of renewed faith and energy in that having had this conversation.”

The Duke closed the conversation thanking the participants with a message that: “This change is needed and it’s coming.”

Article published: July 2020

Meet the discussion participants:

Chrisann Jarrett (UK)

Chrisann in a Trustee of The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust and founder and co-CEO a youth-led charity We Belong. Born in Jamaica, Chrisann has lived in the UK since the age of 8, she founded the project Let Us Learn in 2014 to call for equal access to higher education for young migrants like herself in the UK leading to a change in policy after a Supreme Court win. Since them, Chrisann has worked as Policy Advisor for Social Integration at the Greater London Authorities and through We Belong, advocates for barriers to equal and fair treatment of young migrants to be removed so they can contribute fully in society.

Mike Omoniyi (UK)

Mike is Founder and CEO of The Common Sense Network (TCS Network), a UK based bi-partisan news network for and by millennials. TCS Network is dedicated to finding ‘common sense’ in an increasingly divided and polarised world. TCS shares stories from across the political spectrum, local stories, stories that hold power to account and uncover wrongdoing and stories that empower the forgotten and the unheard. In 2018, Mike was recognized by the Financial Times as one of the 100 most influential leaders in Tech in the UK. As well as founding several initiatives and organisations, Mike consults for various charities and organisations.

Abdullahi Alim (Australia)

Abdullahi Alim leads the World Economic Forum’s network of emerging young leaders, formally known as the Global Shapers across Africa and the Middle East. He works with thousands of young changemakers at the frontlines of tackling systemic injustices and reimagining a truly equitable post-covid world order. He is widely cited as a thought leader on the role of young people in systemic reform and his essays have been published by the likes of Foreign Policy, Forbes, CNBC and The Huffington Post. Abdullahi is a Queen’s Young Leader and was also the WA Young Australian of the Year.

Alicia Wallace (The Bahamas)

Alicia is a Black feminist, women's human rights defender, and writer dedicated to creating community-driven change. She is passionate about social justice with a focus on gender, race, and sexuality. She is a public educator and movement builder, working to increase civic participation and engage people in democracy-building, and sparking dialogue through commentary on political events and pop culture. Her recent projects include hurricane relief for people displaced by Hurricane Dorian and the Out Da Box challenge to the electoral system in The Bahamas. Alicia is the director of Equality Bahamas, writes a weekly column in The Tribune, and produces The Culture RUSH monthly newsletter. She prioritizes education and engagement, understanding them as the foundation of community, challenge, and change.

The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust relies on the generous support of individuals, companies and foundations. If you wish to support young leaders to drive meaningful change around the globe, please get in touch via fundraising@qct.org.uk.

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