Youth leaders from Commonwealth countries in the Pacific have called for greater action to support countries threatened by climate change and for governments to empower young people to participate in decision-making processes.
The plea was issued by representatives from Australia, Fiji, Nauru, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu at a Youth Leaders’ Forum taking place in the wings of the Pacific Region Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting in Samoa, between 1-3 September 2015.
The young people called for governments and the international community to see young people as partners in delivering new global sustainable development goals and for young entrepreneurs to be given support, including access to capital, to ensure economic growth and sustainable development in the Pacific.
“We call upon Ministers to actively engage young people in national climate change management strategies and policy formulation including the allocation of resources,” the youth leaders’ four-page declaration states.
“We call upon Ministers to engage the youth in activities and projects relating to climate change mitigation, adaptation, relocation, disaster management with sufficient resourcing [and] create awareness on the needed changes at the grass root level in relation to climate change.”
The young people drew attention to “the increasing intensity of climate change disasters” and urged climate change to become part of school curricula in small island developing states.
The call from the youth representatives of Pacific nations, many of which are acutely vulnerable to sea level rises, comes as international negotiations continue for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in December 2015.
In their declaration, the youth leaders encourage governments to “foster a culture of youth entrepreneurship” in the Pacific by promoting youth entrepreneurship skills in schools and creating national and regional youth entrepreneurial networks.
In addition, Ministers were asked to promote the professionalisation of the youth work sector and to promote the full labour rights of youth workers. The young people advocated for “the enhancement of labour mobility in the Pacific, including by reforming the seasonal workers scheme, to provide greater economic and employment opportunities for Pacific youth”.
Speaking ahead of the Youth Forum, Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Deodat Maharaj said: “Most of our Pacific member countries are small island developing states susceptible to economic shocks and those caused by natural disasters. Their vulnerability is now exacerbated by climate change. If these challenges are to be overcome, we must rely on the capacity, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of young people.”
Youth delegates will present their recommendations to Commonwealth Youth Ministers during the ministerial meeting this week.
Harry James Olikwailafa, Pacific Regional Representative of Commonwealth Youth Council, one of the organisers of the Youth Leaders’ Forum, said: “The theme of the Pacific Region Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting, 'youth as partners in sustainable small island development', speaks volumes for the greater need to engage young people.
“The youth forum provided an opportunity to share and discuss issues faced by young people and provided a great opportunity for leaders and young people to listen to each other and meaningfully engage to find better solutions to youth challenges,” he said.
Following the Pacific Region Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting and Youth Leaders’ Forum, Samoa plays host to another major youth event: the Vth Commonwealth Youth Games. Up to a thousand young athletes aged 14-18 will compete for 107 gold medals in nine sports over five days between 5-11 September 2015.
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