Youth Ministers from Commonwealth countries in the Pacific have vowed to champion a greater focus on young people in decision-making processes in order to achieve new global sustainable development goals.
In a joint statement issued on 3 September 2015, representatives from Australia, Fiji, Nauru, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu agreed on strategies to ensure youth empowerment and development priorities are included in national and regional development frameworks.
The declaration was issued at the end of the Pacific Region Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting, which was convened by the Commonwealth Secretariat and hosted by the government of Samoa from 1-3 September 2015. The meeting was preceded by a Youth Leaders’ Forum and a Senior Officials Meeting.
Over the course of the three-day summit, Ministers committed to a coordinated regional approach to youth-centred development, as well as to the implementation of the Pacific Youth Development Framework, which covers key youth policy areas such: as youth education and employment; health; governance and participation; and environmental action.
Ministers also resolved to work together to strengthen national youth policy frameworks and action plans across the region, and to provide greater support for the Pacific Youth Council and national level youth platforms.
The issue of climate change loomed large in the discussions, with Ministers heeding a call by youth representatives at a parallel Youth Leaders’ Forum to recognise young people as champions of climate change action.
“Young people are at the frontlines of climate change and already affected by its impact in their daily life; and should be included in decision-making and action on climate change issues,” said the Ministers.
“We will provide greater support to ensure that young people are empowered and equipped with the necessary information and skills to act as equal partners in the global and regional response to climate change,” they added.
In their Samoa declaration, the governments also considered recommendations submitted by the youth leaders in relation to fostering youth employment and entrepreneurship, professionalising youth work, and strengthening national youth participation structures.
The Ministers agreed to “foster a culture of youth entrepreneurship” by including entrepreneurship skills curricula in both formal and non-formal education and training institutions. They also pledged to encourage and strengthen labour mobility schemes and establish national and regional networks in the mould of the Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs.
Hon Jimson Fiau Tanangada, Minister for Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs in the Solomon Islands, said: “It has been important for us to all meet and work together this week to empower our young people. The opportunity to share examples of good policy and programmes creates a domino effect. It has also been encouraging to note the youth leaders' assurances that they want to partner with us. As Nelson Mandela said, ‘We must use time wisely and forever realise that the time is always ripe to do right’.”
Speaking after the conclusion of meeting, Katherine Ellis, Director of Youth at the Commonwealth Secretariat, commented: “The Ministers’ declaration is a strong indication of the high-level commitment that exists to support the effective participation and engagement of young women and men in the Pacific. This is only one step in the journey towards ensuring that young people are able to contribute fully to sustainable social and economic development.”
Following the Pacific Region Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting and Youth Leaders’ Forum, Samoa plays host to another major youth event: the V Commonwealth Youth Games. Up to a thousand young Commonwealth athletes aged 14-18 will compete for 107 gold medals in nine sports over five days from 5-11 September 2015.
Notes to Editors:
The Commonwealth Secretariat’s youth development work is delivered through the Commonwealth Youth Programme, which has been supporting member countries for over 40 years.
Find out more online: thecommonwealth.org/our-work/youth
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