Youth Ministers and youth leaders in the Caribbean have called for “strong recognition” of the needs and aspirations of young people at a high-level conference in Antigua and Barbuda.
In a joint statement issued on 30 April, the governments of 15 Commonwealth Caribbean countries and territories endorsed a call from youth leaders for greater influence by people aged 29 and under on policy making, as well as support to stem youth unemployment and encourage young entrepreneurs.
At the Caribbean Region Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting in St. John’s, governments committed to regional action to deal with crime and violence including the “development of strategies to promote safety and security of young people”, among other measures.
Young people should have “access to opportunities to participate effectively in peace-building and the civic life of their societies, and in decision-making and monitoring across all sectors of national development,” the Ministers said in their final day communiqué.
“Ministers further agreed to continue and strengthen and support youth entrepreneurship by facilitating easier access to technology and finance for young people, particularly those unable to furnish collateral”, the statement adds.
The Ministerial Meeting, which was preceded by a Youth Leaders’ Forum and a Senior Officials Meeting, was convened by the Commonwealth Secretariat and hosted by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda.
Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister, H.E. Gaston Browne officially opened the three-day conference by stating: “Youth should be at the forefront of our developmental strategy. I want to take this opportunity to reconfirm the full commitment of my Government to youth development.”
“We consider the youth of this country not only the future, but the present. To utilise our human resources optimally is to ensure the full participation of our youth in all aspects of our development,” the Prime Minister added.
Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Deodat Maharaj, who addressed the meeting, called for a long-term vision for the Caribbean with youth centrally involved. “The decisions we make today will determine where this region will be in 2050. Given the very many challenges we face, we simply cannot leave 60% of the population out of governance," he said.
“Investing in young people, ensuring decent employment prospects, including them in decision-making, and creating an enabling environment where creativity, leadership and energy can flourish will invariably lay the foundation for prosperous, healthier and stronger societies.”
Following the Youth Leaders’ Forum, representatives of national youth councils and other youth-led Caribbean organisations issued a ‘Youth Declaration and Plan of Action’.
The declaration, which was echoed in large part by Ministers, calls for additional targets related to youth development and inclusion to be included as part of a set of Sustainable Development Goals which are expected to be agreed at the United Nations in September 2015.
“Setting goals is a crucial step,” reads the youth declaration. “With goals, we have something to strive for. Without them, we have no way of measuring our successes and failures in our efforts to put youth participation at the heart of national and sustainable development.”
Both Ministers and youth leaders urged support for policy measures that give young women equal access to employment opportunities, that ensure universal access to information and communications technologies for young people, and that ensure the early detection and treatment of youth mental health issues, among other policy proposals.
Antigua and Barbuda’s Minister of Social Transformation and Human Resource Development, Hon. Samantha Marshall, stated: “Unemployment and underemployment are truly key issues for young people which we have to address, to provide our young people with the future that they deserve.”
Mr Timothy Ferdinand, Chair of the Caribbean Regional Youth Council, which is a member organisation of the Commonwealth Youth Council, said: “This meeting signifies the start of dialogue at the highest level between young people and decision makers in the Caribbean region.
“We made a call for young persons to no longer be left out of decision making, and we expect that call to be honoured.”
Notes to Editors:
Commonwealth member countries represented at the Caribbean Region Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting (CR-CYMM) in St John’s, 28-30 April, were Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago.
Territories represented at the CR-CYMM were Anguilla, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos Islands, and British Virgin Islands.
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Commonwealth Youth Programme
The Commonwealth Secretariat’s youth development work is delivered through the Commonwealth Youth Programme, which has been supporting member countries for over 40 years.
The Commonwealth Secretariat engages and empowers young people, provides thought leadership on youth development, and encourages governments, youth practitioners and young leaders to create environments that enable young people’s social, economic and political potential.
Learn more: thecommonwealth.org/our-work/youth