Participants of the UNESCO/UNICEF Caribbean Small Island Developing States Regional Youth Consultation
By Samora Reid (Barbados) and Erland George (St Lucia)
KINGSTON, Jamaica -- Eighteen youth leaders from across the Caribbean met in Kingston, Jamaica, last week for the “My World, My SIDS” Youth consultation on the future of youth in small island developing states (SIDS) in the Caribbean region.
This conference, which was supported by UNESCO and UNICEF, was held ahead of the Caribbean regional preparatory meeting for the third conference on small island developing states attended by regional governmental officials, which also took place in Kingston, Jamaica, as part of preparative meetings for the 2014 Global SIDS Conference to be held in Apia, Samoa, in September 2014.
The young people, who were chosen through a rigorous application process, epitomized the vision and future of One Caribbean SIDS. They reflected a number of backgrounds which included the environment, education and culture, international relations, law and governance, health and security, human rights, LGBT and gender equity, and science and technology.
Using this forum as a catalyst for change they discussed, shared and compiled their views on issues relating to the future of Caribbean SIDS and the sustainable development of the region. Their crowning achievement was the formation of an outcomes document now referred to as the Kingston Declaration. This document was also shared and presented at the just concluded at the Caribbean regional preparatory meeting.
The delegates to the regional youth consultation selected five priority issues to be addressed in the document -- education, good governance, climate change, health care and social protection -- and pledged their commitment to pursue follow-up work in their respective countries.
The delegates called upon their governments, private sector and civil society to assist them in achieving:
Providing equal access to quality formal and informal education for all people including vulnerable and minority groups, in particular indigenous peoples. Providing quality education including but not limited to recognition and provision for multiple intelligences which include the arts, technical studies and community development. Ensuring ease of access to quality tertiary education across the region. Incorporating entrepreneurship programs in schools including financial education and job experience to build capacity in children and youth. Training of a cadre of teachers to equip them with the expertise and qualifications necessary to provide quality education for persons with disabilities.
Enabling Student Councils and youth-led organizations for the purpose of affecting national policy development and implementation as an important tenet of youth involvement. Establishment of an open and transparent system to facilitate youth participation in National Delegations to the UN General Assembly on an annual basis. Ensuring youth involvement, openness and transparency in the national decision making process. Ensuring that the private sector is adequately involved in, and contributing to, community development through youth empowerment. Moving steadfastly towards an open and honest political process through which an individual’s political preferences can be expressed and pursued without fear of duress and/or discrimination.
Implementation and continuous promotion of strong public awareness campaigns on climate change to facilitate the education and empowerment of youth to mitigate the effects of and adapt to climate change at the local level. Building capacity at the local level to develop climate change vulnerability maps, natural resource maps and climate change mitigation and adaptation plans. Tree planting campaigns and reforestation programs to maintain and where possible increase carbon sinks in Caribbean SIDS. Direct involvement of youth in natural disaster resilience programs, and creation of educational opportunities to increase the human resource pool in this area of climate change adaptation/mitigation. Provision of incentives to promote widespread use and development of renewable energy technology including solar water heaters, photovoltaic panels, energy saving light bulbs and energy efficient appliances to ensure energy security and efficiency, and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Provision of free, quality, basic healthcare and ease of access for all citizens, including freedom from discrimination. Mainstreaming of adequate and holistic sexual and health education into the Caribbean School System. Advocating for strengthening the regional healthcare network to facilitate access to the most affordable, quality healthcare for patients within the Caribbean. Development of capacity building programs to empower young people to counsel their peers with respect to health issues.
Taking action against discrimination and persecution of vulnerable and minority groups including but not limited to sexual minorities, people with disabilities, HIV+ persons, children, youth, and the elderly. Providing equal opportunity for meaningful employment for all citizens particularly vulnerable and minority groups, in an effort to provide income security, transition from informal employment, alleviate poverty and facilitate future growth and opportunities. Including minority and vulnerable groups, CSOs and NGOs in the decision making process for developing social protection programs. Reducing the risk of citizens becoming victims of crime, by forging a robust system of protection and empowerment for the Caribbean youth including but not limited to those in conflict with the law, out of school, disabled, homeless, living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.
There were two delegates from the beautiful twin island of Trinidad and Tobago, Kevin Holder and Warren Jake Chanansingh, from the University of the West Indies, who assisted in the drafting of the Jamaica declaration document. Warren, the president of the communication studies association, has left a remarkable legacy in the development of the CSA.
The CSA provides practical activities for students to cultivate the essential competencies that are pivotal to thriving as a professional. Understanding the creativity, diversity, critical and analytical skills needed to excel in the field, the CSA acts as a catalyst for students to express themselves, understand and experience many exciting situations that shape meanings, communication, cultures and societies. The CSA works with students to bridge the gap between theory and practice, allowing for a holistic understanding and experience of the field.
Holder is an enthusiastic and passionate young man when it comes to the development and enhancement of young individuals who he may come in contact with. He is currently a student of the University of the West Indies, and this tertiary institution has enabled Holder to spread his wings and to develop a forum for Caribbean culture, science, politics, social services, sport and much more.
Holder has been able to develop and enhance the Caribbean Civilization Club at the university. The purpose of the CCC is to provide a forum for critical thinking of the Caribbean and to discuss ideas and issues that affect Caribbean life and living. The aim of the club is to provide enlightenment of the Caribbean society to its members and also to provide them with encouragement to enjoy and affect their society. The club has also been able to develop a webpage, a group for discussion about issues affecting the region. Through all their programs they are seeking to publish their first magazine.
“There is a great need for youth to develop strategies to deal with unemployment in our country and the region” Holder said. “One of the ways we as individuals can do this is to have collaborative programs between schools and businesses, to develop entrepreneurial skills that are geared towards the area of studies of individuals such as humanities, sciences, social sciences and modern studies. This in turn would provide the individual with the experience and expertise required. We as a region need to stop focusing on exams since the world of work is not based on exams but rather analysis, projects and formulating policies to better deal with our problems.”
Also coming out of this meeting was the formation of the Caribbean Sustainable Development Youth Coalition, which the delegates have established to build capacity and raise more awareness of the work of youth in Caribbean small island developing states. This coalition will provide a support structure for programming and promotion of youth development work in achieving and working towards sustainable development goals in the region.
The conference was designed and run by the group of selected delegates and was not a training event but a place for dialogue and debate, for sharing their visions about the future and figuring how to advocate for this with their various governments. The themes that were discussed focused on what is most important to young people.
The youth meetings have not ended there. In the coming weeks, young people of the Pacific and also the Indian/Atlantic small island developing states will go through similar processes as youth continue to air the views ahead of SID+2014 in Samoa.