Caribbean in the forefront of integrating young people

Paul Abena

More than a hundred speakers voiced their support for the participation of young people in national and global efforts for peace, development and human rights, urging global attention to overcoming obstacles to the self-realization of youth consistent with the wide-ranging outcome document. Many spoke of the need to harness the energy of youth that had been witnessed in recent upheavals in Arab countries.

Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs of Suriname Paul Abena, who is also the Special Envoy of the President of Suriname, spoke on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). He said the regional grouping was at the forefront of engaging and integrating young people in the region by providing opportunities to be actively involved and to further their creativity and talents.

Paul Abena:  The CARICOM youth agenda aims to empower youths aged 15 to 29 to take advantage of and contribute to regional integration and the CARICOM Single Market and Economy. It is anchored in the Regional Strategy for Youth Development, with the following thematic priorities: social and economic empowerment opportunities for development, protection, leadership, governance and participation, and health and reproductive rights. Follow-up initiatives include updating the regional institutional framework for youth development and elaboration of CARICOM Youth Development Goals. In relation to this, a Technical Working Group has been established with support from UNICEF. The UNDP also sponsored a youth and crime prevention pilot project, which was implemented in a number of member States. The CARICOM Secretariat is currently developing a standard regional research instrument to monitor youth development issues and trends and to support the sustainable implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the CARICOM youth agenda.

NAR: Minister Paul Abena noted that an important component of the region's youth agenda since 2003, has been the CARICOM Youth Ambassadors Programme. He described the programme as the community's mechanism for deepening levels of youth participation, partnership in regional integration and in region-wide social and economic development processes.

Paul Abena: CARICOM Youth Ambassadors form a network of young Caribbean leaders mandated by CARICOM Heads of Government to advocate for and educate young people about regional priorities such as the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, and HIV and AIDS. Non-communicable diseases have traditionally been associated with the elderly population. Young people however, are now increasingly affected or at risk of developing NCDs, due to their exposure to the four common risk factors namely: unhealthy diets, lack of physical activity, tobacco use and the harmful use of alcohol. To ensure that all our citizens, including our youth enjoy the highest attainable standards of health, addressing the incidence and prevalence of these diseases remains a regional priority. Another issue of concern to the region pertains to the high rates of youth unemployment, with female unemployment rates significantly higher. CARICOM will remain engaged in efforts to address the global challenge of youth unemployment and in this regard, we will support efforts to develop a global strategy on this issue.

NAR: Minister Abena said similarly, crime and violence remained a major concern among adolescents and youth in almost all countries in the region and was associated with poverty, unemployment and social inequalities. In that regard, CARICOM supported initiatives within the United Nations system that prioritized and increased support for youth development. He believed the global community would make an excellent investment by increasing financial and capacity-building support for youth development, especially to disadvantaged regions and communities.

This is Donn Bobb reporting.

Duration: 3’13″

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