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Forum of Ministers responsible for Social Development in the Caribbean

15 February 2010 | Minister Neletha Butterfield

MR. SPEAKER, I RISE THIS MORNING TO INFORM MY HONOURABLE COLLEAGUES ABOUT THE FIRST FORUM OF MINISTERS RESPONSIBLE FOR SOCIAL AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN THE CARIBBEAN HELD FROM 24TH – 26TH JANUARY 2010 IN KINGSTON, JAMAICA. I ATTENDED THE FORUM ON BEHALF OF THE HON. PREMIER, AND WAS ACCOMPANIED BY MY PERMANENT SECRETARY WANE CAREY.

MR. SPEAKER, THE FORUM, WITH THE THEME “SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT STRATEGIES FOR CARIBBEAN YOUTH IN THE CONTEXT OF THE ECONOMIC CRISIS”, WAS JOINTLY SPONSORED BY THE GOVERNMENT OF JAMAICA AND THE UNITED NATIONS EDUCATIONAL, SCIENTIFIC AND CULTURAL ORGANIZATION (UNESCO), AND WAS ATTENDED BY SEVERAL CARICOM MINISTERS OF SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT INCLUDING THOSE FROM BELIZE, BERMUDA, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS, DOMINICA, GRENADA, JAMAICA AND TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO. THE FORUM ALSO INCLUDED SENIOR GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS FROM OTHER CARIBBEAN NATIONS INCLUDING ANGUILLA, ANTIGUA, GUYANA, MONTSERRAT, ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES, AND TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS.

MR. SPEAKER, THE YEAR 2010 HAS BEEN PROCLAIMED BY THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY AS THE INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF YOUTH, AND THE FORUM PROVIDED AN OPPORTUNITY TO ENGAGE IN POLICY DIALOGUE REGARDING YOUTH DEVELOPMENT. MINISTERS AND OTHER DELEGATES EXCHANGED INFORMATION ABOUT POLICY AND PROGRAMME INITIATIVES TO ADDRESS THE CHALLENGES FACED BY YOUTH, AND SOUGHT TO FIND WAYS TO ENCOURAGE REGIONAL POLICY COORDINATION AND IMPLEMENTATION.

MR. SPEAKER, THROUGHOUT THE FORUM IT WAS RECOGNIZED THAT YOUTH HAVE BEEN DISPROPORTIONATELY AFFECTED BY THE GLOBAL ECONOMIC CRISIS; UNESCO ESTIMATES THAT UNEMPLOYMENT RATES FOR YOUTH ARE HIGHER THAT AVERAGE, BETWEEN 11 – 15%, ON A WORLDWIDE BASIS. IN CONSIDERING SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT STRATEGIES FOR YOUTH DEVELOPMENT, THE FORUM ACKNOWLEDGED THAT DRUGS, CRIME AND VIOLENCE ARE CONSEQUENCES OF A LACK OF INTEGRATION OF YOUTH INTO SOCIETY, AND THAT ACTIONS AND BEHAVIOURS OF YOUTH TODAY ARE THE PRODUCTS OF OUR PAST YOUTH POLICIES.

MR. SPEAKER, VARIOUS STATEMENTS AND PRESENTATIONS WERE MADE BY CARICOM MINISTERS AT THE FORUM ON THEIR EXPERIENCES AND PRACTICES ON THE TOPIC OF YOUTH DEVELOPMENT. I MADE A BRIEF PRESENTATION HIGHLIGHTING ACHIEVEMENTS OF OUR MINISTRY’S CHILD DAY CARE ALLOWANCE PROGRAMME AND THE MIRRORS PROGRAMME, AS WELL AS PROGRESS UNDER THE CROSS MINISTRY INTERVENTION TEAM (CMIT) PROGRAMME.

MR. SPEAKER, NOTING THE CRITICAL IMPORTANCE OF INVESTING IN YOUTH, THE FORUM CONCLUDED WITH A JOINT DRAFT MINISTERIAL DECLARATION RECOMMENDING ADOPTION OF SEVERAL POLICIES FOR COHERENT AND COORDINATED NATIONAL AND REGIONAL ACTION.

MR. SPEAKER, AMONG THE KEY POLICY AREAS HIGHLIGHTED IN THE DRAFT DECLARATION ARE THE FOLLOWING:

▪ DEVELOPMENT OF NATIONAL YOUTH POLICIES WHERE NON-EXISTENT AND THE REVIEW OF EXISTING POLICY INSTRUMENTS; SUCH POLICIES SHOULD HAVE THE SUPPORT OR SPONSORSHIP OF HEAD OF STATE OR CABINET LEVEL;

▪ ENSURING THAT ADEQUATE LEGISLATION EMPOWERING AND PROTECTING THE RIGHTS OF YOUTH IS IN PLACE; AND

▪ CARICOM, WITH SUPPORT FROM UNESCO, SPEARHEAD EVALUATION OF EXISTING YOUTH POLICY AND PROGRAMME INITIATIVES WITH A VIEW TO IDENTIFYING GOOD PRACTICES WHICH HAVE PROVEN EFFECTIVE IN ENCOURAGING YOUTH PARTICIPATION AND CIVIC ENGAGEMENT.

MR. SPEAKER, THE FORUM IDENTIFIED SEVERAL SPECIFIC ACTIONS FOR IMPLEMENTATION. THESE INCLUDE:

▪ PROMOTING FORMAL AND NON-FORMAL (OPEN SCHOOL) EDUCATION;
▪ LINKING EDUCATION AND JOB SKILLS AND VOCATIONAL TRAINING;
▪ PROMOTING CULTURAL ENTERPRISE AND DEVELOPING CULTURAL INDUSTRIES;
▪ PROVIDING COMMUNITY SPACES DESIGNED FOR YOUTH (INFORMAL, SPORTS, CULTURAL, EDUCATION) INCLUDING WEB SPACES (INTEGRATED TECHNOLOGY);
▪ LEVERAGING PRIVATE SECTOR PARTNERS (MICRO-ENTERPRISE DEVELOPMENT);
▪ PROMOTING HEALTH WELL-BEING AND SEX EDUCATION;
▪ PROMOTING YOUTH MEDIA; AND
▪ MANDATING YOUTH LEADERSHIP OPPORTUNITIES E.G. YOUTH PARLIAMENTS AND LOCAL COUNCILS.

MR. SPEAKER, ONE PARTICULARLY INTERESTING INITIATIVE OUTLINED AT THE FORUM WAS YOUTH PATH – A YOUTH POVERTY ALLEVIATION PROJECT SPONSORED BY UNESCO. THE PROJECT REPRESENTS ONE OF 20 GLOBAL PROJECTS UNDER THE MILLENIUM DEVELOPMENT GOAL OF HALVING POVERTY BY 2015. THE PROJECT TRAINS YOUNG PEOPLE BETWEEN THE AGES OF 15 AND 25 TO CREATE SUSTAINABLE LIVELIHOODS THROUGH NATURAL AND CULTURAL HERITAGE TOURISM.

MR. SPEAKER, THERE WAS A COMMON RECOGNITION AT THE FORUM OF THE NEED TO INTEGRATE YOUTH IN GOVERNMENT DECISION-MAKING. IN THIS REGARD, ARTICLE 11(1) OF THE AFRICAN YOUTH CHARTER, ADOPTED IN 2006, STATES THAT “EVERY YOUNG PERSON SHALL HAVE THE RIGHT TO PARTICIPATE IN ALL SPHERES OF SOCIETY”. AT THE FORUM IT WAS SUGGESTED THAT CARICOM GIVE CONSIDERATION TO ADOPTION OF A “CARICOM YOUTH CHARTER” MODELED AFTER THE AFRICAN YOUTH CHARTER. THERE WAS ALSO ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF THE ROLE OF ARTS AND CULTURE AS A TRANSFORMATIVE TOOL TO ENGAGE YOUTH AND PROMOTE YOUTH DEVELOPMENT.

MR. SPEAKER, IN SUMMARY THE FORUM WAS VERY INFORMATIVE AND PROVIDED PERSPECTIVES WHICH BERMUDA CAN EXAMINE AS WE SEEK TO PROMOTE THE SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF OUR YOUTH AND ADDRESS ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOURS IN OUR COMMUNITY.

THANK YOU, MR. SPEAKER