Thirty young people from thirteen countries across the Caribbean participated in a two-day workshop which was held in Kingston, Jamaica from 24–25 July 2014, as part of the preparatory activities leading up to the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
It was organized by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund; the United Nations Education, Scientific and Culture Organisation (UNESCO) in collaboration with other UN agencies and CARICOM.
Building on the Youth Declaration which emerged out of the Youth Empowerment and Sustainability conference held last year, the young people who participated in the Regional Youth Advocacy Workshop, reaffirmed key issues to be advanced at the upcoming SIDS Conference in Samoa 1–4 September 2014. They include Education, Climate Change, Good Governance, Social Protection and Health Care. They also developed key messages around each issue to help create a better understanding of the uniqueness of Caribbean countries and the vulnerabilities that threaten sustainable development in the region.
“As a Grenadian who cares about the future of our youths I see an urgent need for the Government of Grenada to ensure that youths are protected. Social protection is one of the key areas to ensuring sustainable development — social protection should be equal for all no matters a persons race, political affiliation, gender or sexual orientation. I urge the youths of Grenada, Carriacou, and Petite Martinique to become involved and let our voices be heard”, said Michael Thomas who attended the workshop.
“Given the size of the youth population, young people have a stake in ensuring that the world takes account of the region’s vulnerability to natural disasters and economic shocks”, said Sheila Roseau, Director UNFPA Sub-regional Office for the Caribbean.
“As young people, you have many concerns and ideas and we want to hear them. We want to ensure that the voice and realities of Caribbean people are echoed on the international stage and in Samoa so that your priorities, the priorities of the region cannot be ignored; and that the development agenda post 2015 is truly reflective of all our regions.”
Warren Chanansingh, Deputy Global SIDS Focal Point and UNFPA Youth Advisor based in Trinidad & Tobago, while acknowledging that youth voices are increasingly being recognised as important in development and developmental processes, warned that this inclusion must never be tokenistic.
“We therefore need to continuously ensure and advocate for youth to be recognized as equal partners in creating sustainable futures. Let us, together, abolish the tokenistic participation of young people through our strategic advocacy of developmental issues. As young people, we need to recognise that we have a responsibility to ourselves and the world we live in, to make it a better place for everyone,” he stated.