By Regina Selman Moore
The establishment of a unified Regional Youth Council has been discussed by Caribbean youth leaders eager to see youth in the Commonwealth Caribbean represented as a collective unit and President of the Barbados Youth Development Council (BYDC) Jason Francis has been elected as Chairman of the Steering Committee, responsible for seeing the project through.
This decision was reiterated last month in Kingston, Jamaica at the Commonwealth Caribbean Youth Leadership Summit, which marked the second phase of a process initiated in March 2011 by the Caribbean Youth Programme (CYP) Caribbean Centre. The Summit provided the opportunity for Caribbean youth leaders to come together to determine a strategy and plan to achieve wider and sustained participation of young people in democracy, leadership and advocacy.
Summit deliberations were led by a youth team under the Chairmanship of Jason Francis, President of the Barbados Youth Development Council, who was elected in 2011 to advance a programme for cross-council support, capacity building, advocacy and strengthened democratic youth structures. The CYP Caribbean Centre has noted that the Commonwealth-sponsored process was inclusive in practice, as it welcomed leaders from key youth platforms, such as the CARICOM Youth Ambassador Corps, the UNDP Caribbean Youth Think Tank and the UWI Guild of Graduates.
The delegates agreed on a three year strategy aimed at achieving a strong and unified Regional Youth Council for the Caribbean, beginning with the English-speaking countries and extending to embrace a Pan Caribbean demographic.
Speaking with the Barbados Advocate recently about the mammoth task of getting a Regional Youth Council up and running, Francis remarked that he is happy to see Barbados leading out in such an initiative, but he remains humble, as the task will not be easy.
He is, however, up to the challenge, having pushed for other Caribbean countries to have National Youth Councils while in his leadership capacity over the last four years as head of the local Youth Council (BYDC). Having a Regional Youth Council (RYC) would be an asset for the region Francis noted, since the Caribbean would now have a bigger voice at global summits dealing with critical issues affecting youth.
Francis noted that at present, there are several committees appointed to work on the RYC, inclusive of a Constitutional Committee and others dedicated to Marketing and Public Relations, Monitoring and Evaluation and Strategic Planning. Each of these committees will have a timeline and terms of reference to ensure success.
“The deadline for the establishment of the Regional Youth Council is September 30th 2013 and basically, some of the things we looked at in terms of that council and what its objectives would be, for example, is to have a united voice at the regional level [and] to lobby on the behalf of young people to various agencies at the CARICOM level. Also, to be able to attract resources and pool those resources together, where they can, for example, be disbursed to the various youth councils to work with various development agencies, whether it be the United Nations, the Commonwealth, the USA, the European Union and as well as interact at the international level,” Francis explained.
“My role as Chairman of the Steering Committee is to ensure that the Constitution is in place, the strategic plan is in place, as well as adequate monitoring and evaluation systems, marketing and public relations, so that we can get the recognition for the body, which it would need to be able to function at the level it needs to be functioning at,” he added.
“A lot of this is being pushed by the Commonwealth Youth Programme and we cannot waste this opportunity to aid young people, since they are investing resources to bring together different youth leaders from across the English-speaking Caribbean and eventually the Dutch, French and Spanish,” he also stated.
“Barbados has also played a very important role in this through the BYDC. I guess our hard work has been recognised by the other youth councils and our seriousness of purpose. It is more work, but having been a proponent for regional integration, especially at the youth level, I have a vision for where I would like to see the Regional Youth Council go,” Francis said.
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