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Caribbean Youth Leaders commit to National Youth Councils by 2012
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Caribbean Youth Leaders commit to National Youth Councils by 2012

The Commonwealth Youth Programme Caribbean Centre facilitated a Caribbean Youth Leadership Summit during March 29 to 31st in Bridgetown, Barbados. For three days Youth leaders from 21 countries, together with the President of the European Youth Forum and members of the Duke of Edinburgh Award, looked at practical ways to strengthen youth governance networks at both the national and regional levels based on measures that have worked regionally and in Europe.

The Summit was a response to calls from Governments and young people attending various high-level Commonwealth meetings to place focus on youth participation in decision-making and to strengthen the role to be played by democratically elected youth councils in leading young people in decision-making and development. In this way the Summit also reflected aspirations of the United Nations International Year of Youth, under the theme “Dialogue and Mutual Understanding”, which has been launched to generate much needed attention on youth participation and youth development at local, national and global levels.

According to Acting Regional Director of the Commonwealth Youth Programme Caribbean Centre Ms Dwynette D. Eversley in her remarks, said the Summit sought to build and strengthen National Youth Councils.  Ms Eversley referred to CYP’s asset-based development principles where young people are involved in identifying issues to be addressed, and finding and leading solutions.  She described the Summit as an investment in building social capital for good governance and democracy. “We know that youth have skills and competencies in developing and sustaining youth networks that can benefit other young people and communities. This Youth Leadership Summit is an opportunity for you who are represent to lead that process and form dynamic alliances that will yield benefits at community, national and regional levels over time.

Mr. Henry Charles, Interim Director Youth Affairs Division, Commonwealth Secretariat in his address stated that the Caribbean had a strong history of dynamic youth leadership that had shaped many significant aspects of our socio-political culture and young people had in this way been at the helm of pioneering achievements. According to Mr. Charles “This world is at a stage of development globally and the purpose of the NYCs are very important, they provide a good scope for self assessment that would lead to important outcomes.  He further mentioned that “youth need a better political space within society.  He urged the youth leaders to seek to record their place in development and decision-making, starting by documenting the impacts to development that youth have made.

The Feature Address was delivered by the Honourable Stephen Lashley, Minister of Family, Culture, Sport and Youth Affairs of Barbados, who recalled the decision of the Commonwealth Caribbean Youth Ministers Meeting in Barbados in 2010 under his chairmanship that had recommended the development of a standardized model of Youth Representation, that integrated the full representation of unattached youth and those at the grass root levels. He commended the convening of the Youth Leadership Summit that would work towards this aim. “It is evident that Youth Networks need strengthening; there is the need for appointment of Youths to boards and the establishment of Youth Parliaments. This Youth Leadership Summit seeks to provide youth leaders with the resources to strengthen individual as well as organizations,” Minister Lashley noted.

The Summit discussed the need for greater collaboration and closer attention to adapting good practices to support each other in addressing common issues facing Councils in the Region. At the end of the 3 day meeting the youth leaders made concrete agreements to work bilaterally in the short to medium term to establish youth councils in each country where they do not currently exist, drawing upon a pool of good practices that they had agreed upon based on national operations and those set out by the President of the European Youth Forum in his presentation.

According to Dominica’s Youth Council President, “If the NYCs are not strong, we can’t have a strong regional or international voice”. The Summit set themselves a deadline of 2012 for youth councils to be established or revamped in the eight countries of the region where they are currently non-existent or dormant. Recognizing the benefits of a strong regional youth governance network, the Summit also committed itself to working towards this process.   A team chaired by Jason Francis, the President of the Barbados Youth Development Council has been put in place to manage the wider youth consultative process to achieve this aim, with communication, outreach and capacity building earmarked for particular attention.

CYP has agreed to support the further development of strategic plans by youth councils NYCs, which the Summit identified as a key contributor to their stability and continued relevance.  This development programme will be initiated in July 2011 as a self- driven phased activity that provides guidelines for participating National Youth Councils to conduct consultations with members and stakeholders, and use the data to draft a strategic framework for moving the NYC forward. Each step must be successfully completed for a youth council to qualify for the final strategic planning session planned for the last quarter of 2011.

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