Last week Kingston, Jamaica was the proud host of the Commonwealth Caribbean Youth Leadership Summit. The resumed Summit took place from July 23 to 26 and was the second phase of a process initiated in March 2011 by the CYP Caribbean Centre. The Summit was strongly youth-designed and -led, and comprised nineteen (19) delegates representing national youth councils and networks from fifteen (15) Commonwealth Caribbean nations.
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. This process recognised (a) the unique position and legal remit of national youth councils and youth governance bodies to reach and mobilise young people for their own development and for nation-building; and (b) the formidable asset base of the collective strength, talent and energy of Caribbean youth leaders working collectively towards a common goal of better social, economic and political participation for all Caribbean youth.
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 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 to combine their passion, commitment and strategic partnerships behind a clear vision for “connected Caribbean young people” through the work of a strong regional youth governance network.
The Hon. Lisa Hanna, Minister of Youth and Culture, Jamaica delivered the feature address at the Official Opening Ceremony, and Acting Regional Director of the Commonwealth Youth Programme Caribbean Centre (CYPCC), Ms. Dwynette Eversley, encouraged the youth leaders to take up their roles in facilitating a change in the region. She posited that “you are the pioneers of your nations, with great responsibility, and the ones who will determine if you leave a legacy or not”.
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. The delegates also agreed on the need.
The Summit appointed several committees to work on constitutional, communication membership and other important issues and also agreed to take advantage of social media and communication avenues available at national levels to engage greater awareness and action from more young people, including unattached youth, youth in fringe groups and young people with disabilities for the successful realisation of a united Regional Youth Council. To help guide a truly inclusive and representational approach to the work ahead, the delegates benefited from an intensive one day session on Democracy, Leadership and Good Governance: Strategies for Advocacy led by well-known academic, community advocate and governance adviser Professor Rosalea Hamilton of Jamaica.
Commonwealth Regional Youth Caucus Chair for the Caribbean, Ms. Shireene Mc Millan (Grenada), will continue to provide overall coordination support to the youth leaders as they work across borders to achieve their goal.
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