“If you are still saying young people are the leaders of tomorrow; you are just not getting it.”
Angelique Pouponneau, Vice-Chairperson for Inclusion and Engagement in the Commonwealth Youth Council, opened the youth breakfast meeting at the Fourth Global Biennial meeting on Small States in Seychelles. She welcomed Mr Deodat Maharaj, Deputy Secretary-General of the Commonwealth; Hon. Jean-Paul Adam, Seychelles Minister for Finance, Trade and the Blue Economy; Mrs Caron Rohsler, British High Commissioner to the Seychelles; and Mrs Marie-Pierre Lloyd, Seychelles High Commissioner to the UK, as well as young people from small states across the Commonwealth, including Mauritius, Samoa, Jamaica, The Bahamas, Namibia and Aruba.
Minister Adam, known for his support for young people in the Seychelles and those from Small Island Developing States, made opening remarks focussing on the fact that leadership is not about holding titles or the big office but rather that every person can lead. He pointed to a recent initiative by the SIDS Youth AIMS Hub–Seychelles, in which it undertook successive clean-ups to rid the coastlines of litter, as a clear sign of leadership. He called for synergies with the energy of young people to bring about the change that we want to see take place.
We cannot forget that it was DSG Maharaj who proposed this dialogue as he was keen to hear from young people. He reiterated that he values the input of young people and opened the discussions with the poignant statement, “Youth have a voice, now tell us what is it you want.”
The discussion was opened by Ms Karuna Rana, who represented the Commonwealth Youth Climate Change Network. She passionately showcased the work of young people, especially an initiative by the SIDS Youth AIMS Hub in partnership with the Indian Ocean Commission to host peer-to-peer training to teach 200 young people aboutconcepts of climate change and COP21. She reminded that we have managed to achieve so much with limited support and funding but imagine how much more we can do with more investment and resources for young people. Mr Kurtis Lespoir from the Seychelles, a Commonwealth National Youth Delegate, called for a re-evaluation of the curriculum and questioned whether it is fit for purpose. He suggested that we need entrepreneurship in the curriculum to ensure we are creating job creators and job seekers.
Ms Tahere Siisiialafia from Samoa, an executive board member of the Pacific Youth Council, explained the struggles of regional youth councils and called for investment in youth organisations to ensure that we are seen as legitimate organisations doing important work. Ms Anael Bodwell, who sits on the Board of the Seychelles National Youth Council, called for a systematic inclusion of young people rather than having it be an ad hoc process.
Marchea from The Bahamas and Erastus from Namibia, two young people attending the main conferences made their contributions and called for governments to not only give the initial support for youth-led projects, but to also stick around and keep motivating young people. Adolf from the Seychelles made a poignant point that small states are often left behind when it comes to technology and called for the Commonwealth to provide technical assistance to them. Angelique identified the role of young people with regards to the Paris Agreement as people who can monitor and evaluate the progress of governments in the implementation of the Nationally Determined contributions and asked the Commonwealth Secretariat to help to develop a mechanism to do this, possibly through an online tool.
60% : 40%
Final remarks from the 40%, included the HE Rohsler urged young people to act now and use their energy. HE Lloyd asked young people not to forget marginalised groups . Minister Adam concluded with his appreciation of the comments and thanked young people for the innovation, time and energy they contributed to sustainable development, and acknowledged as Minister of Finance that he cannot always finance all great ideas but asked that we do not give up.
Tijani Christian, Chair of the Caribbean Regional Youth Council, from Jamaica, left a lasting impression with the stark statistic and drove the message home – young people are 60% and we must therefore invest in our most valuable asset of this time.
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