Youth leaders represented at a global summit on small island nations in Samoa have called on national governments to include young people as partners for sustainable development.
The Youth Forum was held in Apia on 28 August 2014 as part of the International Conference on Small Island Developing States, ahead of the main summit between 1-4 September, to be attended by Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and leaders of small island developing states.
Katherine Ellis, Youth Affairs Director at the Commonwealth, addressing the Youth Forum, urged government representatives to heed the call by young people, to empower the youth generation and recognise them as genuine assets for national development.
“This is an opportunity to move beyond the rhetoric, beyond the words, and really specify clear action that will empower young people effectively and meaningfully,” said Ms Ellis in her presentation to youth delegates.
“That means including your voices in deliberations and decision-making, and making sure that your unique talents, not just your needs, are strongly recognised in policy and programmes.”
Hundreds of youth delegates from small island developing states in the Pacific, as well as Asia, Africa and Caribbean participated in the Youth Forum. The event, hosted by the Government of Samoa and United Nations, included representatives of the Samoa National Youth Council, the Commonwealth Youth Council and other national and regional youth councils, as well as representatives of international organisations and civil society groups.
The forum was themed around the Samoan word for youth: ‘talavou’. The acronym T.A.L.A.V.O.U. stands for ‘Towards a Legacy of Achievement, Versatility, Opportunity through partnership, and Unity’
Bahamas youth delegate Crystal Alexander was among those delegates hopeful of a positive outcome. “An investment in youth is an investment in change – structural, economic or social change. That’s the future,” she said.
Under discussion were areas of national policy where young people are making important contributions, such as good governance, health, climate change, biodiversity and sustainable energy, water and oceans, education, entrepreneurship and employment, as well as science and technology.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Samoa’s Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, noted that young people make up a large and growing proportion of the population of small island developing states, including around 40 percent of Samoa’s population.
“Leading up to the SIDS conference in the coming week, I am indeed encouraged and heartened by the enthusiastic and hopeful participation of our young delegates. I thank you for your commitment to be part of this historic event,” he said.
Wu Hongbo, United Nations Under Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, added: “History has shown that young people are the drivers of transformative changes and it is our responsibility to create conditions to help them. We must include young people in the decision making process rather than keeping them out.”
The Commonwealth Secretariat part-funded the Youth Forum. Commonwealth representatives included Commonwealth Asia Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs president Nurul Huda Mohamed Afadi, who presented on youth employment and entrepreneurship, Commonwealth Youth Council Pacific representative Harry James Olikwailafa, and Commonwealth Correspondent Steph Carter.
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