In recognising the need for a high-level forum to monitor the situation of youth and drive progress in the Pacific, the member countries and territories represented at the Pacific Community’s 9th Conference today agreed that a focus on youth would become a standing agenda item at the organisation’s governing body meetings.
This was one of 21 agreed recommendations put forth at the biennial Conference in Alofi, Niue, following a High-Level Dialogue on “Nurturing a resilient generation and future Pacific leaders”.
The dialogue was facilitated by the Director-General of the Pacific Community (SPC), Dr Colin Tukuitonga, who said this was an opportunity to make a difference in ensuring responsive youth development in the region.
“We know that these issues are not new. There has been very little change in the status of youth in the Pacific in the past 10 years. Yet the implications of these issues are huge, affecting the ability of countries and territories to develop economically and socially,” said Dr Tukuitonga.
“Failing to invest sufficiently in youth will trigger substantial economic, social and political costs,” he said.
The dialogue provided an opportunity for Pacific Community members, youth representatives, development partners and the UN Secretary General’s Envoy for Youth to explore opportunities to increase investment towards a range of issues affecting Pacific youth, including non-communicable diseases, climate change and employment.
Over half of the Pacific region’s 10 million people are under the age of 25, of which an alarming 23 percent are currently unemployed.
To address this, Pacific member states agreed to support the development of opportunities to help build skills for young people, in the form of regional awards for youth enterprise, youth internships at SPC and the adaptation of good practices through South-South cooperation.
The members also recognised the Pacific Youth Development Framework 2014-2023, coordinated by SPC and the Pacific Youth Council, as the regional approach to youth-centred development in the Pacific.
“Youth are opportunities not liabilities,” the UN Youth Envoy, Ahmad Alhendawi, said in a strong and heartfelt keynote address to Pacific delegates and development partners participating in the dialogue.
“We are talking about more than 5 million current and upcoming brilliant minds that have the potential to transform the region.
“I am planning to work closely with the Pacific Community and the Pacific Youth Council and its member organisations to mobilise and support young people from the region towards achieving the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals,” he added.
Pacific government representatives also got the opportunity to hear of current efforts being implemented by Samoa, Solomon Islands and Australia to catalyse youth development at the national and regional level.
They also expressed great appreciation at the valuable insight provided by Pacific youth through a statement delivered by the Pacific Youth Council Vice-Chair, Inangaro Vaka’afi.
“Young people are sometimes put into groupings and labelled by society with rather negative connotations like NEET – Not in Education, Employment or Training. These types of labels do not incite pride or hope but if you can see it from our perspective, these young people are actually potential game changers of the economy,” Vaka’afi said in addressing the forum.
“Youth across the Pacific are taking the lead in climate change actions and solutions with youth-led movements like the Pacific Climate Warriors from the 350.org networks.
“We respect our elders, culture, traditions and ways but we also need to step up and use our voice not only as the leaders of tomorrow but as your partners today,” Vaka’afi said, based on a statement prepared with input from Pacific Youth Council members across the region.
The Pacific Community’s 9th Conference concluded today.
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NB: date shown is for Niue (GMT-11 hours)
Caption: The United Nations’ Secretary General’s Envoy for Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, meets young people in Niue