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Young people’s right be heard, our responsibility to listen
Today the Pacific Community is joining our friends and partners from across the region and around the world in marking International Youth Day. The day has a special significance in the Pacific, where more than half our population is below 25 years of age. There is no denying that the youth of the Pacific will be driving and shaping this region’s future.
The theme for this year’s event, “Youth Engagement for Global Action”, is both a call for change and recognition of the impact youth are having on the global stage. We have seen clearly how a small voice can completely reframe discussions on key international issues. Who could have imagined that a 16-year-old schoolgirl would end up giving a keynote presentation to the United Nations, and influencing global action on climate change?
In the Pacific, the ‘youth bulge’ presents several pressing development challenges for young people, notably universal access to education and training opportunities, decent work and employment, as well as youth-friendly health services, including family planning. Pacific economies are not able to provide enough work opportunities for all young people in the formal sector, and many young people are now turning to alternatives using creativity and entrepreneurial skills from which we can all learn.
In response, the region has increased its attention on youth issues, priorities and the implementation of youth-focused national plans and policies. These policies are being used as entry points for governments and partners to engage in conversations to facilitate support for young people. However, resourcing, and monitoring and evaluation gaps remain a significant challenge.
As a Pacific development organisation, support for the region’s youth, under the Pacific Youth Development Framework (PYDF), is a fundamental part of our strategic planning. In fact, over the past year we have held regular consultations with young Pacific leaders to listen to their concerns and ensure our new Strategic Plan reflects and supports their ambitions and vision for the region.
Today, through SPC’s integrated programming work, our divisions are directly engaging youth as part of their technical activities. This ‘mainstreaming’ of youth engagement has already made a significant and positive contribution to our work.
I want to take this opportunity to commend all the Pacific youth who have been actively participating in vigorous debates on climate change, environmental conservation and climate action, disaster risk management and reduction, health, cultural development, education and human rights, to name a few.
Youth participation in these forums is opening the doors to invaluable views, opinions and creative solutions which otherwise would not be heard. In the wake of COVID-19, youth engagement in these issues at local, national, regional and international levels has become more important than ever.
To celebrate International Youth Day this year, SPC will host an Intergenerational Dialogue and Learning Event, where we will begin a talanoa and regional conversation on ways we in the Pacific can address some of the challenges faced by our youth from COVID-19, and for the longer term development objectives. I am looking forward to hearing your ideas, innovations and experiences during the Virtual Intergenerational Dialogue and Learning Talanoa on Wednesday, 19 August 2020, from 11am-2pm (Fiji).
The youth are the future, as the old saying goes, but it is sometimes easy to forget that their future is directly connected to our present – to the actions we take here and now. The voices of today’s global youth have a right to be heard and we have the responsibility to listen.
On behalf of SPC, I wish you all a very happy International Youth Day.