By Leituala Kuiniselani Toelupe Tago-Elisara
International Youth Day is a time for us to celebrate our younger generations, and to consider the investment we can make today to ensure they are able to achieve their full potential tomorrow.
This year’s theme for International Youth Day is ‘Safe Spaces for Youth’ which highlights the need for safe spaces where youth can come together, engage in activities related to their diverse needs and interests, participate in decision making processes and freely express themselves. This theme promotes the idea of ensuring safe spaces where young people are not only heard, but are also provided with appropriate and relevant support to enable their participation as key stakeholders and beneficiaries of development.
Safe spaces such as civic forums enable youth to engage in governance issues; public spaces afford youth the opportunity to participate in sports and other leisure activities in the community; digital spaces help youth interact virtually across borders with everyone; well planned physical spaces can help accommodate the needs of diverse youth especially those vulnerable to marginalization or violence.
The Pacific Community’s (SPC) Social Development Programme (SDP) has a long history of working on youth related issues in the Pacific and the past year has been no exception. During the last 12 months, we have continued to collaborate with our partners to support youth development at different levels.
Regionally, we remain a strong advocate for youth through our engagement in the relevant regional platforms such as the Pacific Human Rights Conference recently held in Nadi, Fiji in collaboration with our Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT). We have also been very pleased to see how the Pacific Youth Development Framework continues to guide strategic regional interventions and has resulted in significant progress thanks to the strong support from our UN partners. The completion of State of Pacific Youth Report and the Regional Youth Indicators are just two examples of how data on youth is now being gathered and used to support smart policy decisions across the Pacific.
SDP support for youth’s networks and groups has also been an ongoing activity, particularly with engagement and assistance provided to the Pacific Youth Council (PYC) the Pacific Girl programme, and the Pacific Sexual and Gender Diversity Network (PSGDN) for the establishment of the LGBTI Youth Network.
At national level, SDP technical assistancet for the [email protected] Programme in Solomon Islands has continued with a focus on the completion of the Exit Strategy for the Programme. Our work on this Exit Strategy will ensure that the Government of Solomon Islands is provided with the support they need so that the [email protected] Programme can be fully sustained through Government programming and financing after 2019. Meanwhile, the [email protected] Programme remains a key attraction for young people not only in Honiara but also in Malaita and the Western provinces with a total of 251 new interns and 193 entrepreneurs becoming part of the programme.
In Vanuatu, negotiations are now complete on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Government, which will enable the integration of the [email protected] model into the Vanuatu’s National Economic Empowerment Programme. The implementation phase for this work had already begun and we are confident that the success we have seen in Solomon Islands will be replicated with strong Government leadership and support.
In commemorating International youth Day on the 12th August 2018, we urge our government focal points, regional and development partners, and all communities in the Pacific to promote safe spaces and reduce the marginalization of young people at all levels. The youth of today will be the leaders of tomorrow, let us all work to ensure they have the confidence and support they need.