This year’s International Youth Day saw the launch of Tonga’s National Youth Policy 2021-2025 and Strategic Action Plan 2021-2025, complementing the theme, “Healthy Youth, Healthy Tonga”/“To’utupu Mo’ui lelei, Tonga Mo’ui lelei”.
The policies included critical topics such as health and wellbeing, the effects of alcohol and drugs, employment, social protection and the creation of an enabling environment at national level to represent youth issues in Tonga.
This is the island Kingdom’s first ever national policy and strategic plan primarily focused on youth which was celebrated as a step towards securing a better future.
Previously, youth development was mostly guided by action plans, in combination with ad hoc activities. The vision to develop a policy framework was introduced by the Youth Division of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and work began in 2018 with the help of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) offices in-country.
During the development process, the Ministry reached out to the Pacific Community (SPC), through its Human Rights and Social Development (HRSD) division, seeking technical support and financial assistance to help complete the work.
Lord Fakafanua, Speaker of Tonga’s Parliament, delivered the main address by quoting a passage from the scriptures, frequently mentioned by the Late Majesty, King George Tupou I, from Hosea 4:6, saying, “My people are destroyed because of lack of knowledge”. When anyone is apart from God, he/she will lack ‘good’ therefore, he will not know his/her own value, and will do the same to others and his environment. The social and economic impacts will be affected negatively by their poor choices.”
He reminded Tongan youths that rights come with responsibilities and urged them to “choose wisely” and live by good example for the betterment of the future generations.
Speaking on behalf of the Tongan Government, the Speaker acknowledged development partners who contributed to the national policy, particularly expressing his appreciation to HRSD for its assistance.
Dr Paula Vivili, Deputy Director-General of SPC, acknowledged the theme of the event and said this was a “powerful declaration by the Tongan Government, partners and stakeholders of the collective commitment and dedication to nurture the talent and potential of young Tongans as nation builders”.
Dr Vivili praised Tonga’s commitment to engage youth at all levels of development to help build back the nation in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent humanitarian disasters.
“It is symbolic of the traditional landowners, government leaders, community and church leaders and all other sector’s collective vision that a transformative and resilient Tonga is underpinned by the health of young people. It speaks to foresight that calls for leaders trust in young Tongans to carry forth the baton of transformational change for the country’s development,” he added.
Dr Vivili also congratulated the youth of Tonga for their efforts in shaping policy priorities for youth development. HRSD’s assistance to develop Tonga’s National Youth Policy was enabled through financial assistance from the New Zealand Government.
The milestone achievement was celebrated at the Falemasiva Hall in Nuku`alofa and was attended by Cabinet and government officials; many faith-based, community-based and non-governmental organisations; development partners; and young people from around the country.
The launch coincided with International Youth Day 2021 celebrations as youth organisations engaged in some friendly competition relating to the theme. Tonga Youth Employment Entrepreneurship, Tonga Youth National Congress and Live and Learn won first, second and third prizes, respectively. Celebrations continued throughout the day/into the evening with traditional entertainment and a display of talent by the youth.