His Excellency, Peter M. Christian, President of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), held a high-profile National Youth Conference from 8‒10 August in the state of Chuuk to mark International Youth Day 2017. In his keynote address, the President reflected on the need to focus on peacebuilding following periods of difficulty, “It is okay to fall, but it is more important to pick yourself up afterwards.” He encouraged youth delegates to persevere for their aspirations.
The theme of International Youth Day, “Youth building peace” is a significant one for the Pacific region as it speaks to the role of young people in seeking opportunities to shape their futures and live happily in peace. The theme is also engrained in the Pacific Youth Development Framework (2014‒2023), which was developed by SPC working with partners and youth. The Framework is a guide for addressing youth issues in the region through the development of programmes and policies in both the youth sector and across other development sectors. One of its strategic approaches is an inclusive rights-based approach that specifies the importance of involving young people in decision-making. When young people are included in policymaking process, leaders can make more informed and more successful policy decisions.
FSM’s National Youth Coordinator, Mr Stuard Penias emphasised the critical role of youth for the future of the entire region. “Our youth can be agents of peace,” said Mr. Penias, “this is why we have dedicated this conference to establish the structure through which we can work together with young people to ensure that we have a peaceful and prosperous nation.”
During the conference FSM state youth councils and other youth delegates provided inputs to shape the development of the national youth policy and their own youth state action plans. These were formalised by the adoption of an outcomes statement, which included recommendations such as promoting youth entrepreneurship by utilising local resources. Youth delegates also stressed the need for stronger policy measures to prevent the scourge of non-communicable diseases (NCD) such as tax-control on alcohol and cigarettes.
The issue of gender-based and family violence was discussed at length, prompting the youth delegates to call for culturally-appropriate community-based interventions. Newly elected President of the FSM National Youth Council, Mr Timothy Ruda, remarked on the importance of discussing such issues within the context of culture saying, “Our culture is an ever-changing process, and it needs to take into account the realities of youth today and issues such as dress-code and physical punishment of children.”
The state of Kosrae in FSM also shared their innovative approach to empower young people through the 16 Remarkable Teens Programme. This initiative, implemented by the State Government and the youth-led Kosrae Youth Development Association, recognises and supports the efforts of young people to contribute to their community in different ways. Working in partnership with young people can promote peace, can resolve intergenerational conflict, and can contribute to greater citizenry to contribute towards social and economic growth and development.
The Pacific Community has long been a strong advocate for youth issues with the subject set as a standing agenda item for the Pacific Community’s annual meeting of the Committee of Representatives of Governments and Administrations (CRGA). At the 47th CRGA, held in Nouméa from 24 to 26 July, members acknowledged the advances made in strengthening data on the situation of youth including youth entrepreneurship and the integration of youth into new sectors such as climate change. Members also applauded the efforts to strengthen youth networks and ensure that key populations of youth are better represented in decision-making processes. Particular note was made on the need to establish a network for LGBTI youth and encourage their engagement in policy dialogues.
Through a standing partnership with the Pacific Youth Council (PYC), SPC also provides administrative support, mentorship, and hosting to the PYC Secretariat. A grant has supported their governance structure and sustainability planning. This allows the PYC to provide support, in turn, to 10 National Youth Councils, providing capacity-building opportunities, advocacy and facilitated partnerships to support objectives at country level. Most significantly, the establishment of Young Entrepreneurs Councils in Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, and Tonga now serve as networks for young entrepreneurs.
Recent progress across the region and within countries promises significant results for the future, in which youth build peace, building on significant work already being done.
Mereia Carling – Human Development Adviser – Youth, Email: [email protected]