UNESCO Youth Forum Statement on SIDS

Global-UN-Conference-on-Small-Island-Developing-States-that-will-be-held-in-Apia-Samoa-1-4-September-2014-1024x418Youth as Partners in Sustainable Small Island Development

Note:  This is an output from the UNESCO Youth process and that it’s NOT an official Major Group of Children and Youth Statement. Our statement can be found: http://childrenyouth.org/2013/09/08/inputs-to-sids-preparation-conferences/

I.                   Preamble

1.   The world we live in is increasingly uncertain, especially for young people. As we embrace post-modernity and advance towards development, progress and new forms of technology, youth in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) continue to face exacerbated vulnerabilities as a result of their small country size, remoteness, susceptibility to climate change and natural disasters, exposure to external economic shocks and social ills and limited opportunities for economies of scale. It is undeniable that the case of SIDS is special, atypical and unique. The nexus of SIDS and Sustainable Development is a matter of resilience and survival for the younger generation.

2.   Young people are one of the most important assets of SIDS. Not only are they aware and conscious of the challenges faced by their respective countries, youth from SIDS are emerging as a powerful Major Group within societies, with the capacity to  drive change. The youth of today are exposed to a broad spectrum of information through multiple media, and have the will, energy and creativity to acquire the skills and produce the services needed in a sustainable future.

3.   With this long-dating recognition of youth, UNESCO, UNICEF and other partner organizations held a total of three regional youth meetings in Jamaica, Fiji and Seychelles throughout the month of July 2013. The meetings were convened under the theme, ‘My World, My SIDS – Y.E.S (Youth, Entrepreneurship and Sustainability)’ and enabled youth of the Caribbean, Pacific and AIMS region to identify and discuss the issues, challenges, weaknesses and stumbling blocks faced by youth in SIDS. In addition, the regional meetings also provided a platform for youth to articulate their vision of the future they want and put forward concrete recommendations to be implemented at national, regional and international levels. The outcomes documents from these meetings were then fed into the high-level preparatory meetings held in each of the three regions.

4.   This inter-regional youth outcome document is a synthesis of the three regional youth statements written by youth from many countries, on behalf of young people from SIDS. It represents our collective response, as SIDS youth, to the problems faced by youth in SIDS and our plans to ensure Sustainable Development of our respective island states.

5.   We, as SIDS youth, acknowledge that the first Global Conference on Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States in 1994 was a transformative process and a major first step in advancing the cause of sustainable development. We also recognize the importance of the Rio+20 Summit ‘Future We Want’ outcome document in shaping the new vision for SIDS. But our islands’ survival and the future of young people remain at peril. The SIDS 2014 meeting represents a crucial and decisive process to strategize and consolidate our voice, as SIDS, within the international community.

6.   It is undeniable that an active youth participation in policy and decision-making processes will enable young people to help steer the SIDS community towards a sustainable future. Our energy, drive, passion, creativity, experience, openness and ability to view things from a different perspective make us a key, credible partner in achieving a sustainable future.

II.                Empowering Youth as Partners in Sustainable Small Island Development

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts:

  • the concept of needs, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and

  • the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.”

From: Our Common Future – Brundtland Report

7.   Around the world, young women and men are driving change and claiming respect for fundamental freedoms and rights; improved conditions for them and their communities; opportunities to learn, work and participate in decisions that affect them. At the same time, due to persistent crises, they are faced with acute challenges affecting important aspects of their lives. More than ever, it is now time to improve investment in research, policies and programs to create an enabling and rights-based environment where youth prosper, exercise rights, regain hope and a sense of community, and engage as responsible social actors and innovators.

8.   The process of empowerment can be considered as one which enables individuals/groups to fully access personal/collective power, authority and influence, and to employ that strength when engaging with other people, institutions or society. It encourages people to gain the skills and knowledge that will allow them to overcome obstacles in life or work environment and ultimately, help them develop within themselves or in the society.

9.   The World Bank, defines empowerment as follows: “Empowerment is the process of enhancing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices and to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes. Central to this process are actions which both build individual and collective assets, and improve the efficiency and fairness of the organizational and institutional context which govern the use of these assets.”

 10.  Although there is no single institutional model for empowerment, experience shows that certain elements are almost always present when empowerment efforts are successful. The four key elements of empowerment are:

  • Access to information
  • Inclusion and participation
  • Accountability
  • Local organizational capacity

11.  The youth of SIDS have recognized the urgent need to develop and implement a Strategic Youth Empowerment Program to facilitate quantifiable progress and development with respect to the aforementioned four elements of empowerment. Local organizational capacity is the founding pillar of guiding this process towards youth empowerment.

12.  Partnerships can be defined as ‘collaborative arrangements in which actors from two or more spheres of society (state, market and civil society) are involved in a non-hierarchical process, and through which these actors strive for a sustainability goal’.

13.  Increasingly, modern scientific literature proposes two major perspectives on inter-sectoral partnerships, focusing on different aspects of the partnership phenomenon and addressing quite distinct questions. The first, the institutional perspective, looks at partnerships as new arrangements in the environmental governance regime. The second, the actor perspective, frames partnerships as possible strategic instruments for the goal achievement and problem solving of individual actors. Our review is organized around these perspectives.

14.  So as to ensure Sustainable Development in its truest sense, youth must be empowered as equal partners in the local and national decision making process, at all  levels and in all facets of government and governance. This is both a fundamental right as well as a moral obligation for the leaders of the present society.

15.  The youth of SIDS are committed to establishing formidable, structured and results based partnerships with national, regional and international agencies, for advancing a common vision for a Sustainable Future that transcends all forms of discrimination.

16.  It is against this background and rational that the youth of SIDS within the AIMS, Caribbean and Pacific Regions, have rallied around the theme “Empowering Youth as Partners in Sustainable Small Island Development”.

III.             Youth Priorities for Sustainable Development of SIDS

17.  Key challenges and priorities for SIDS Youth with respect to Sustainable Development were considered from two major points of focus. Firstly Sustainable Development was considered within the scope of the Global Development Agenda. More specifically, the UN My World Survey, was used as an instrument to initiate dialogue and build consensus on priority areas for youth-led action on sustainable development in SIDS.

18.  Secondly the status of youth involvement, empowerment and progress in implementing the SIDS Sustainable Development Agenda, as articulated in working documents such as the Barbados Program of Action (BPOA) and the Mauritius Strategy for Further Implementation (MSI) was considered.

19.  Based on the deliberations of youth from the three regional youth consultations, the following issues emerged as the key priorities for youth-led action on Sustainable Development in SIDS:

a)   Good Education – A future in which all children have access to high quality primary and secondary education that equips them for employment and an enjoyable life. A future where Governments and the private sector should work together to provide opportunities for lifelong learning and skills development for adults.

b)   Employment – A future in which governments and private sector companies should do more to make sure that everyone can find a job where they earn a decent wage, and can contribute and feel valued as a productive member of society. In addition, the enabling environment for young entrepreneurs to develop Micro Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (MSMEs) must be established.

c)   Health – A future in which there is universal access to good quality health services which should be available to the public at any time they may need treatment. Efforts should be made to reduce the impact of infectious and other chronic diseases. Both the funding and the organization of health systems should suit the needs of the country and its citizens.

d) Climate Change – This means that governments should take on binding commitments to reduce carbon emissions to levels which can keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees, and invest in adaptation measures particularly involving vulnerable communities. Moreover there must be robust programs for public awareness, education and empowerment to participate actively in efforts to mitigate and adapt to Climate Change at the local and national level.

e)      Good Governance – A future in which governments are effective, transparent, accountable and not corrupt. A future where people have a say in what the government’s priorities should be, and confidence that they will implement those priorities competently. Governments should agree and implement standards for making information available to all people on how public money is spent and how national assets are managed.

IV.             Practical and pragmatic action for achieving our common vision

20.  The youth of SIDS from the AIMS, Caribbean and Pacific Regions are calling upon our Governments, Private Sector and Civil Society to assist us by facilitating the meaningful participation of youth in the decision making process at all levels of government and governance. Moreover SIDS youth are requesting the adoption of necessary working documents which establish official partnerships between stakeholders within youth networks in SIDS and their respective governments, private sector institutions and civil society organizations.

21.  It is hoped that adequate technical and financial resources will be made available to SIDS youth, so as to improve the process of empowerment for contributing to Sustainable Development. The youth are committed to developing sustainable development projects, designed to contribute to quantifiable improvement with respect to the challenges they face as per the aforementioned five priority areas for the Sustainable Development of SIDS. More specifically, SIDS youth stand committed to taking Strategic Action with regard to the following initiatives:

Education

a)   Youth-led initiatives to improve literacy levels in SIDS.

b)   Youth-led programs to facilitate education of the civil society on environmental protection and climate resilience, entrepreneurship, self-development etc.

c)   Annual dialogues with Central Government Agencies and Private Sector Stakeholders, regarding access to Tertiary Education, particularly with respect to proximity and affordability.

d) Establishment of SIDS Youth Media teams in each respective island state involved in the My World My SIDS network, to promote youth empowerment and document the work of youth leaders in their island, whilst creating knowledge products on Youth-led Sustainable Development.

e)   Increased investment in creating the enabling environment for the holistic education of vulnerable demographic populations.

f)    Youth-led initiatives to reduce the disparity in the level of education in urban and rural areas.

Employment

a)   Youth-led initiatives to create sustainable livelihoods for at risk youth in SIDS.

b)   Increased investment and strengthening of institutional frameworks for youth entrepreneurship programs. In SIDS where no such program presently exists, efforts should be made and resources allocated to establish youth business development centers.

c)   Establishment or enhancement of at least one Youth Business Incubator in each SIDS

d) Development of projects to improve the scope and nature of youth attachment programs at the high school and undergraduate level, so as to better prepare youth with the requisite skill-set to excel on the job market.

e)   Review of policy and institutional frameworks with respect to employment of youth and the rights of young professionals.

Health

a)   Advocacy and policy review to ensure free, quality, basic health care for all citizens, ensuring freedom from discrimination in provision of such services.

b)   Design and implementation of National Youth-led awareness programs, focused on Sexual and Reproductive Health & Rights (SRHR); Mental Wellness and Physical Health.

c)   Coordination of activities, promoting healthy lifestyles, free from substance abuse.

d) Community Outreach programs, to provide health care services to persons who are unable to access public or private medical care due to incapacity or other complications.

e)   Strengthening health care networks at the regional level so as to reduce the impact of inadequacies in national health care frameworks and increase partnership among SIDS on matters related to Health.

f)    Upgrading of health care information systems.

Climate Change

a)   Preparation of proposals to educate and train youth on Climate Change mitigation and adaptation strategies.

b)   Production of public awareness material on Climate Change, highlighting the unique vulnerabilities and challenges that Climate Change poses to respective SIDS.

c)   Building Capacity at the local level to assess vulnerability to Climate Change, Prepare Climate Change Vulnerability Maps and Adaptation Plans.

d) Provision of incentives for use of renewable energy technology at the community level, such as school supplies, tax rebates or other incentives as may be identified.

Good Governance

a)   Strategic Projects to strengthen; National Youth Councils; Student Councils and other youth-led Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).

b)   Establishment of an open and transparent system to facilitate youth participation in National Delegations to the UN General Assembly and other forums centered on matters related to Sustainable Development and Youth Empowerment.

c)   Reviewing of policy and implementation of laws with respect to freedom of association and advocacy against political victimization.

SIDS Youth, stand committed to establishing partnerships at the national, regional and international level to build necessary support and mobilize resources to bring the aforementioned project and program ideas, to successful fruition and sustainable continuity.

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