Minister of Youth and Culture, Hon. Lisa Hanna, has reiterated the Government’s unwavering commitment to the empowerment of the country’s youth.
She said the commitment involves, among other things, helping youth acquire the skills of critical analysis, so that they are able to make responsible decisions of their own.
Speaking at the opening of the 2nd Commonwealth Caribbean Regional Youth Council Summit at the Altamont Court Hotel, in Kingston, on July 24, Ms. Hanna said it also involves enabling their full and responsible participation in community and national institutions and processes.
“Equipping youth with appropriate and relevant training and education to fill available vacancies for employment, as well as to create viable businesses in emerging and growing area of the national, regional and global economies, is also targeted,” she said.
She further noted that a critical first step for the Government is the vertical integration of the Ministry of Youth and Culture, adding that the various institutions and programmes related to children and youth have been brought under the Ministry.
Ms. Hanna said while resource constraints continue to limit the Ministry’s ability to undertake all the programmes it seeks to carry out, the Ministry is one of the few that, in real terms, saw an increase in allocation in this year’s budget.
“Whereas in fiscal year 2011/2012, only some 4 per cent was devoted to youth and 39 per cent for culture, this year we have been able to achieve a better spread of 33 per cent for youth and 58 per cent for culture,” she noted.
The Minister encouraged the participants to avail themselves of economic empowerment opportunities throughout the Caribbean region. “Our youth population is the most critical force to the survival of our independent countries. We take them for granted in many instances and we somehow think that they will just grow up on their own and make it. It takes serious intervention and you being here, are really the catalyst to ensuring that this happens,” she said.
She noted that following a review of the Youth Recommendations from the 1st Commonwealth Youth Leaders Summit tabled by the National Youth Council of Jamaica (NYC), they have received the full endorsement and commitment from the Government of Jamaica (GOJ), through the Ministry of Youth and Culture.
To this end, she said the Ministry, in up-holding its commitment to youth participation and inclusion in decision-making, has undertaken the following: appointing youth representatives on over 40 critical Boards and Committees of the Government; ensure the participation of Youth delegates at the regional levels by appointing two Youth Ambassadors to the Commonwealth Youth Caucus and the CARICOM Youth Ambassador Programme.
It also provided financial support to participate in regional forums, such as the 23rd Meeting of the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD), and Commonwealth Regional Seminar on Addressing Youth Employment Challenges in the Caribbean.
She noted that the meeting of Caribbean youth is happening with the full support of the respective governments of the region as a signal of their commitment to the development of the youth agenda and to the active participation of young people in the general structures of governance as well as in national and regional development.
"This regional support comes against the background of the endorsement of the CARICOM Youth Development Action Plan 2012-2017 by CARICOM’s Council for Human and Social Development at its recent meeting in Guyana. It also follows the recognition by the region’s Heads of Government of the importance of youth participation in national and regional development dialogue,” he said.
The Summit which began on July 23 is slated to end on July 28 and is being held under the theme: ‘Youth: Steering the ship of Integration’.
Among topics to be discussed are critical issues that affect young people in the Caribbean and ways in which Caribbean youth leaders work together in ensuring that their issues are on Caricom and Commonwealth regional agendas.
The Commonwealth Youth Programme was established by Commonwealth Heads of Government in 1973. Its aim is to work towards an inclusive society, where young men and women are empowered to develop their potential, creativity and skills to enhance their contribution to development.