Caribbean youth priorities take centre stage at ministerial meeting in Antigua

TheCommonwealth-1St John’s, Antigua — Governments and youth leaders from Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean will address regional and global youth development challenges and opportunities when they gather in Antigua for a three-day meeting this week.

The Caribbean Region Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting (CR-CYMM) is convened by the Commonwealth Secretariat and hosted by the government of Antigua and Barbuda, in St John’s, between 28 and 30 April 2015.

The theme of the meeting is: Youth participation at the heart of national development.

Ministers, senior officials from ministries responsible for youth development and youth leaders will discuss policy responses to issues such as youth employment and entrepreneurship, participation in civic and political processes, the role of young people in peace building, and the professionalisation of the youth work sector.

Commenting ahead of the meeting, Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Deodat Maharaj said: “The Caribbean has one of the youngest populations in the Commonwealth, with more than 60 percent of people aged 29 years or under. This makes this generation an enormous asset to the region’s development – not just tomorrow, but today.

“We recognise that young people are playing a vital role in strengthening communities and championing democratic processes, leading and delivering change. But many also face challenges related to unemployment, climate change, health issues or conflict. Young people are feeling the squeeze in the labour market, may lack the capital to start a business, or can be shut out of democratic decision-making.

“Commonwealth member governments are using this meeting, hosted and led by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, to signal their commitment to young people and ensure that policy priorities are aligned to young people’s ambitions and needs.”

During the meeting, ministers, senior officials and youth leaders will review current trends in youth development and identify areas where action is needed to advance youth empowerment in the Caribbean. Delegates will focus on challenges and opportunities for the region, as well as new global development goals which are to be agreed at the United Nations later in 2015.

On 28 April, Caribbean youth leaders will participate in a Youth Leaders’ Forum. The forum is managed by the Commonwealth Youth Council and Caribbean Regional Youth Council and supported by the youth leaders of Antigua and Barbuda. Ministers will meet between 29 and 30 April.

Antigua and Barbuda’s minister of social transformation and human resource development, Samantha Marshall, stated: “It is my hope that this summit will inspire young men and women to grasp the opportunity presented to speak of the issues that confront them and get involved in youth mainstreaming.”

The minister added: “The meeting holds great importance relative to Antigua and Barbuda Commonwealth ties, signalling a very high water mark as the attendees will take stock of current trends in youth development.”

Timothy Ferdinand, chairperson of the Caribbean Regional Youth Council, a member of the Commonwealth Youth Council, said: “This meeting will help to strengthen relationships between youth ministries and youth organisations and will enhance youth participation in decisions about issues that affect young people in the Caribbean.”

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