Overview of the Summit
Just a month ago, the spirit of unity, partnership and collaboration was indeed alive and flowing in the youth leaders who were present at the 4th Caribbean Youth Leaders’ Summit held in Belize City, Belize from September 27-30, 2016. The summit was organized and hosted by the Caribbean Regional Youth Council (CRYC) in collaboration with the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute for Social & Economic Studies (SALISES) 50/50 Youth Cluster and the Government of Belize and was themed “Agenda 2030: From Rhetoric to Action”. The summit was convened “to bring the voice of youth into the intergovernmental debate on how to make the post-2015 development agenda a reality” and it served as a forum where the Caribbean youth leaders sought to form new partnerships, and strengthen already existing ones.
The 4-day summit garnered between 110-150 participants from over 20 countries, who were engaged in discussion on various issues including youth development statistics and global indicators, evidence-based approach to youth development policy, the youth participation index, youth economic citizenship, as well as strategic planning and partnership. Other sessions included youth involvement in peace building in communities, youth social inclusion and a Youth Think Tank. The Youth Division of the Commonwealth Secretariat as well as the CARICOM Secretariat, and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Caribbean Sub-Regional Office were notable key contributors to these sessions.
Notable speakers at the summit included the Hon. Patrick Faber, Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of Education, Youth, Sports & Culture of Belize, The Hon. Hazel Brandy-Williams, Minister of State in the Ministry of Social Development, Community Development, Youth and Sports of St. Kitts & Nevis, Ms. Nicole Shepherd, Representative from the United Nations Global Focal Point on Youth, and Dr. Hilary Brown, Culture & Community Development Manager in the CARICOM Secretariat.
The energy and passion of the youth leaders was quite evident through the way they ardently argued and discussed their points during the sessions but also in the way they socialized when meetings were not held. The spirit of Caribbean was also very much alive in the youth leaders especially during the Caribbean Youth Day celebrations that saw participants representing their countries by donning cultural dress and colors. Throughout the summit, the culture of Belize was on an excellent showcase as Belizean cultural items were offered by dance, drumming and folk groups. However, the pinnacle of the Belizean experience was when the youth leaders visited the Mayan Ruins of Xunantunich.
The Commonwealth Youth Council (CYC) was represented by Mr. Nikoli Edwards who serves as the Vice Chair for Policy, Advocacy and Projects and hails from Trinidad and Tobago. The Caribbean and Americas Committee, the regional standing committee of the CYC was represented by Mr. Franz George, who hails from St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Also, Mr. Lawrence Muli of Kenya represented the Youth Division of the Common wealth Secretariat. Apart from making contributions to the discussion that took place, one of the main reasons why the Commonwealth was represented at the summit was to form strategic partnerships with youth organizations across the region. Steps have been made to fulfill this mandate as a partnership agreement was signed between the Caribbean Regional Youth Council (CRYC), University of the West Indies Students Today Alumni Tomorrow (UWISTAT), and the Commonwealth Youth Council to work together at the advocacy and policy levels and focus on areas such as Entrepreneurship, Environment and Energy. The agreement was signed on Sept 30 and the partnership is intended to be a results-oriented one. A formal memorandum of understanding is set to be signed sometime in the near future.
Similarly, through discussions at the summit, the youth organizations that were represented were formulating a way in which partnerships between all regional groups can be facilitated. This may come in the form of a network and may be named the Caribbean Regional Youth Alliance. However, discussions are still being held to formalize the idea. The CYC, and more specifically the Caribbean and Americas Standing Committee will be a key discussant in these discussions.
The CYC is also set to form a stronger partnership with CRYC through the signing of an MOU between CRYC and its CYC counterpart, the Caribbean and Americas Standing Committee. This partnership should lead to greater partnership in the organizations’ work with the National Youth Councils and youth across the region. The partnership will also allow both organizations to work together to be deliver stronger representation on behalf of the Caribbean youth.
Should the aforementioned partnerships come to fruition, it would be a historic moment for the CYC and the Caribbean as it would allow the CYC to better fulfill its mandates in the region. This therefore means that the Caribbean and Americas Standing Committee, through the work with CRYC and other Caribbean youth groups, is poised to be a stronger voice for Caribbean Youth and help them to better be a part of the inclusive commonwealth!