GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — The Caribbean Community (Caricom) Secretary-General, Dr Carla Barnett, says she is committed to young people in the region playing a meaningful role in the development of the 15-member regional integration movement.
Addressing the Caricom Youth Ambassadors’ Orientation Programme, Barnett, who took up office at the Guyana-based Caricom Secretariat earlier this month, said that the participation of young people in building the Caribbean Community and the focus on youth development go hand in hand and these “are high among the priority areas which I have committed to championing during my term of office”.
“My vision to see the average citizen feeling ‘a part of and not apart from’ our Caribbean Community, cannot be achieved without the active engagement and involvement of you, our youth.”
She told the virtual meeting that the work being done by the youth ambassadors reflect and represent the voices of youth to advocate on issues of concern and to inform and educate young people in a variety of ways.
“A tremendous thank you particularly to Caricom Youth Ambassadors, past and present, for the invaluable contribution you have made and continue to make in building this region,” she said, praising also the work of other youth organisations in raising for example the awareness of the important matter of reparations for enslavement and native genocide.
The secretary-general also noted the role of the young people participating in the training opportunities in health and climate change.
“These training opportunities are intended to build capacity to support and promote regional integration, and to strengthen your abilities as young leaders as you prepare yourselves for greater leadership roles at the national and regional levels.”
Barnett said that in 2010, the report on the Caricom Commission on Youth Development lamented limited youth engagement in Caricom due to disaffection and apathy. Some youth reported not even having heard of Caricom.
“Today, I see efforts by all of you to change that narrative, through your community and national projects in your respective countries,” she said, noting that the campaign “I AM CARICOM” resonated across the community, enabling more young people to embrace their identity as Caricom citizens and allowing them to reflect on their contribution to national and regional development.
“Your expressions and passion were felt by many.
“These actions are commendable, and as we go forward, let us think of more ways to bolster trust, build positive perceptions, inspire Community spirit, and enable others to see and feel the positive impact of our work on their lives.”
She said that the Declaration of Paramaribo on the Future of Youth in the Caribbean Community issued by regional leaders at a Special Summit on Youth held in Suriname in 2010, affirmed the invaluable nature of youth who possess the “unique perspective, creativity, energy and other assets” relevant for “societal change, technological innovation and development”.
For this reason, the declaration states that youth are “invaluable assets and partners in development and not problems to be solved,” she added.
“Cognisant of the fact that over 60 per cent of the population of the Caribbean Community are under 30 years of age where we fail to involve youth in the sustainable development process in this region, we do so to our peril. In this time of crisis, brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic we must also acknowledge and address the negative socio-economic and mental health impact on our youth,” she told the ceremony.