by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Various ministries in St. Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and Anguilla, through the Joint Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Fund, launched a joint youth-based social protection program on October 4.
The program dubbed “Resilient Caribbean: Engaging & Training Youth, Strengthening Integrated Social Protection Sector Delivery – Joint Programme” is a venture supported by several United Nations agencies; the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP), International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The budget for the venture is US$2.9 million, with the Joint SDG Fund contributing US$2.1 in funding and an additional US$750,000 contributed by WFP, UNESCO, UNICEF and ILO.
According to the SDG Fund’s website, the program addresses the challenge of limited social protections, insufficient resources allocated for informal sector workers, lack of coherent and gender-responsive labour market programming, and minimal long-term social protections associated with climate change which, from their observation have hampered the resilience of the Caribbean communities.
The program focuses on the need to reduce the vulnerabilities of households and to provide households with tools that assist all efforts to withstand and respond to climate and economic-related risks and crises.
Additionally, the program seeks to support workers in the informal economy (particularly young workers) in accessing a package of incentives for Social Security Coverage, support the transition to formal employment, and empower youth with access to entrepreneurship and skills development opportunities relevant to a proper transition.
How will the program bolster the social protection and professional development of youth?
In his remarks at the launch, Mr Didier Trebucq, the UN Resident Coordinator for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, indicated that the programme would provide policy support and access to pilot programmes that integrate social protection and skills development to reduce vulnerabilities and create opportunities for socio-economic inclusion.
“In a nutshell, it will contribute to greater and easier access to social assistance, as well as jobs and better income for those in greater need, such as in particular, young people and women. As a result, we expect that the joint program will that increase resilience of households and communities, and this is absolutely critical in the context of the cumulative crises… and also link young people to meaningful formal sector employment or entrepreneurship activities.”
Senator Isalean Phillip, the Junior Minister of Youth Empowerment, Social Development, Gender Affairs and Aging and Disabilities in St. Kitts and Nevis said equitable social protection systems and the empowerment of young people are two critical goals for the current administration.
“We will work with implementing UN Agencies to ensure that this project delivers sustainable benefits to all people across St. Kitts and Nevis, especially the poor and marginalised who depend on our social protection systems the most, and then our young people as well who need all the supports that they can get to enable them to grow and develop into the productive citizens that we know that they can be.”
The Honourable Dee-Ann Kentish Rogers, Anguilla’s Minister of Social Development, Education, Youth, Culture and Sports, shared that the program was aligned with the island’s national Youth Policy. In particular, the focus on youth participation in policy-making and the development of non-traditional sectors.
“As it relates to engaging and training needs, this joint program is especially relevant to Anguilla, as we have as recently as 2021 passed the National Youth Policy and Action Plan, which was preceded by Anguilla’s National Youth Policy Survey in an attempt to modernise its contents. Permit me to share the policy’s five interconnected pillars for positive youth development in Aguilla – enhancing youth participation; prioritising inclusive and active participation across all development sectors in Anguilla; creating safe spaces, peaceful communities and nurturing environments; providing access to quality, holistic health services and promoting wellbeing; and providing the institutional arrangements and policy environment for positive youth development.”
The Honourable Marlon A. Penn, Minister of Health and Social
Development from the British Virgin Islands (BVI) said the program was timely as it coincided with the recently adopted COI framework agreement that spoke to the need to streamline social assistance initiatives in the Virgin Islands.
“For the Virgin Islands, in particular, the Joint program is very timely, given our recently adopted COI framework under which a long review and necessary streamlining of social system benefits and advance administration systems are taking place. In addition to this, the joint program has been agile and able to respond to the specific needs of the Virgin Islands, providing tailored support, including the development of a social protection policy and action plan; the development of a digitised management information system, as well as the design of mechanisms for workers in the informal economy, to better access Social Security. These are important strides towards institutional strengthening that will improve our reach to the poorest and most vulnerable and provide labour market access opportunities as a means to overcome generational poverty.”
Dr Carlene Radix, Head of the Human and Social Division of the OECS Commission, said the joint initiative fit with three of the cross-setting themes of the OECS Strategic Plan; Youth Empowerment, Partnership and Innovation.
Dr Radix encourages intentional togetherness in the Eastern Caribbean as a pillar in our sustainable recovery.
“We see divides widening in some parts of the globe. But here in the Eastern Caribbean, we understand that intentional togetherness and the contribution of youth are essential to our sustainable recovery. Let us continue to work together to support the youth to be able to make their best contributions as we move forward.”
Mrs Celine Julia Felix, Social Policy Manager, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Lead Participating United Nations Organization (PUNO), spoke of the two outcomes of the program.
“There are really two main outcomes; first is really to see the social protections sector performance and reach improving our four countries and territories, and second to see youth empowerment enabling effective or supporting effective labour market entry.”
The Joint Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Fund’s Resilient Caribbean: Engaging & Training Youth, Strengthening Integrated Social Protection Sector Delivery – Joint Program will run for 24 months from January 2022 to December 2023.