Mar 02, 2016 News
By Abena Rockcliffe
Under the theme “Breaking the cycle, exploring new platforms for transformation,” the Caribbean Community
(CARICOM) held an important two-day youth forum at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre at Liliendaal.
The forum, which concluded yesterday, was funded by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the government of Spain. It was a product of the two-year CARICOM/Spain Project: Youth on Youth Violence in the Caribbean. CARICOM officials said that the aim was to reduce youth on youth violence, particularly in schools. It is now being piloted in five member states: Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago.
It was highlighted at the forum that new platforms for transformation will be explored to break the cycle of youth crime and violence. Good practices are to be shared with a view to replicating the lessons learned. At the same time, strategies for a multi-sectoral ‘whole-of-society’ response to the challenge will be examined, as well as the means for greater collaboration among institutions and development partners to sustain CARICOM’s response to youth crime and violence.
Participants engaged in interactive sessions centred on four main topics/issues: Violence Against Children; School Violence; Gender-Based Violence; and Youth Gangs and Violence, together with the cross-cutting themes of gender, culture and other social determinants.
The Forum included a mix of feature presentations, panel discussions and video presentations, with contributions from a wide range of stakeholders including policy-makers in all sectors: law enforcement, the private sector, labour, development partners, civil society, academia, faith-based and community organisations, youth, reformed non-traditional leaders and special interest groups.
The Opening Ceremony saw speeches from Vice President and Minister for Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan, Deputy Secretary General of the CARICOM Secretariat, Dr. Manorma Soeknandan, Operations Officer—Education Dr. Martin Baptiste and Chief Executive Officer of BDI Leadership Development, Dr. Astell Collins.
Dr. Soeknandan spoke about the need for such a forum. She identified the fact that youth violence is a global challenge and young people are both the main perpetrators and victims.
She said that an all-inclusive approach is needed to tackle the issue. In this regard, she explained that while the burden should not be left on the shoulders of young people, they should join experienced adults in creating strategies to minimize violence at all levels, especially among youths.
The CARICOM official also said that there is a need to break out from the old models and a development of new ones.
Dr. Soeknandan opined that young people need better role models. In this regard she called on the officials who hold high office to inculcate good habits so as to stand out as good role models amidst all that is negative in today’s world.
CDB’s representative, Dr. Baptiste, told those who gathered that there is no issue more important than that which affects the youth.
He said that there is an urgent need that “we all” work to make sure that classrooms, homes and society are free of incubators of social deviants. He charged those participating in the forum to work assiduously towards during the short life of the forum to see how they can take the initiatives that are tested and bring them to scale. He stressed the importance for them to move beyond testing to application, in the way that most benefits those who are greatest at risk.
Dr. Baptiste made reference to the poem written by Martin Carter—This is the Dark time, my love. “It is a season of oppression.”
Dr. Baptiste said that in many ways young people feel oppressed as they look upon what is there before them to construct their dreams. He said that the youth must get a sense that what they are looking forward to in the future is not only possible, but can be achieved.
“They must never be configured to think that this is the dark time, not just today, but years beyond,” said Dr. Baptiste.
He added that society has to help to construct a dream and vision for the future.
“When you see the invader—whether crack cocaine, violence or anything that challenges progress—he is watching you sleep and aiming at our dreams. We understand that addressing youth and violence is not just about having activities, but to ensure effectiveness to help young people construct dreams and give hope for the future.”
Dr. Astell Collins, who delivered a message on behalf of the youth of Guyana, said that “we no longer need politicians in leadership but need to see more leadership in politicians”.
Minister Ramjattan spoke just after Dr. Collins, and pledged to be a true leader and a good role model for the youth. He said that there is a need for a culture to be developed that will see youths becoming assets and not liabilities. He gave a history of efforts to address youth violence in the past.
The Minister quoted studies that said crime and violence was the number one concern of adolescents in the Caribbean community. He said that it is often associated with poverty, unemployment, and political and social inequities. The Minister noted that this often leads to emotional stress, grief and sense of being lost.
Minister Ramjattan opined that the forum was “a wonderful exercise as to what we must do. It should be replicated at the community and national level, not only to address the issue of youth and violence, but to ensure that CARICOM and Regional integration is brought more to the ground in the various territories that comprise Caricom. This initiative is a good example of the value of regional corporation and addressing the issue which threatens our development and future.”
CARICOM and the relevant stakeholders are hoping that the forum and its intended follow-up, will accelerate the necessary action, both at the policy and operational levels, to further the prevention of youth violence and crime, and help restore the Community to a place where every citizen is safe.
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