By Dalila Ical: The 29th Meeting of the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) on Youth and Culture opened on Thursday in Guyana and sees the participation of Regional Ministers of Youth and Culture, ministry officials, representatives of regional and international organizations and CARICOM Youth Ambassadors.
The week began with the Regional Forum on Youth Crime and Violence on Monday and Tuesday, followed by the Eighth Meeting of Directors of Youth Affairs on Wednesday where discussions cantered on youth participation in the region. Taking an active part in these discussion were CARICOM Youth Ambassadors and other youth representatives.
In Thursday’s opening, CARICOM Youth Ambassador (CYA) from Belize, Tarun Butcher spoke as Vice Dean of the CYAs. Butcher urged youth participation in the region and is quoted by CARICOM Today as saying “The youth want to participate now…If not now then when, and if not us then who?”
CARICOM Today further reports that Butcher stated “there was need to foster the philosophy that young people are assets to the Community rather than problems to be solved. She said Caribbean youth have been contributing in areas such as societal change, innovation and technological development despite being affected by issues such as poverty, social inequality and marginalization.”
In addressing the forum, Secretary General of the Caribbean Community, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque stressed that “the scourge of crime and violence is a crippling burden with which many of our Member States and Associate Members are grappling. It seriously compromises citizen security, and robs our societies of the creative potential and energy of our youth in particular, who are both victims and perpetrators. The social, psychological and economic cost is too high. Although we know that it is a minority of our youth who have fallen victims to a life of crime, it is an important minority that we need to address urgently.”
“We must understand our youth; we must partner with them in the development process; we must invest in them and see them as our finest assets and not a problem to be solved,” Ambassador LaRocque continued.
He further made reference to the CARICOM Commission on Youth Development report and the Declaration of Paramaribo on the Future of Youth in the Caribbean Community from 2010. The Commission’s report recommended governments invest in young people, stated Ambassador LaRocque as it “presented some important estimates of the cost of not putting those investments in place…if youth unemployment levels were reduced to the adult levels in several Member States, this would result in growth of 1 – 2.5 percent of GDP. If we could reduce the rate of youth crime in half, this would result in growth of 1.5 percent of GDP in some Member States.
Additionally, conservative estimates place annual direct expenditure on youth related crime and violence in 5 Member States, at between 2.8% and 4% of GDP,” he highlighted. The theme of this COHSOD is “Leveraging CARICOM’s Human and Cultural Assets for the Development of the Community”.
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