NEW YORK, 24 February 2014 – The global Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Youth Network was officially launched at a ceremony held in New York to kick off the International Year of SIDS.
The SIDS Youth Network brings together young people from the more than 40 SIDS member states, giving them a voice in devising sustainable development strategies for their countries as well as a forum through which they can take collective action. The network's input will be essential going into the Third International Conference for SIDS, scheduled to be held in September in Apia, Samoa. The global launch in New York was complemented by a series of local, national, and regional launches of the SIDS Youth Network that were organized by network members in the Caribbean, Pacific and the Atlantic, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and South China Sea (AIMS) region, reflecting the global and regional dimensions of the network.
Ms. Vibeke Jensen, UNESCO Representative to the UN General Assembly, opened the event, which was also attended by SIDS ambassadors and representatives to the First Preparatory meeting for the International Conference, currently underway in New York.
Four youth representatives from countries in the Caribbean, the Pacific as well as the Atlantic, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and South China Sea (AIMS) region, launched the network.
Fiji SIDS youth representative Krishneil Narayan underscored the importance of young people's role in raising awareness of sustainable development issues. “Young people have the energy and knowledge to make a real contribution,” he said, stressing that youth are "global custodians of the future."
Mauritius representative Karuna Rana said young people are ready to contribute not just by presenting ideas, but by taking action. “SIDS is about Sustainable Development [SD]. If this network is going to make a difference to the lives of people in our countries, it needs to be about a decade of action to make SD a reality. Youth want to be a part of this: both through contributing their ideas at the highest policy levels, but also through taking action to implement SD. The SIDS Youth Network is about creating spaces and opportunities for young people to achieve both of these things through collaboration of the youth from across SIDS countries.”
Barbados representative Alex Cumberbatch outlined the statement developed from young people's inputs into the next strategy for SIDS as well as the myriad collaborative efforts taking place around the world - the SIDS youth website, individual youth group launches around the world and projects conducted following workshops held in 2013.
In particular, he highlighted the My World, My SIDS – Y.E.S. [Youth Empowerment and Sustainability] workshops held last year. Some 70 youth participants from 30 SIDS countries in of the Caribbean, Pacific and AIMS regions identified and discussed issues and challenges facing youth in SIDS and also articulated their vision of the future they want, detailing concrete recommendations to be implemented at local, national, regional and international levels. The outcome of these meetings was presented at three high-level regional meetings.
The Ambassador of Samoa to the UN General Assembly, H E Mr Ali’ioaiga Feturi Elisaia, affirmed the government of Samoa’s commitment to involving youth at the 2014 SIDS Conference at the launch. H E Mr Ahmad Alhendawe, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, also spoke about the importance of young people’s contributions to the UN and to sustainable development.
Also present was Warren Chanansingh of Trinidad and Tobago. Warren will read the joint youth statement prepared by the Major Group for Children and Youth during the interventions at the preparatory committee meeting.
Some of the key priorities and recommendation points highlighted by SIDS Youth in last year’s global consultations include:
- Active participation of young people in policy and decision-making processes related to sustainable development at national, regional and international levels – for example, by including youth within official governmental delegations going to the SIDS 2014 conference in Samoa.
- Strengthening capacity building and the quality of education.
- National and regional youth mechanisms for economic opportunities that will enable young people to find decent employment, green jobs and set up their own enterprises.
- Universal access to affordable and good quality healthcare services.
- Climate change mitigation and adaptation, including increased investment in renewable energy sources such as marine energy.
- Technology and enhanced connectivity within SIDS.
The network is aimed at ensuring that young people are part of the SIDS process from start to finish and offers them a platform to be agents of sustainable development in their countries and in SIDS across the world. The network's launch recognizes that young people are focused on the key issues and have the energy and commitment to make changes for the better – local action, SIDS results.
The SIDS Youth Network was developed to support youth participation in the SIDS process through collaboration between UN agencies (UNESCO, UNICEF, UNFPA, ILO, UNWomen, WHO, UNAIDS), regional agencies in the SIDS (Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Secretariat of the Pacific Environment Programme, Pacific Island Forum Secretariat, Indian Ocean Commission), NGOs (Pacific Youth Council, Pacific Disability Forum, FemLink Pacific, International Planned Parenthood Federation) and young people who have been part of the preparatory process for the SIDS Conference.