Saturday, August 06, 2011

Camillo Gonzalves at the UN

The international community must tangibly demonstrate even greater levels of trust and faith in the youth.
The call comes from the Permanent representative of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Ambassador Camillo Gonsalves. He told the General Assembly’s High-Level Meeting on Youth that the challenges they face are often without parallel in historical memory.
Gonsalves: In our region, the youth confront transnational crime, HIV/AIDS, climate vulnerability and a technological explosion amid an uncertain economic environment, with changing modes of production and distribution of capital that have yet untold implications for the next generation. This High-Level event must have something to show for itself beyond a tepid outcome document. It must be the beginning of a reimagining of the role of the youth in our national development and global governance, and the starting point of a genuine effort to mainstream youth issues and embrace our young people as equal partners in this journey into an uncertain future. Anything less would be simply be another attempt to use the youth as a photogenic backdrop for further political grandstanding. But as we have learned in recent months, the price of such marginalization of the youth, their needs and concerns, can be politically and societally cataclysmic. Let us heed the lessons that the youth have been trying to teach us.
NAR: According to Ambassador Gonsalves, it is an unfortunate truth that youth and governance are often times-uneasy bedfellows. He said the traditional halls of power and politics – including the General AssemblyHall – are often dominated by those for whom youth is but a dim memory.
Gonsalves: Further, many of our political leaders have failed to earn the trust of young people, seeing them merely as an emotional wave to be ridden into or out of political office. Others seek to cynically grasp a mantle of “change” that belies their own status as senior citizens whose principles and transformative credentials have long since been sacrificed on the altar of political ambition. But the world’s youth need not be mistrusted, harnessed, indoctrinated or marginalized. They need to be listened to. They need to be embraced. And they need to be made active, and leading partners in national development and global governance. The pace of change and development has accelerated exponentially, and the world that lies one generation into the future will be radically different from the one that we grapple with today. The pace of change – for good and ill – will be a defining feature of tomorrow’s global village, and it is one that we have no experience in managing, or even predicting.
NAR: Ambassador Gonsalves reiterated Saint Vincent and the Grenadines central sentiment of the CARICOM Declaration on the Future of Youth in the Caribbean Community, namely, that the youth are “not problems to be solved,” but rather “invaluable assets and partners in development” of the sub region. He said the creativity, innovation and energy that will chart a new course through the fallout of globalization and the ongoing global economic crisis lies with our youth, not the staid orthodoxy that led us into the crises we now face.
Gonsalves: The Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has invested heavily in the youth at all levels of society. We have, in the last decade, achieved universal access to secondary education, and are well underway to universal access to early childhood education. State spending in tertiary education has increased exponentially, and every single one of our students – with the cooperation of the governments of Portugal and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela – will have their own laptop computer, to engage the world beyond the narrow confines of our Small Island Developing State. Young people have also been thrust into positions of great responsibility at all levels of government and the public service. Senators, Ministers, Diplomats and other high level officials are all part of this burgeoning youth brigade. Young Vincentian entrepreneurs, sportspersons and cultural artists continue to create jobs, influence debate, and create new pathways for future development. Our national trust and faith in the youth is unshakeable.
NAR: Ambassador Gonsalves stressed that it is today’s youth who will inherit that world, and it is today’s youth who must be taken into the confidence of leaders and policymakers on every step of our journey into the future.
This is Donn Bobb reporting.

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