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Caribbean youth make their voices heard at UNESCO’s 12th Global Youth Forum

“Co-creating with Youth the post-COVID period” was the focus of the 12th UNESCO Youth Forum which was held virtually on 19 November with youth representatives from across the world. At the side-lines of UNESCO’s General Conference, the Youth Forum took place at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has created a multi-dimensional crisis for young people around the world, aggravating systemic challenges, particularly for young women and youth in vulnerable situations. UNESCO emphasized that unless decisive and collective action is taken now by governments, in partnership with young people, the long- and short-term prospects of the current and future youth generations will be jeopardized.

In this light and building on the findings of the global initiative “Youth as Researchers on COVID-19”, the 12th UNESCO Youth Forum brought together young people from around the world to discuss how UNESCO’s mandate can be mobilized to fight the negative effects of the pandemic on youth.

The Forum resulted in a draft Plan of "Action for and by Youth" for the post-COVID-19 period which was subsequently presented to Member States at the General Conference.

Iana Franks, from St. Kitts and Nevis, represented her country along with other youth from Small Island Developing States, a UNESCO priority group. Iana volunteered her time to be one of the two rapporteurs supporting the Latin America and Caribbean preparatory session of the Youth Forum.

"The opportunity to be a part of a setting that promotes youth's inclusion in development gives me a sense of gratitude, as I find it imperative that for youths to participate in meaningful decision-making and change, we must first give them the platforms needed for their voices to be heard. The Youth Forum provided a safe space to advocate for inclusion, diversity and equality and importantly, I was able to make significant and meaningful contributions to the global outcome document on behalf of my island and Latin America and the Caribbean at large. I call on other young enthusiasts, especially from Small Island Developing States, to make the small steps necessary that will bolster their country’s development.”

 

The ideas and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewee; they are not necessarily those of UNESCO.

The United Nations Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development positions youth as critical agents of change and full-fledged partners in the United Nations’ work to build a better world for all, as indicated in the UN Youth Strategy Youth 2030. UNESCO’s global comparative advantage on meaningfully engaging with youth is its capacity to leverage the multidisciplinary expertise of its different thematic units, beyond specific projects. With around 63 per cent of the population in the region being below the age of 30, youth are recognized as a key priority for Caribbean SIDS as indicated in UNESCO’s Special Initiative for the Caribbean. Young people are rights-holders and actors with their own value that need to be recognized and included.