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Pacific Resilience task force makes commitment to youth

The Pacific Resilience Partnership meeting in May should see an active youth contingent, following commitments from the task force this week in Apia.

At an inter-generational breakfast event during the 5th Commonwealth Global Biennial Conference for Small States, three young speakers spoke about why youth should be a part and parcel of planning for disaster management and beyond.

And it struck a chord. The chairperson of the Pacific Resilience Partnership Task force, Engel Raygadas from French Polynesia, and the director for climate change resilience from the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program, Tagaloa Cooper-Halo made on the spot commitments to ensure young people would be present at the annual meeting in Suva, this May.

The presenters, all Pacific Island youth, all said they watched a visibly moved crowd on Thursday, at their early morning breakfast event.

“I was surprised to see so many people show up early at seven o'clock,” said presenter Genevieve Jiva, from Fiji. Ms Jiva is a coordinator of the Pacific Island Climate Action Network.

“I think it a good sign of our current leaders wanting to engage with young leaders and showing that they see the value of inter-generational mentor-ship, learning and transitioning towards having more young voices in decision making spaces.”

According to Commonwealth director of economic, youth and sustainable development Prajapati Trivedi, there was standing room only in the Tanoa Tusitala hall. For those who missed it, he reiterated their messages at the opening of Thursday’s official conference program.

“You should have seen the eloquence of the youth leaders who spoke, it could not be matched, both in diction, substance and delivery,” he said.

Mr Trivedi said from the Commonwealth’s perspective, youth play a vital role in ensuring good ideas are actually implemented. It is in the interests of the people who inherit the earth that strategies are acted on to save it, he said.

The Commonwealth Youth Council of the secretariat will hopefully have its own Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) before the official meeting in June 2020, Mr Trivedi said, in order to compile issues and present them to heads of governments.

Another of the presenters, Commonwealth Secretariat programs officer Sionlelei Sina Mario (Rotuma, Fiji) said the breakfast event was both encouraging and emotional for her.

“These are very high level government spaces. It took a whole lot to push for a side event for young people at this space,” Ms Mario said. But she feels the session ignited ideas in senior ministers, and made them ask themselves why they had not yet included youth in their decision making spaces.

“I hope the ministries of finance make sure their national budget process is going to commit funds to touch on activities we talked about,” she said.

“There should be another training of trainers’ workshop, for example, to talk about what happened here and to make some planning happen, and tie that to the national budget process to make sure they commit monetary resources to them.”

Joseph Moeono-Kolio is from Samoa, and is a Pacific Climate Warriors Coordinator from 350 Pacific. He said thought the event was a success, and while some of the participants were jet-lagged and exhausted, they accepted the challenge to more actively engage youth in the disaster management policy space.

“It’s a good sign that the commonwealth and small island states leaders are prioritizing hearing the voices of the young participants,” he said.”

Lawrence Muli of the Commonwealth’s youth division said having young people not only present at, but also be full participants of intergovernmental meetings is a way to genuinely invest in youth.

“For a long time, young people have been outside of decision making spaces,” Mr Muli said.

“And now that they are inside, it’s not enough for them to be sitting at the table, we need to allow them to lead the growing of solutions to disaster risk responses, it’s almost an inalienable right.”

According to the Commonwealth, 60 per cent of the nearly two billion people that make up the association are youth, or between 15 and 29 years old. Mr Muli said that is a population that needs to be supported.

“The reality is that disasters affect mostly the youth,” he said.

“If invested in, and given the space, they can contribute meaningfully to development processes."

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