A technical forum is now underway in Georgetown, Guyana to discuss strategic directions for youth development issues in the Caribbean region. Follow the details HERE.
The Forum of youth leaders and youth development practitioners in government and civil society from 14 countries has been convened by the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Government of Guyana.
Sessions include discussions on effective implementation of youth policies; progress on key population and development issues; mobilizing youth to advance the 2030 Agenda; and exchanges of best practices in youth development.
The opening discussion on “The Lisbon Declaration on Youth Policies and Programmes +20: A Progress Report on the Caribbean” provided an opportunity for stakeholders to comment on a very useful synthesis report on the state of youth policies in the region. The report was prepared by Catarina Camarinhas of ECLAC and Dwynette Eversley, International Youth Development Specialist and member of 50/50 Youth!!
Remarks on “The Lisbon Declaration on Youth Policies and Programmes +20: A Progress Report on the Caribbean”
I come to this discussion from the perspective of a politician – that is, of a political scientist. 🙂 So my interest is in the elements of the report which relate to the governance and institutional framework for implementation and monitoring of youth policies.
From the valuable review presented – it appears that we have made some commendable progress in the region, in respect of the types of youth policies developed. There is at least an understanding of the importance of participatory, evidence-informed, results-oriented policy formulation processes. There has also been an increase in the profile of youth policies – though not sufficient – with evidence of effective national championing of youth policy. The 50/50 Youth Cluster at the University of the West Indies – which I represent is pleased by these developments and congratulates all governments and citizens.
However, the report has highlighted some challenges reported by member countries in relation to implementation and monitoring and evaluation – which I would like to suggest are priorities for discussion at the Forum.
Before I propose the priorities for discussion, permit me to just make a brief comment on the matter of conceptualisation of youth policies. I believe that the foundational ideas that inform our understanding of the nature and purpose of policy, ultimately affect implementation processes. Therefore, we must ask, what is a youth policy? The report notes that (p.66) “A national youth policy may be defined in simplest terms as the sum of all the initiatives aimed at young citizens….” (p.66). The report then goes on to give a more sophisticated qualification of that definition pointing to the essential features of an effective youth policy. However, many of us are still stuck on that first definition – youth policy as merely the collation of a list of activities targeting youth. But, if that were true, it would include some of the negative activities targeted at youth – gang recruitment etc 🙂
If we really wish to change the way we work towards positive development outcomes for young people, we need to view youth policy as more than a sum of activities. Youth policy must be seen as a political statement of the national consensus around the desired role of young people in society; a commitment to investment in their development as an imperative for sustainability; and as technical guidance to all government entities (as well as other stakeholders) on how to maximise that role. It is not a preventative measure, but rather, a catalyst for national development. When viewed in this way, youth policy directs us to look at Implementation and Monitoring and Evaluation differently. My broad priorities for discussion in this forum are:
a. What is the status of the “Partnership Commitments” required by the WPAY for youth mainstreaming? Who are the partners and how are these partnerships being coordinated? How would the Caribbean Youth Platform play a role in coordinating inter-agency partnerships for development involving youth?
a. How are youth policies seeking to give direction to national development more broadly?We must now focus on building the professional and technical capacity of Departments of Youth Affairs to play that role of guiding development policy in a wide range of sectors and contributing to operational plans of other Ministries, Departments and Agencies. The Youth Officer may not necessarily engage as a sector specialist but as a youth worker with an understanding of the heterogeneity of young people; the best practices in engaging them; and the intersectional approaches required for positive youth development. In the areas of Environment and Climate Change, Gender Equality and Anti-Discrimination Legislation – which the review report highlights are not adequately covered in national youth policies – how are youth Departments influencing policy-making in those areas? Do they have the capacity?
b. Coordinated and Sustainable Financing of Youth Development – Should we speak more about the Regional Youth Development Fund? Should we ask that national allocations from each line Ministry, Department or Agency be earmarked for young people, since everything is a youth issue?
2. Monitoring and Evaluation
a. Public Accountability Measures – how do we (and young people) access information about youth policy frameworks? And how accessible is that information to youth from a variety of linguistic, cultural and intellectual backgrounds? Public monitoring of policy implementation is as important as technical monitoring conducted by governments and other stakeholders in implementation. What role can various youth networks play in translating policy contents and progress updates for youth in a variety of contexts? What development communication tools should be used?
b. What role do the regional universities play in supporting M&E of youth policies and providing public information on the status of implementation? Is it time for a formal partnership on this?
Closing: As our populations age, as projected in the next two to three decades, we risk losing commitment to youth policy, if we do not establish its relevance through properly coordinated and integrated implementation.