Caribbean Youth call for more meaningful engagement in fostering peaceful societies

On 28 November 2021, UNESCO invited young English and Dutch-speaking Caribbean people to participate in a virtual consultation on the Youth, Peace and Security Agenda (YPS). The consultation aimed to share and discuss perspectives and priorities to support and amplify the voices of youth in peace and security in the Caribbean Small Island Developing States.

The YPS agenda has gained momentum over the last years, whereby the role and contributions for the peacebuilding of young people have been recognized. The United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 (2015) is the first international policy framework recognizing the positive role young people play in preventing and resolving conflict and building lasting peace.

Saadia Sanchez-Vegas, Director and Representative of the UNESCO Cluster Office for the Caribbean, warmly welcomed the attendees and highlighted the growing recognition of young people’s crucial contribution to preventing violence and sustaining peace departing from a human-centred approach to sustainable development. Likewise, Director Sanchez-Vegas commended the continued efforts of young people as peacebuilders in the sub-region while emphasizing the need to meaningfully engage youths in vulnerable situations.

Some core challenges and structural barriers remain that limit meaningful participation from young people and, in particular, those in vulnerable conditions – such as young people with disabilities – to influence decision and policy making in peace and security.

Saadia Sanchez, Director, UNESCO Cluster Office for the Caribbean

During the interactive consultation, the twenty-five youth representatives aged 18-30 from different Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS) including from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Guyana, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Sint Maarten, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago were keen on sharing their views and experiences on meaningful youth engagement in peace and security initiatives. Systemic violence, insecurity of youth advocates and lack of representation of young people were some of the significant challenges the participants perceived in their work on peace and security in the sub-region. Other challenges included hierarchical organizational cultures that do not allow youth to make their voices heard and a lack of meaningful youth engagement in decision-making at the highest level. When exchanging on their vision for a safe and peaceful Caribbean, the participants discussed opportunities such as deepened regional integration, increased connectivity, and strong youth networks.

In the English and Dutch-speaking Caribbean, we share many of the same issues, but we often do not work together. A peaceful Caribbean is one that recognizes our cultural diversity and uses our similarities to achieve peace and security.

Natasha Richardson, St. Vincent and the Grenadines

The recommendations emanating from the consultation will feed into a UNESCO Roadmap on the YPS agenda for the English and Dutch-speaking Caribbean. UNESCO’s actions in Caribbean SIDS are anchored in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development principles of leaving no one behind and fostering social cohesion. In this regard, youth constitute a crucial priority. Nevertheless, young people in the Caribbean SIDS face increasing levels of violence, which can lead to discouragement and disillusionment. When youth are provided with opportunities for engagement and participation, they can capitalize on their resilience constructively, becoming valuable assets for peacebuilding and agents of social positive change.

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