On Monday 24 February, Samoan Youth launched the Local Chapter of the Global Network for the Future of Small Islands at Robert Louis Stevenson Secondary School in Apia. During the event, students as well as young farmers from across the country, teachers, representatives from the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development and from UN agencies came together to highlight the importance of young people in the future of Samoa and its sustainable development.
“We need the leaders of today to partner with the leaders of tomorrow,” said student Brianna Fruean highlighting the role of young people in sustainable development and what the newly created global SIDS (Small Island Developing States) Youth network hopes to achieve.
The network builds on work undertaken by young people last year in the workshop series entitled ‘My World, My SIDS – Y.E.S (Youth, Empowerment and Sustainability).’ These workshops enabled 70 youth participants from 30 SIDS countries and territories of the Caribbean, Pacific and AIMS (Atlantic, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and South China Sea) regions to identify and discuss the issues and challenges faced by youth in SIDS. They also articulated their vision of the future they want and put forward concrete recommendations to be implemented at local, national, regional and international levels. Key issues facing young people in SIDS were identified as education, employment, good governance and climate change. The outcome of these meetings was presented at the three high-level regional meetings held in 2013 in preparation of the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States, which will take place in Samoa in September 2014.
The launch of the Samoan chapter was part of a global launch of the network in New York supported by a series of local, national, and regional launches of the SIDS Youth Network organized around the world. In New York, three youth represented Caribbean, Pacific and AIMS Small Island Developing States. The event took place during the first meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the 2014 SIDS Conference. It was opened by Ms. Vibeke Jensen, UNESCO Representative to the UN General Assembly in New York and attended by SIDS ambassadors and representatives.
Coinciding with the launch of the International Year of SIDS, the Network launch highlighted the importance of ensuring that voices of young people are an integral part of the SIDS process from start to finish. The Network is intended to serve as a platform for young people to be agents of sustainable development in their countries and in SIDS across the world.
Acknowledging this, the Samoan Government wants to ensure that young people are heard during the Conference. As the Honorable Minister of Women, Community and Social Development, Afioga Tolofuaivalelei Falemoe Leiataua, said in his keynote address at the launch: “Youth [are] a key partner in identifying common issues, advocating them and helping to be part of the solution.”
UNESCO has been actively engaged in developing the SIDS Youth Network. For example, in Samoa, UNESCO organized a UN Conference simulation with students from Vaiala Beach School in September 2013. Chaired by the Ombudsman of Samoa, Afioga Maiava Iulai Toma, the CEO of the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture, Matafeo Falana’ipupu Tanielu Dan Aiafi, and former UN Resident Coordinator for Samoa, Nileema Noble, the students took the role of UN member states to discuss the future they wanted.
The overall concept of the SIDS Youth Network was developed to support youth participation in the SIDS process through collaboration between UN agencies (UNESCO, UNICEF, UNFPA, ILO, UNWomen, WHO, UNAIDS), regional agencies in the SIDS (SPC, SPREP, PIFS, IOC), NGOs (Pacific Youth Council, Pacific Disability Forum, FemLink Pacific, IPPF) and young people who have been part of the preparatory process for the SIDS Conference.