Local Government and Community Development Minister, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, has described the recently concluded stakeholders meeting in Panama to discuss, among other things, the upcoming Youth Forum on Disaster Risk Reduction in Jamaica as a success.
The Minister headed a local delegation attending the precursory meeting for the seventh Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas and the Caribbean from February 3 to 6, during which the Forum was discussed.
The symposium is among the programmed engagements for the Regional Platform, which is slated for July 7 to 10 in Montego Bay, St. James, under the theme ‘Building Resilient Economies in the Americas and the Caribbean’.
The youth forum is set for July 7 at the S Hotel in Montego Bay, and will see local and regional youth discussing several topics, including education, economic growth, and climate action.
The topics were inspired by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A statement from the youth will be submitted for inclusion in the Declaration to come out of the Regional Platform.
Jamaica’s delegation along with a team from the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) Regional Office for the Americas and the Caribbean, met with representatives from several partner entities.
These included the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Global Network of Civil Society Organizations for Disaster Risk Reduction (GNDR), and Plan International (for the Americas).
Representatives of the entities, which have a vested interest in Jamaica’s engagement, suggested the formation of a steering committee of all parties to expedite the organisation of a successful Youth Forum.
“I think that it (meeting) was a positive outcome. A lot more came out in the discussions than I had anticipated and I can see the willingness and commitment on their part to engage us in this new dispensation as it relates to the Youth Forum,” the Minister told JIS News.
He said based on the stakeholder interactions and proposals arising, including the committee’s establishment, “we are now seeking to find, as quickly as possible, someone who is going to be our eyes and our ears in relation to [that] committee”.
Meanwhile, the stakeholders lauded the Government of Jamaica for their decision to incorporate a youth forum in the Regional Platform, noting that this could set a precedent for other similar forums, while committing their support for this undertaking.
According to UNICEF’s regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Bernt Aasen, “one of the added value that we can bring is that we have the country offices that could also follow-up on the invitations”.
“I will certainly be happy to instruct the representatives we have in the countries to keep an eye on this, so we get the right people in the delegations and also some young people as well,” he said.
Meanwhile, IFRC Deputy Regional Director, Steve McAndrew, thanked the team from Jamaica for a “well-thought-out plan”.
“We from the Red Cross think this is a great idea, as we put a lot of work into developing our youth networks. I think it is an excellent idea and I know we are interested in supporting however we can and in participating. It is part of our responsibility to make sure that the youth are included and that their voices are heard,” he added.
Echoing his sentiment was Coordinator at the Red Cross Caribbean Disaster Risk Management Reference Centre, Reynette Royer, who was elated about the youth forum.
“There are a lot of good youth champions, of course, in Jamaica, but also throughout the Americas, whom we could tap into to see how they could be on some of the panels and to support and inject creativity into some of the sessions. So you can count on us for that,” she said.