ELSIE CHOUNOUNE: International Youth Day Public Education Forum on Migration and Youth

Aug 12, 2013

I welcome you all to the International Youth Day Public Education Forum on Migration and Youth in commemoration of International Youth Day 2013. The International Youth Day (IYD), celebrated on August 12th of each year, was established by the United Nations in 2000 as a means of raising awareness of issues affecting young people around the world. The theme of International Youth Day 2013 is "Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward," a theme that gives us an opportunity to reflect on the livelihood, struggles and prospects that migration presents for young migrants and other youth who are affected by migration.

In keeping with the UN Secretary General’s message on International Youth Day, that “to unleash the power of young people, we need to partner with them”, we are thrilled to have with us today over 100 vibrant young partners in this room.

There is much concern for the status of youth, meaning persons 15-24, within the Caribbean. In Jamaica, the youth makes up eighteen per cent of the population. Research has shown that their family situation is fragmented, with less than half living with both biological parents, and almost twenty per cent living in households without either parent. In addition, more than sixty per cent of persons living in poverty in Jamaica are below the age of 25. Furthermore, at thirty-three per cent, Jamaica’s youth unemployment rate is the highest in the Americas. Thus, youth have been disproportionately affected by the slowdown in Jamaica’s economic growth. This inability of youth to find jobs in their hometown often lead them to urban migration in search of employment, which in turn places greater social and economic burden on urban centres, such as the case here in Kingston.

According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), one noted effect of Jamaican emigration is the phenomenon of “barrel children”. The term, “barrel children” is often used in reference to children whose parents migrate leaving them in the care of siblings, relatives or friends, and who are provided for through barrels sent with non-perishable items and through remittances sent home regularly.

Studies have shown that despite the inflow of foreign capital and the presence of relatives, “barrel children” in Jamaica are having a harder time coping without their parents, and often have suicidal thoughts. Migration has since been labelled as the single strongest factor that contributes to the breakdown of the contemporary Jamaican family, contributing to poor academic performance and delinquent behaviour. Studies have also revealed that these children are at risk for sexual abuse and prostitution.

Yet, it is also recognized that migration can have a positive socio-economic consequence. Traditionally being treated as separate policy portfolios, migration and development are today increasingly viewed having clear linkages. While development-oriented actions can help in tackling the root causes of migration flows, migration can, in turn, contribute positively to development, including economic growth, social empowerment and technological progress.

It is in this context that the National Centre for Youth Development (NCYD) is hosting this public education forum to commemorate International Youth Day. Through this forum, youth from: Kingston, Portmore, St. Catherine, St. Thomas, Manchester, St. James, St. Ann, St. Mary and Portland will be sensitized on youth issues relating to migration, as a first step towards promoting youth dialogue and understanding of the nexus between migration and development.

The other objectives of this forum are to raise awareness on the possible negative effects of parental migration on youth; facilitate dialogue for government and non-government actions that can mitigate such effects, and discuss the role of youth-led organizations in addressing migration issues.

We congratulate and thank the National Centre for Youth Development (NCYD) for hosting this public education forum to commemorate International Youth Day. We look forward to the discussions that will take place here today, and trust that the youth and all other interested stakeholders will be sensitized on the youth issues relating to migration, so that we can continue promoting youth dialogue and understanding of the nexus between migration and development.

The link between migration and development is not only economic, but there is also a social, environmental and political impact of migration on countries. With the support of the United Nations, the Government of Jamaica is taking steps to mainstream international migration into its development agenda. It is expected that the policy on migration will be aligned to other related policies, and is set within the context of the development road map for Jamaica, as outlined in the national 2030 Vision.

The United Nations in Jamaica reaffirms its commitment to working with the people of Jamaica in building the capability of Jamaica’s youth, to ultimately transform and advance the overall well-being of Jamaicans for sustainable development beyond 2015. The assistance being given to Jamaica will help to further put the country on a path to realizing the Vision 2030 Jamaica, and thus truly make Jamaica ‘the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business’.

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