By Neville Charlton, Founder & Chairman, Youths Inspiring Positive Change Jamaica Limited and member of the global 16 x 16
’16 x 16’ is part of UNDP’s Youth Global Programme for Sustainable Development and Peace (Youth-GPS), to recognize and support 16 youth-led organisations, movements or networks that promote Sustainable Development Goal 16 (SDG16). It is also a contribution to the implementation of the United Nations Youth Strategy, “Youth 2030”.
My memories of May 2019 are unlike no other. It was the month and the year that I nearly missed out on a trip to Rome and an opportunity to be counted among 16 of the world’s top youth leaders making a difference in their countries.
In fact, I nearly missed the deadline for application, as I was swamped with work and school amongst other obligations. It was in the last hour that I sent in my application for this new global initiative that is supported by the Government of Italy and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Youth Global Programme for Sustainable Development.
Fast forward a couple weeks later, I was elated to read that I was selected from thousands of applications across the world to represent Jamaica and my organization, Youth Inspiring Positive Change JA. Ltd. I also discovered that I was the only participant from the Caribbean.
The 16 x 16 Initiative recognizes, values and supports the positive role that 16 young women and men across the world play as leaders of youth organizations, movements and networks and as agents of change and partners in building peaceful, just and inclusive societies at all levels.
Testimonials and personal stories from my fellow 16x16 colleagues validated their selection to this important group. Imagine walking eight hours to get to your nation’s border in order to catch a flight or living in fear every day. That is just one of many riveting testimonials told by Dalia Francheska Marquez Anez, President of Juventud Unida en Acción/ Youth United in Action in Venezuela, which convenes workshops on human rights, peacebuilding, entrepreneurship, leadership and other issues, with a view to building young people’s resilience to Venezuela’s political and humanitarian crisis.
As we told our stories we discovered commonality in challenges and purpose, even though we hail from different countries – like Brazil, Honduras, Venezuela, Moldova Ghana, Togo, Philippines, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kenya, Malawi, Nepal, Egypt, Tunisia, Fiji, Solomon Islands. Similar challenges, such as lack of youth engagement from relevant stakeholders unite us in purposeful action.
As I discovered commonality of purpose through our stories, I was galvanized to work on the Rome Youth Call To Action which promotes and supports youth-inclusive and youth-led SDG 16 implementation, monitoring and accountability, and which urges stakeholders to take bold and strong action on SDG16 – Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. Rome Youth Call To Action Full Document
The Call to Action was finalized on the strength of various inputs from all the participants who actively collaborated with UNDP’s Youth Global Programme and participated and presented in the preparatory conference for the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on SDG 16.
We all agreed that the Call to Action must ensure that young people are not seen as the problem, but as the solution. It is high time that we allow young people the opportunity to lead these programmes and to have a voice at the table.
Here in Jamaica, I call on those who work with young people, and in programmes designed for young people to co-implement our Call to Action with the young people of Jamaica, especially focusing on:
- building on the innovative and creative work of young peacebuilders and activists on the ground;
- Identifing, funding and partnering with youth organizations, movements and networks, including grassroots ones;
- Ensuring participation of youth in formal and informal peace processes;
- Ensuring Youth are critical stakeholders in achieving SDG16;
- Investing in advocacy to promote the role of young people as positive agents of change and key partners for peace and prevention of all forms of violence
The round table discussion involving Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy Emanuela C. Del Re, left a long-lasting impression. I could see her commitment to helping to create a world where the voices of the youth are taken into consideration and allowed a seat at the table to make critical decisions. It’s really commendable to see when Governments are committed to the wellbeing of our youth, giving them a voice, listening to their voice, and taking action to support their voice.
Here in Jamaica, while much has been done, there is a much room for improvement. We need to see greater investment in youth-led initiatives, stepping away from the tokenistic approach to youth engagement and ensuring that youth are not just given the opportunity to talk, but to be heard. We call on the authorities to ensure that our suggestions for a safer, secure and more peaceful Jamaica are taken into full consideration as we have valuable contributions to make.
It’s time as youth we realize we all have a voice, and we can use that voice to speak out in the face of injustice, to show others they are not alone, and to inspire action. Together our voices are stronger. Together we can build a better world.