As I contemplated writing this article for International Youth Day this year, I was struck by the number of confident, articulate and passionate young people I have met whilst at SPREP. Many of these young people hold positions in government, regional organisations or work with civil society. Some are still at school or university but are confident speakers at public events or seminars. They organise fund raisers, develop proposals, mentor younger colleagues and pursue further training to strengthen their skills in their chosen work area. They are conscientious consumers and believe in practicing what they preach. They motivate each other and seem to have a special knack of seeing everything as an opportunity, spending little time dwelling on what they cannot do. Instead, they seek to grow together, supporting one another.
Who are these young people?: They are the future of our Pacific islands – one day, they will be hosts on our TV screens, leading the political debates in parliament houses, seated at the United Nations, determining what should be taught in classrooms. They will be making the decisions for the next few generations. Several years ago, SPREP recognised the imperative of investing in our youth if sustainable development was to become reality – and not just rhetoric. Our past experience also showed us that this investment must go beyond mere education or ‘sensitisation’; it must equip and empower young people with the knowledge, skills and the confidence they need to think critically, view issues systemically, find solutions through dialogue and discussion, and, most importantly, take action. To this end, SPREP identified committed, motivated young people who were already active in their own spheres of influence, be it setting up waste separation posts in a school yard, patrolling their coastal waters for poachers, studiously working on their marine science degrees at university, or trying to reduce fuel consumption in a small business. Our aim was to help nurture and build on the good work that had already been started.
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