Tuesday, 10 November 2009 12:41 PM

Youth Parliament Discussions

Dear Editor,

I would be grateful if you could publish my comments, thoughts and observations on the recent Youth Parliament meeting in Honiara. To put some prospective and logic to what happened; and possibly a better understanding by fellow Wantoks, I also acknowledge that some contributors have already raised various points but am hopeful that the linking here will add logic to the scenario.

This is truly a sad day for young people of Solomon Islands; Is this the best our Government can do for our young people? Even the thought of a Youth Parliament Bill is unthinkable just now; when Government should be focused on realistically funding the Youth Division and National Youth Congress (NYC) who have been dormant for a good number of years now; the NYC importantly was born of an Act of Parliament; both these entities were established out of the decision to improve youth development Nationally. The budget for these offices is of public knowledge; the least supported departments, which represent a significant portion of the population (youth) with the most issues at hand.

The Youth Parliament concept requires a significant amount of money; to pay for logistics, accommodation, food and incidental allowances. Public speculation and rumor has it that this activity is in the tone or a million dollars, with it to become an annual event. Is this value for money? From a practical perspective, one needs to look at the objectives of this gathering and try to match them with the current pressing youth issues in the country and see how the objectives will address them. Take for example, the high unemployment rate among young people, how do the objectives of this Youth Parliament address that? What mechanisms do you have in place to inform the other 149,950 (as per youth policy definition and statistics data against trend of estimated population increase) young people of the outcomes of the youth parliament and how do they benefit from it. What are the next steps?

I guess the million dollar question is; who are the actual beneficiaries? Two of the objectives refer to the parliament/government and election, well true, you can say that young people are exercising their civil and political rights but it sounds more like it's for the government/parliament and the donors' interest than the young people.

If we want the idea of Youth Parliament, because Government is insistent on getting young people's voices (meaningful participation) then a vigorous criterion for selection of young people should have been in place, as well as requirement for consultations at constituency level to really represent/present the voice of young people in this forum - Youth Parliament. The government should also respond and report to the young people on what it has done for them - it'll be interesting to see how much of the government budget is allocated to address the issues young people face.

Having said this, I am also mindful that the young people engaged in this exercise are youth and are capable of representing youth but I guess they are instinctively selected rather then voted or nominated and have the blessing of their peers to represent them. I believe there should have been proper and fair procedures in place. It is no excuse to say "this is our first time" as this idea and concept (of Youth Parliament) was brought on board to the attention of government by Regional and International Agencies that have vast expertise in the field of youth development. For them this has fitted well with their mandate (tick the box, good report to secure more funding), but is it in the best interest of young Solomon Islanders? Particularly our growing unemployed and out of school youth? And who is representing young people that are; out-of-school, betel-nut sellers and those struggling with their gardens to make ends meet? We can positively and confidently say; the most at-risk and vulnerable groups within developmental terms that need Government attention.

Mi barava sore tumas, the Regional and International Agencies have gotten their way with a concept that came from Presenters to an International Youth Ministers meeting from a developed country; and is now sadly forced on to our young people.

I think it is high time that the government puts its foot down and get the development partners and youth experts in the region and nationally to focus on the real issues of young people rather than using the young people as guinea pigs to trial their concepts.

What is happening now is of no difference to the ancient thought of music and sport nao answer fo youth problems where successive governments have seen fit to stick with.

I hope the government looks within itself to find the solutions to stem out the issues affecting our young people.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter/article are those of John Kay and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.

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