Very regularly in this newscast, we report on different government initiatives targeting youth development. These initiatives are designed and by experts who are - in most instances - adults, but today, the Government of Belize launched a new venture.
It is innovative because the consultants and experts who designed it just happen to be the target group, the youths themselves. It is called the National Youth Development Policy, and it is a program in which the concerns of the youths are brought to a forum within the Government, who consult with them and act accordingly with funding to realize the solutions.
It was launched today at the Bliss Center for the Performing Arts, and 7News spoke to a few of the officials who will ensure that it is implemented.
Sherlene Neal-Tablada - Adolescent Development Officer, UNICEF
"One of the things that we really tried to advocate for is investment in young people. And so, the fact that the country has a policy that has been signed and approved by Cabinet indicates the level of seriousness the Government has about its young people and its intention to invest in young people. The policy provides that framework for us to say that we must come together, let us use these actions outlined in the policy to be able to make some right actions on behalf of young people."
Hon. Herman Longsworth - Minister of State with Responsibility for Youth and Sports
"Well, it is more what it represents for the youths. It is a direction now for youths. It is a commitment by the Government to work with youths to try to get them to where we feel that they ought to be, and that is for them to decide on the way forward themselves."
"What sort of development do the youths believe that they need for the country?"
Hon. Herman Longsworth
"Well certainly, I believe that they want to be more participatory. They want to be a part of the process, and we're doing that. We're giving them the opportunity now to sit down and say, 'Look, these are the things that impact on us the most, and these are what we want to see the Government move with. So really, I can't get into the specifics. They will have to tell us, but this provides them with the vehicle to be able to get to us and show us what it is they want done. They want to be able to have access to education, places where they can congregate safely. They want to have access to programs that will grow them. Those are the basic things that they've beem asking for, but like I said, the policy is more of a structure through which the youths can have better access to getting Government to do things on their behalf. There is going to be a youth council that will be formed which is going to be decide upon by the youths themselves, as a part of an elective process, nationwide. That youth council will be responsible to hold Government to task on anything that Government has agreed to do. So, they will come to us and say, 'Look, these are the things we need done.' We will work with them, dialog with them until will come to an appreciation what we can do, and they will then be responsible for holding Government to task, to ensure that we get the things done that we've agreed to do."
One youth organization has already endorsed the policy. This evening, Nation Builders National Youth Movement sent out a statement congratulating Ministers Patrick Faber and Herman Longsworth. According to them it's a first step in the right direction, but they believe that at this stage, the policy is too vague in its approach to the areas of access and affordable education, youth governance and creating economic opportunities for young people.
Nation Builders also voiced its commitment to dialog with ministry officials on ideas which they believe will help to target specific problems within these areas.
And finally, Nation Builders asks that the Government show its commitment to the policy by reflecting financial support for it in the upcoming national budget. According to them, this will be the litmus test of whether or not GOB is serious about the policy's success.