More work and less talk for Pacific youth needed

02 Jun 2011

(Suva, Fiji) – Youth are not just the future, but are very much a part of the present, and because of this Pacific leaders should pay greater attention to the concerns of young people.

This strong message came out at the launch of a report “Urban Youth in the Pacific – Increasing Resilience and Reducing Risk for Involvement in Crime and Violence,” today.

The report, produced in response to a concern raised by the Forum Regional Security Committee (FSRC) about the involvement of a small but increasing number of urban youth in crime and violence, acknowledged that the region must put in place policies and programmes to help build the resilience of young people.
Speaking at the launch, Jewel Toloa, a young woman of Samoan and Tokelauan descent said, “Young people are exceptionally vulnerable to changes and influences. Growing up in the islands as a young woman, youth involvement in crime and violence has increased tremendously not only in my neighbourhood, my village, but also my country.”

Ms Toloa challenged Pacific governments and development partners to address youth concerns without delay.

“We need to invest more time and resources into building youth facilities; conducting youth awareness programmes, developing capacity and providing support and counseling services, as well as recruiting qualified personnel to ensure that youth development in the region has a range of services to select from depending on the scenarios. We need not to wait for more reports, publications and recommendations to direct us to what needs to be done,” she said.

The United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator and UN Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative Knut Ostby who jointly launched the report with the Acting Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Andie Fong Toy, acknowledged the contribution of young people to society.

“The majority of young Pacific people contribute through study, work, socio-cultural obligations and service to their family and community. Young people are also commonly victims well as often perpetrators of violence and crime. In this way they both contribute to and threaten human security in the region,” he said.

“This report aims to provide policy and programming options for Pacific governments and other stakeholders, including the United Nations, to prevent young people becoming involved in crime and violence, and to fulfill their potential as productive citizens. It attempts to present how human security can be strengthened through supporting young people, who are at risk of involvement in crime and violence, to build resilience,” Mr Ostby said.

The report identifies resilience factors that decrease the probability of young people’s involvement in crime and violence. Some of these factors include: relevant and quality education, sound guidance from parents, quality time spent by parents with children, peers that show positive behaviour, engagement with religious institutions, good communication within families, a healthy and safe family and community environment.

“The specific findings and recommendations of this report to build resilience and reduce risk to crime and violence build upon the foundation of the Pacific Plan. At a national level they provide governments as well as other stakeholders with solid information and practical recommendations to move forward in tackling this threat to human security in the region. It also provided guidance on what regional organizations and others can do to support action at the national level,” said the Acting Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Andie Fong Toy.
She added that “The report does not pull any punches in regard to the involvement of young people in crime and violence as a serious regional human security issue. Young people, although not leaders or necessarily instigators, were very much active in the tensions in the Solomon Islands and the civil unrest in Nuku’alofa in 2006. They are active in both minor and serious crime.

“Fortunately, throughout the region the report shows that there are ongoing efforts to tackle these and other problems related to youth crime and violence, including examples of best practice in all six case study urban centres,” she said.
The report covers issues like what factors push Pacific youth to become involved in crime and violence and what can be done to reduce the risk and increase the resilience of young people. The report highlights good policies and activities that address youth crime and violence. It contains case studies from six Pacific Island countries – the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Samoa and Tonga.

It has been produced jointly by UNDP Pacific Centre and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Pacific Youth Council, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
The launch was held in conjunction with the Forum Regional Security Committee (FRSC) meeting being held at the Forum Secretariat from 2-3 June 2011.