Go beyond consulting youth for their ideas; Prepare them to innovate & co-lead accelerated action on the Sustainable Development Goals

– UNDP Resident Representative

November 6, 2023
scenes from Ready Set Great youth conference 2023

Scenes from Ready Set Great youth conference: (Top) delegates hanging out minutes after the conference; (bottom left): UNDP Resident Representative Denise E Antonio and (Bottom right); during the conference

Photo by
UNDP MCO in Jamaica

Youth must be positioned to innovate and co-lead accelerated action on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in preparation for the leadership roles they are destined to assume in 2030, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative Denise E Antonio has advised.

She urged stakeholders to go further than consulting youth for their ideas, insisting that youth must be prepared to “helm innovative projects that break new ground, test new theories and push the envelope on how we confront the pressing issues of our time.”

The charge was made on behalf of Ms Antonio by Assistant Resident Representative Ms Ava Whyte  during the opening ceremony of UNDP’s Ready Set Great Youth conference at the Jamaica Pegasus on International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on 17 October.

In delivering the Resident Representative’s charge directly to delegates, Ms Whyte said with a changing of the guard inevitable over the next seven years to 2030, youth must be prepared to take over. “In the near future some of you will be captains of industry. Some will innovate new ways of solving persistent challenges. Some will have a hand in shaping people centred policies. Your training must start now, backed by financing, supported by mentorship, powered by your progressive national youth policy and the UN 2030 Youth Strategy which was launched locally last week,” she stated.  

Ms Whyte said UNDP will continue to support the strategic direction of the UN’s youth policies whilst promoting UNDP’s global mission to tackle poverty, inequality & exclusion and building resilience to crisis. 
In pursuit of that goal, she disclosed, UNDP is already implementing plans to support marginalized groups including young people access better opportunities to escape or stay out of poverty through grants, training, and mentorship.  

She called on youth to offer their skills and talents in support of Jamaica’s national targets for ending extreme poverty and reducing poverty to less than 10% by 2030, focusing on dimensions of youth poverty that resonate with their talents.
And in the grand finale of the conference, a team of three university students were declared winners of the 2023 Development Challenge after pitching their solution ‘Opportunify’ before delegates and judges. The three, who called their group ‘Team Youth Poverty Fighters’ are Whitney Waysome and Jada Powell of the University of the West Indies and Jada Francis of Northern Caribbean University (NCU). They have won paid internships at the UNDP Multi Country Office in Jamaica.

The Ready Set Great conference, convened in-person for the first time following two years as a virtual event, also featured break out groups on a draft Call to Action on Youth Poverty, a motivational talk from Scotch Boyz CEO and co-founder, Neil Hudson; UNDP’s Development Challenge pitch competition for university students and a series of masterclasses to share critical lessons and best practices with youth interested in supporting national efforts to reduce poverty.

The Steering Committee leading the implementation of Ready Set Great included representatives of UNDP, Planning Institute of Jamaica, Vision 2030 Secretariat, Sir Artur Lewis Institute for Social and Economic Research (SALISES), Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN), Youths For Excellence Limited, Youths Inspiring Positive Change Jamaica, Young Women and Men of Purpose, Jamaica Union of Tertiary Students, and the Caribbean Youth Climate Justice Coalition.

The youth demographic is one of several groups targeted for services under UNDP MCO’s Country Programme 2022 – 2026, having been identified as requiring urgent support to strengthen their social resilience and inclusion.  

UNDP’s Country Programme aims to contribute to national efforts to reduce multidimensional poverty.