Acting Prime Minister, Freundel Stuart????

The continued development of this nation’s youth is one of the major objectives of Government.

This was emphasised last night by Acting Prime Minister, Freundel Stuart, as he delivered the feature address to officially launch International Year of the Youth, at Solidarity House, St. Michael. It has as its theme: "Dialogue and Mutual Understanding".

He told his audience of young persons that Government had determined that the development of Barbadian youth would be placed at the centre of?? economic and social policies. "As we seek to encourage dialogue and understanding across generations, while promoting the ideal for peace, respect for human rights and freedoms and solidarity during this year of the youth, we will continue to focus on promoting projects and programmes aimed at the development of the youth in ways that will make them productive and worthy citizens," Mr. Stuart stated.

He said: "We, therefore, insisted that this progressive focus on our young citizens should be permanently recorded in our youth manifesto, which pledges to ensure that young Barbadians are given an opportunity to participate in the decision-making process.

"We also pledged, among other things, to create mechanisms to strengthen youth organisations and enable young people generally to pursue productive and purposeful activities."

In order to facilitate this development, the Acting Prime Minister explained that a National Youth Consultation was conducted from July to November, 2008 with 35 young persons drawn from various organisations using the participatory learning assessment method. He indicated that this method of consultation, where young citizens were interviewed by their peers and allowed to put forth tangible ideas to promote national development, was the first of its kind to be conducted in Barbados and the eastern Caribbean.

Furthermore, Mr. Stuart added that the information gathered by the young people would be updated and used to assist in the development of a National Youth Policy for Barbados. He stressed that Government could not on its own tackle all of the challenges of youth and, therefore, welcomed the continued support of the private sector and civil society.

The Acting Prime Minister further pledged that inspite of the current economic conditions, Government would continue to make the necessary investments in young people. "We are of the view that the investment we make today in our young people will determine the kind of future that we leave for generations to come. …The Ministry of Youth, Family and Sports will work with the National Youth Forum and youth organisations to ensure that the objectives of International Year of the Youth are met within the context of the Barbadian reality," he reiterated.

Mr. Stuart encouraged Barbadians in general to attend the town hall and community outreach meetings being held across the island to continue to facilitate further dialogue.?? "The kind of youth policy we craft today will have significant impact on the development of young people and, more importantly, of the future development of our beloved country," he underscored.

The National Youth Forum is a key part of Government’s policy of embracing the youth by affording them an opportunity to provide invaluable feedback on policies and programmes that affect them.

The secondfirst business session of the National Youth Forum takes place tomorrow, Saturday, August 14 at the Liberal Arts Auditorium of Barbados Community College. clashley@barbados.gov.bb

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