Today, Barbados joins the global community in observing International Youth Day (IYD). The IYD has been an important day on our national calendar from its inception in 2000 when the United Nations decided to provide a dedicated space to focus on celebrating young people and highlighting issues faced by them.
This year’s theme “Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health” is a timely reminder that climate change has been impacting our natural systems to such an extent that the health of humankind and the planet is in peril. Indeed, the Government of Barbados has long recognised that it is human activity through the use of fossil fuels, deforestation and unsustainable agriculture which contribute to climate change and decreases the availability of nutritious foods, clean water and destroys ecosystems endangering secure living environs. These negative factors then lead to malnutrition, ill-health and increase the vulnerability of young people.
Addressing the concerns about a sustainable environment has therefore been critical components of Barbados’s development plan as outlined in green policy objectives in my Government’s Manifesto of 2018. In more recent times, the Government of Barbados has developed an energy policy with an overall goal and commitment to transform from fossil fuel to green energy by 2030. In addition, Feed Programme in the Ministry of Agriculture is an initiative designed to assist young people to increase and transform the production of food through smart agriculture.
Notwithstanding our local efforts, the global crisis continues to be fuelled by the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has undermined all the socio-economic and other gains attained by young people.
From our lens in Barbados, COVID-19 has impacted young people across all domains of youth well-being. At the macro level, attempts to flatten the curve of COVID-19 infections have seen a commensurate decline in economic activity, face-to -face contact and reduced access to social services such as education, nutrition, health care among others. In addition, other studies point to the fact that factors such as poverty, poor diets, inadequate nutrition and lack of exercise are contributing factors to the increase in chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and obesity among children and youth. It is evident therefore that if these trends continue that there will be significant economic and health burden on the country.
My Ministry is therefore quite strident in its commitment to turn these challenges around and to build resilience and social capital among our young people to allow them to rebound from internal or external shocks by:
- strengthening coping capacities;
- working with other stakeholders to develop policies which widen choices, capabilities and opportunities for persons already in fragile situations;
- creating a generation of young people committed to healthy lifestyles; and
- Educating young people to care for the environment.
The Division of Youth Affairs therefore engages teenagers and young adults in a range of sporting and psycho-educational activities at the community level through its National Community Sports Training Programme. The partnership with the National Sports Council to deliver physical training and sporting activities in the school and the Bajefit Programme in communities are well-thought-out strategies that involve Barbadians from all walks of life in this national exercise programmes.
The commitment on this IYD is to join with the global movement and to use multi-sectoral approaches to advance innovative solutions to ensure safe, accessible, sustainable and equitable food systems, cleaner air as well as reduced risks of extreme heatwaves.
The innovation must come from our youth, a vulnerable population with preexisting susceptibility to socioeconomic shocks. My Ministry, therefore, intends to develop the spirit of resilience among young people that allows them to engage meaningfully as active participants in the response and recovery important for enhancement of human and planetary health. The significant youth bulge in the population, energy and resolve, creativity; future thinking are all assets to be utilised to save the planet.
I am inviting support from faith-based organisations, environmental groups, sports clubs, professional associations, and organisations across all diverse sectors to come up with innovative approaches and programmes to assist communities to focus on healthy living.
You are the next generation and must chart the path with education and training to be the human and planetary health leaders now and in the future.
My mission critical therefore is to ensure that you are provided with information that will allow you to move Barbados towards a green economy in order for the country to better adapt to the impacts of climate change, manage natural capital, protect fragile ecosystems, create green jobs and achieve sustainable development.
My Ministry will continue to sensitize young people and to incorporate them as active agents in the preservation of the environment which is one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through:
- Integrating environmental studies into programmes as investment in training and education to smooth the transition to a green economy and prepare persons to exploit its economic benefits at an early age;
- Using popular and influential persons in society to promote healthy practices;
- Implementing training programmes that would focus on Green Careers in addition to traditional jobs and professions, as a means of creating the new diversified economy of Barbados.
- Introducing Mentorship programmes and partnerships with stakeholders in the green economy;
- Mainstreaming environmental protection to other areas of life such as culture, economics, enterprise, sports and recreation.
In closing, let me reiterate that the Government remains committed to supporting your efforts and your development on this International Youth Day.
Happy International Youth Day.
The message was delivered by the Minister of Youth, Sports And Community Empowerment, Dwight Sutherland.