Minister of Youth, Family and Sports, Stephen Lashley????

A National Youth Forum will be established at the beginning of the new financial year in April, which would provide a structured opportunity for young people to make an input into the formulation of Government’s policies which affect them.

This disclosure has come from Minister of Youth, Family and Sports, Stephen Lashley, who said the Forum would sit in the north, south, east and west of the island. He made the comments today while delivering remarks during the opening ceremony for the Commonwealth Regional Youth Ministers’ Meeting at Amaryllis Hotel.

Mr. Lashley told his audience: "This National Youth Forum will be a permanent body and I will soon be announcing more details on the mobilisation efforts to be effected to make this forum a reality."

Additionally, he noted that he had already embarked upon the task within his Ministry of prioritising the Government’s agenda with respect to youth and youth development.?? "Paramount among these is the finalisation of a National Youth Policy for Barbados. This policy will set the tone for how we prepare for, incorporate and manage youth issues within the context of our national development.

"A highly experienced committee, advised by an expert on youth matters, is hard at work preparing a first draft on that policy and I have already given instructions that all of the various stakeholders must be involved in a consultative process in the form of interviews and town hall meetings before this policy is presented to the Cabinet of Barbados later this year," the Minister declared.

According to him, the two-day meeting was being held at a critical juncture in the region’s development, especially because of the myriad challenges and opportunities which confront young people. He highlighted some of the issues they were forced to deal with such as HIV/AIDS, unemployment, popular but unwholesome music, and escalating violence within communities, schools and homes.

Therefore, Mr. Lashley reminded his colleagues that they were charged with ensuring that all of their deliberations were grounded in practicality, while they identified regional priorities in youth development.

"You would appreciate that any discussion at this time on youth development issues cannot be complete unless it connects fully with the impact of the current global recession on our various economies. I, therefore, urge that over the next two days, we together explore practical initiatives to combat the challenges this recession has brought about for our young people, chief among which is the scourge of unemployment," he said.

During the meeting, which ends tomorrow, the officials are expected to discuss several areas, including national youth policies and programming: challenges and opportunities for evidence-based development.

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