From left: Chief Minister Victor Banks, Governor Tim Foy; Permanent Secretary Bonnie Richardson-Lake; and CARICOM facilitator Richard Berwick.
ANGUILLA–The La Vue Hotel conference room on Tuesday morning, October 2, quickly filled to capacity with scores of young Anguillians, many in their school uniforms, along with government officials, department heads, staff from the Department of Youth and Culture and panel presenters, all eager to participate in the National Youth Conference. The conference’s theme of Vision 2048: Charting the way forward for Youth Development was accompanied by an expansive and ambitious agenda focused on establishing the developmental framework for Anguilla’s youth for the next thirty years.
The agenda topics to be addressed and debated by a cross-section of the island’s youth in conjunction with subject matter experts on the first day covered the areas of youth in civil society, youth in the global economy, and youth and cultural industries. Day two’s agenda covered a multitude of issues within the area of youth and wellbeing to include constitutional change and identity, social and family support services, citizen security, and health/fitness and physical wellbeing.
Department of Youth and Culture Director Bren Romney welcomed all present and reminisced about his involvement in the formulation of the first Anguilla youth policy. He said all promises made by the government to the youth in the current policy, adopted in 2003, had been fulfilled. He thanked Anguilla’s government for remaining faithful to the promises made. He also thanked the international partners, The Commonwealth Youth Programme from the Commonwealth Secretariat who have provided US $60,000 in grant funding for the development of a new modern youth policy, as well as the United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEF which has also provided US $60,000 towards the new youth policy development.
Governor Tim Foy encouraged participants to be open and honest in their discussions. He said, “Some of these issues to be discussed may not be comfortable issues, but it is important that all issues are out on the table and that people work together to recognise the true challenges that young people in Anguilla face. Issues, opportunities and challenges change over time and shape us in different ways. Our emotions and the way we approach life are the same but the challenges and the influences that shape us are different.”
Chief Minister Victor Banks noted that there are enduring values and principles that have survived the ages and apply to every situation. He suggested that the current undertaking be guided by these basic principles and values.
He said, “The first is focus and discipline: keep your eyes on the prize. Success is not a birthright but comes from overcoming tremendous odds and lack of resources. The second principle involves honesty and integrity. It begins by being honest with ourselves and then with others, which is integrity. The third principle is the importance of respect. You must show respect to each other, authority, nature and the environment in which we live, for those you serve and those who serve you, and for the laws that provide peace and security and order in our communities.”
Hyacinth Bradley, Community Services Planner with the Ministry of Social Development ended the opening ceremony by charging all participants working on the development of the new youth policy to engage in dialogue, to agitate for what they want, to ask questions and seek clarification, to reflect local context and question what we have done in the past, what we are doing today, and what we want to do in the future.