Opening Remarks by Michelle Gyles-McDonnough UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative for Barbados and the OECS

May 12, 2012

UNDP Project Youth Innovation (Youth-IN): A Caribbean Network for Youth Developmen. Youth Think Tank Workshop

As part of the International Year of Youth last year, the United Nations General Assembly held a high-level meeting on youth in July.  The convening of a high-level meeting on youth reflects the member states understanding that young people must become central to the development process and the importance member states place on finding avenues for meaningful engagement of young people.  At the July high-level meeting, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made the following statements about youth: 

  • The Facebook generation is showing a growing resolve to change our world – and a capacity to make things happen;
  • They are bringing their energy and courage to some of the most difficult issues we face;
  • Young people are standing up for the rights of those who suffer discrimination based on gender, race and sexual orientation;
  • They are confronting sensitive issues – talking to their peers and working to stop the spread of HIV and AIDS;
  • And they are leading the charge to adopt a green model for development;
  • Young people often understand better than older generations that we can and must transcend our religious and cultural differences in order to reach our shared goals.

Fast forwarding to April of this year as he addressed the Commission on Population and Development, the Secretary-General emphasized that youth are a force for progress.

Today we welcome you to the UN House as youth leaders, as a force for progress across the region.  And I welcome you to the UN House trusting that you are ready to assume this responsibility, and to work with us in helping you to find the best spaces and pathways to stamp your imprint, push new thinking and action, and to open doors for other young people like you to also make their contribution. 

As you know only too well, youth face many challenges in today’s world. Some of these challenges become magnified in the context of small island developing states, where the contextual vulnerabilities reduce the opportunities for young people.

You have been selected through a rigorous process in which you have demonstrated your willingness to support young people. This is a critically important undertaking as over 64% of CARICOM citizens are between the ages of 15 and 24.  It means that for CARICOM to make meaningful progress, governments’ policies, plans, and actions must enable, empower, and make possible the realization of the aspirations of Caribbean young people.  We invite you to join efforts with the United Nations Development Programme to support and empower youth as a force for progress.

We invite you to join the Caribbean Youth Think Tank (YTT), which is an initiative of the project Youth-IN. Youth-IN is funded by the Government of Italy and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Barbados and OECS Office. The project addresses the challenges of young people in the region and enhances opportunities for young people to make a difference in their communities and their nations. The Youth-IN project will:

  1. Increase Youth participation in governance, youth involvement and youth change agent capacities with increased civic, decision making and leadership skills;
  2. Create new and strengthened youth networks addressing Caribbean regional, national and global development agendas with ICTs platforms;
  3. Create new and strengthened Youth entrepreneurship initiatives expanding livelihood opportunities for youth (with emphasis in creative and environment industries);
  4. Create communication tools to reflect youth capabilities and strengthened youth planning.

Specifically, the YTT will:

  • Support youth in the region to build the future they want;
  • Promote dialogues with a positive vision for tomorrow;
  • Support the voices of youth to express their dreams for their communities, and for their lives;
  • Help youth to raise their voices and share how they imagine the world, how they dream about it and how to make it real.

By the end of this week, we will officially launch the YTT.  The workshop that starts today is very important and will define how the YTT will operate. We wish you success during the workshop and encourage you to dream with the future of youth in the region.

We will work together with the YTT to make this dream come true. 


Thank you.





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