(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) More than 9, 000 young people logged on to new media platforms on Thursday afternoon, to participate in a two hour social media interaction with the CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque.
Dubbed Live with SG and hosted by the CARICOM Youth Ambassadors, the live social media interaction facilitated by Dominican based COMESEE TV in partnership with the CARICOM Secretariat was hailed a resounding success by young people – and adults too – across the Region.
The brain child of Jamaica’s CARICOM Youth Ambassador, Dwayne Gutzmer who also anchored the program, Live with SG is the first in a series of social media interactions that will occur between key players in the Caribbean Community and young people across the Region. The programme was conceptualised to, among other objectives, give young people an opportunity to share their views with the CARICOM Secretary-General and to expose young people across the Region to the work of the Community and its Secretariat. It was also used as a medium to highlight the strides made by the CARICOM Secretariat in the area of youth engagement and development.
Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, who fielded more than 35 questions within the two hours, told his audience of young enthused constituents that based on his interaction with youth during his visits to Member States, “I know we have some of the brightest and most talented youth in our Community…The Community is in good hands.”
In sharing his vision for youth, he said he would like to help build on the talents and strengths that had already existed and create opportunities for others to develop their skills.
The CARICOM Secretary-General further stated that the Community’s priority actions for youth development include job creation, strengthening of Community spirit and regional identity, transformation of education to develop the ideal Caribbean Citizen who is globally competitive and strengthening youth participation in the Community’s decision-making processes.
“We want more young people who are deeply committed to developing this region –OUR Region,” the Secretary-General stressed.
Ambassador LaRocque was very excited about using the medium and told the young people that they should continue to use the technology to not only connect with key players like himself but to “inspire each other; to draw strength from each other and to forge a Caribbean and CARICOM identity, because “that is what regional integration is all about.” Dwayne Gutzmer, the Dean of the Youth Ambassador Corps, said the link-up was timely and that the objectives were met. Young people, he added, who might not have had another opportunity, interacted with the CARICOM Secretary-General, whom Gutzmer stated, gave “frank unscripted answers to frank questions.”
Gutzmer stated that he was particularly pleased that the Secretary-General had articulated his vision for young people in the Region and that the vision includes “putting back the people at the centre of the Community.”
He expressed satisfaction that the Secretary-General had given a commitment to appropriately positioning young people to continue to contribute meaningfully to regional integration; and as Dean of the CYA Corps, he and his team were ready and willing to take that journey of Community building with the Secretary-General.
The questions fielded by the CARICOM Secretary-General touched on issues such as youth employment, CSME, the impact of globalization on regional integration, policy formulation and implementation, youth in Agriculture, the relevance of Caribbean education and appropriateness of sex education in schools.
The comments from several young people who posted on the Youth Ambassadors’ Face book page were telling testimony to their satisfaction with his answers.
However, there was consensus that the response of the day was his brilliant treatment of the achievements of the Community. Ambassador LaRocque assertively rejected the notion that CARICOM had achieved very little and proceeded to enumerate the tremendous strides that the Community had made since its inception. He pointed to the British based external exam, the General Certificate of Education (GCE) which he stated was not culturally friendly to Caribbean students and noted that “we now have a curriculum and exam that are culturally specific and represent us.”
He added that we mobilise our region and give decisive leadership during the time of natural disasters and unlike others, the Community, through its regional institution CDEMA gives rapid regional response to Member States. He cited the Community’s fight against lifestyle related diseases and the decisive leadership given by the Community in getting the rest of the world to stop and take stock of the effects of Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases on global development. Ambassador LaRocque emphasized the important word of the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) in coordinating the Region’s response to HIV and AIDS.
“That is a regional success; that is regional integration,” the CARICOM Secretary-General asserted.
In his estimation the Community is being judged on the basis of one programme – the CSME – which has ostensibly become synonymous with CARICOM. But even in that, Ambassador LaRocque said, the Community had made progress in creating wider markets for Caribbean products and solidifying the Region’s political influence in the International Community. He emphasized however that the Community was much more than trade; and encouraged the young people to become passionate about the Region and join him in campaigning for CARICOM.