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Remarks by the Secretary General – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Ambassador Irwin LaRocque   at the   Opening ceremony of the   CARICOM Youth Ambassador CARICOM Single Market and Economy advocacy workshop   GEORGETOWN, GUYANA 29-30 MAY 2014

It is always a pleasure for me to be a part of any activity involving the youth of our Community and even moreso when it involves the CARICOM Youth Ambassadors (CYAs). Your energy and enthusiasm are a source of inspiration to me and a positive force for driving the integration process in our Community.

This positive vibration is needed as CARICOM enters a critical phase of its evolution. We have embarked on a Reform Process, a major element of which is the Community’s Strategic Plan to be presented to Heads of Government at their Meeting in July. I must thank you, the CARICOM Youth Ambassadors, for the role you played in the development of the Plan during the National Consultations and in the conduct of the telesurvey among your peers. Your input, both at the level of organisation and ideas, demonstrated quite clearly your readiness to be an integral part, not only of the process determining the direction of the Community but also to be an active participant in building your Region. And this is as it should be as it is you and your peers who will benefit from what evolves from this Reform Process.

In repositioning CARICOM through this Reform Process, it is expected that sufficient space will be created to allow our youth to use their initiative and creativity to help build a sustainable and viable society. It is your ideas and your vision of what you would like the Community to be that would help to create that space. It is critical that you, as Ambassadors, maintain the momentum which saw such avenues as last year’s twitter relay and your social media platform to continue the conversation and guide your peers to join you as advocates for the Community. Those consultations stressed the need for greater communication about our integration movement.

I am aware that you cannot do this on your own and must be supported by policies and actions at the national and regional levels. The 2010 Youth Action Plan which was devised from widespread consultations with youth is one such guide, as its implementation is geared towards developing and empowering youth to realise their full potential. One of the programmes to develop entrepreneurial skills, drawn from that Plan, the Creativity for Employment and Business Opportunity (CEBO), in which some of you were involved, has proven to be both popular and successful. Importantly, it targeted vulnerable, marginalised and unattached youth, a cohort which too often has not benefitted from organised interventions.

The shaping of entrepreneurial skills is certainly one avenue on the path to youth development and empowerment which has been identified by our Heads of Government as a priority issue. Those skills can be used for self-employment and eliminate the need to depend on someone to provide a job.  The innovation and creativity as well as the organisational skills displayed in the CEBO programme spoke volumes for the talent which exists among our youth. It is a success story.

For our Community to progress, and as we seek to implement the Strategic Plan, we need to build our human capacity and ensure it is in concert, for example, with the demands of the priorities established within that Plan. What I am certain of is that regardless of whatever priorities are set out, the age in which we live guarantees that Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) will play a fundamental role. It is to you, the digital natives, that the task will fall in large measure to utilise your skills with the technology to make a difference and add value to our products and services.

There are other opportunities to help develop your Community of which you should be aware in your role as advocates which involve education and training. Emphasis on broadening the range of skills outside the academic realm has increased the importance of strengthening technical and vocational education and training, (TVET). An eight-year project to expand this field entitled CARICOM Education for Employment has been instituted with the help of the Canadian Government and is being implemented in 12 of our Member States. This training assumes added significance as we put in place the Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) to enable those trained in such skills to be part of the movement of skills regime under the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

With the help of one of our longstanding partners, the European Union (EU), with whose support this workshop is being held, we have sought to spread the word about the CSME through events like these with different stakeholders. We have also engaged a number of your peers in a project which saw them visiting other CARICOM countries to observe the CSME in operation. Its success can be viewed from the fact that there is now a social media forum among some of those who participated. The next phase of that project is in the planning stages and I have instructed my staff to ensure that you the youth Ambassadors will be involved. I must take this opportunity to thank the EU for its fulsome support for our efforts at establishing the CSME and promoting it widely.

As CARICOM Youth Ambassadors you are advocates championing the Community and its programmes including the CSME in your respective countries and throughout the Region. The aim of this workshop is to sensitise you on issues critical to the success of the CSME and give you the knowledge and tools to engage your peers and other stakeholders with passion and conviction that the integration process including the CSME can and does work for them. I urge you to think about how you can distil and deliver this message to them because you are all critical to the success not only of the CSME but also the wider regional integration movement. You are this Community and what you do as CARICOM citizens will in large measure determine what happens to this Community. I look forward to continue working with you as we strive to ensure that our Community is strong, resilient and prosperous and provides an opportunity for all.

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