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“We need to ensure that young people are enabled to be agents of change, with the power to shape a more resilient and sustainable future. This is critical in our CARICOM Region, where Youth are 60 per cent of the population.”

Dr. Carla Barnett, CARICOM Secretary-General

CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana – Wednesday, 24 April 2024: “We need to ensure that young people are enabled to be agents of change, with the power to shape a more resilient and sustainable future. This is critical in our CARICOM Region, where Youth are 60 per cent of the population.” These were the sentiments of Dr. Carla Barnett, CARICOM Secretary-General, expressed at the launch of the CARICOM Climate Change and Health Orientation and Training for CARICOM Youth Ambassadors and Youth Leaders, held Tuesday 23 April at the CARICOM Secretariat in Georgetown, Guyana.

A crucial step in empowering youth leaders, the workshop aims to heighten their understanding of the health implications of climate change and foster their involvement in devising and executing effective measures to counter these effects.

Hon. Dr. Frank Anthony, Guyana’s Minister of Health; Ms. Alison Drayton, Assistant Secretary-General, Human and Social Development; and representatives of Development Partners joined over 60 CARICOM Youth Ambassadors (CYAs), Youth Leaders and Advocates for the Opening Ceremony of this four-day programme.

Dr. Barnett emphasized that climate change is not a distant threat. It is an immediate and pressing reality with significant consequences for human health, livelihoods and well-being. “From escalating temperatures and extreme weather events to shifting disease patterns and food insecurity, the impacts of climate change are extensive, disproportionately affecting vulnerable populations, including young people, Indigenous communities and marginalised groups.”

The Secretary-General underscored that young people will have to grapple with the consequences of climate change well into the future if the Region fails to take effective action. She highlighted that the CARICOM Secretariat plays an important role in providing leadership and guidance in addressing the complex challenges posed by climate change. Development Partners, including the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the European Union (EU), were recognized by the Secretariat for the financing under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) project and their ongoing partnership with CARICOM to address some of these critical issues.

According to the Secretary-General, the Region, has been making significant strides in advancing climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts, including the establishment of regional frameworks and policies and the implementation of community-based initiatives and awareness campaigns.

“However, there is much more work to be done, and active participation of young people is essential to drive progress and foster positive change. I am pleased to see that young people have already begun to lead the charge.”

She commended Youth Leaders Dwane Hendrickson from St. Kitts and Nevis and Renee Atwell from Trinidad and Tobago for “their exemplary initiatives addressing climate change and health challenges within their respective communities.” As a result of these initiatives, over 40 young people in both countries were actively engaged in efforts to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change. This has inspired more CYAs to develop their own national projects.

She noted the Secretariat’s commitment to fostering meaningful Youth engagement and empowering the next generation of leaders to act on climate change, health, and a range of issues with which the Community is challenged. “We will continue to strengthen our own capacity to meaningfully work with young people. We will continue to create opportunities to bring young people together, not only to impart information but also to listen to you,” stated the Secretary-General.

Hon. Dr. Frank Anthony, Minister of Health, Guyana

Hon. Dr. Frank Anthony, Minister of Health, Guyana, echoed Dr. Barnett’s call for creating an enabling environment for meaningful participation by young people in climate change mitigation. “Empowering Youth in climate change involves educating them about the relationship between climate change and health,” stated Dr. Anthony, “We should enable them to advocate for evidence-based policies and practices, participate in decision-making processes and invest in education and capacity-building initiatives that enable them to lead sustainable initiatives.”

Addressing the Youth Leaders directly, the Minister underscored the importance of their contributions to mitigating the effects of climate change. “To the Youth, your energy, creativity, and passion are invaluable assets in our quest for a healthier and more resilient Caribbean. Seize this opportunity to make your mark, to inspire change, and to shape the future of our Region.”

Helpful links:

EU CARIFORUM Climate Change and Health Project

Regional Youth Advocates take action on Climate Change and Health to build a healthier future for all

Climate Change and Health – PAHO Facts

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