Reverend Muao Fagasua,

Ms Katherine Ellis, Director of the Commonwealth Youth Division,

Honourable Ministers from the 14 Commonwealth Pacific Countries,

Excellencies & Distinguished Participants,

Young Leaders,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Talofa lava and a very warm welcome to Samoa! I am delighted to join you this evening in the opening of the first Pacific Region Commonwealth Youth Ministers meeting.  It is timely as Samoa and indeed the Pacific are gearing up to welcome the Youths of the Commonwealth to our shores for the celebration of the Commonwealth Youth Games which opens this Saturday, 5 of September.

It is the reason why I was quick to agree to host this meeting today when I was verbally requested if Samoa could host this meeting by the Secretariat of the Commonwealth at the conclusion of the Commonwealth Finance Ministers Meeting that I chaired in Washington last year. I am therefore personally encouraged by the commitment of our leaders who are here to attend this meeting; it is testament to the progress of our young people and also the recognition of the importance of working together as a region for the same objective.

The theme for this meeting “Youth as Partners in a Sustainable Small Island Development” reaffirms the renewed commitment made by Heads of Governments to sustainable development of small island states including the Pacific, through meaningful partnerships, inclusive of young people and action, as agreed to in the S.A.M.O.A. Pathway. This year is of particular importance as we transition from the Millennium Development Goals to the proposed 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) as the global development priorities for 2016-2030 that the United Nations will look to, to adopt at its Summit later on this month. As Commonwealth Pacific youth leaders, the next 3 days is an opportunity for you to revisit the commitments made at the 8th Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting and the S.A.M.O.A. Pathway, gauging progress, identifying the obstacles and mapping out a way forward for cohesive and inclusive regional approach to youth development.

Young people account for a large proportion of the population of Pacific Island countries and territories, the 15−24 year olds numbering nearly two million, close to a fifth of the regions’ total population. Over a quarter of the total population are in the wider youth age grouping of 15−30 years. The numbers and the particular challenges young people in the Pacific face include limited decent work opportunities and the associated problems when there is high unemployment and underemployment namely education and human resource development systems which are struggling to keep pace with the rapid advancements in technology and job market demands, risks associated with health, climate change, migration and so many more – meaning that we cannot keep doing the same things we did yesterday and hope for a different outcome.  Recognizing that many of the above challenges are not unique to any jurisdiction and noting our limitations as SIDs, strategic partnerships must be an integral part of the way forward, i.e. Partnerships between governments, regional agencies, development partners, community to community and youth to youth. Technological advancements offer great potentials to help us overcome some of the limitations associated with isolation and smallness and it is also a frontier which we need to open up for our young people so that they are not left behind and miss out on the opportunities for learning, and development that it provides. While there will always be challenges and risks, “with some foresight, these can be mitigated.”

I trust that this meeting is a catalyst for collaborations and partnership between the Commonwealth Secretariat, and its members, on specific regional youth priorities that we can work together to realise greater benefits than what we can get going at it alone. It is also an opportunity to work out how best to translate the post 2015 global youth development agenda to our regional and national contexts to ensure that it builds and adds value to our existing strengths while optimizing our ability to tackle the challenges.

In closing, I wish to acknowledge the continuous commitment of the Commonwealth Secretariat in pushing through youth development agenda at the regional and international arena, the support of our regional and international partners, financial support from ILO, national partners including youth themselves, all of whom have contributed to preparations for this meeting.

Lastly, I hope that you take time to have a look around Apia and beyond, and sample some of the exciting products and services of our local young entrepreneurs and many other activities this coming week.

I wish you well in your deliberations. I now declare the 9th Commonwealth Pacific Region Youth Ministers Meeting open.


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