Young people across the Caribbean will have a rare opportunity to directly state their concerns to United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, when the University of the West Indies (UWI) hosts a UN youth symposium at Cave Hill campus on Friday.
The UN chief will be in Barbados for the 36th Caribbean Community (CARICOM) heads of governments meeting and will engage university students and representatives of youth organisations across the region under the theme Caribbean Youth Speak: The World We Want Post -2015.
Ban, the UN’s eighth secretary-general, is looking forward to a lively engagement with young citizens of the Caribbean.
“2015 represents an opportunity for transformation and young people are in the driving seat of this change,” he said, “I am very much looking forward to listening to the views of the youth of this region on how we can ensure a life of dignity for all.”
Crime and violence, youth unemployment, climate change and gender-based violence are among issues likely to be discussed during the live interaction. Hundreds of high school and tertiary level students have been invited to be part of the audience at Cave Hill as well as at the Mona, St Augustine and Open Campus sites via video conference.
The 90-minute town-hall-styled meeting will also be broadcast on dozens of television channels to regional countries and the Caribbean Diaspora.
UWI vice-chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, considers the symposium an historic occasion. He noted that it would represent the second visit to the UWI’s Cave Hill Campus by a UN dignitary in the past three years, following that of director general of UNESCO Madame Irina Bokova in June 2012.
Beckles, who was appointed to a UN Scientific Advisory Board in late 2013, said UWI’s hosting of the event underscored the close collaborative ties between the two institutions and augurs well for future joint undertakings. He pointed to longstanding support and research funding which the UN has provided to UWI enterprises such as the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies and the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute for Social and Economic Studies.
Principal of Cave Hill campus, Professor Eudine Barriteau, said it was a special honour to be asked by the UN to facilitate the upcoming dialogue, which she saw as an ideal opportunity for young people across the region to express their concerns with a view to having them placed on the global agenda.
“There are many global issues of immediate concern to Caribbean countries; global warming and food security are two of them. I am looking forward to a fruitful dialogue between Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the region’s next generation of leaders,” she added.