BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – A completely revamped youth engagement forum is on the cards when the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) holds the 53rd Annual Meeting of its board of governors next month in Saint Lucia.
Excitingly, it will also be the first full in-person youth forum in four years, with the last taking place at the bank’s 49th Annual Meeting in Trinidad and Tobago in 2019.
“With all that has changed in the intervening years due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the new youth forum has been updated to meet the challenges and opportunities of the current time,” said CDB social analyst Kemberley Gittens, who leads on youth development and is coordinating the programme.
Previously known as Vybzing, the new event, Youth for Innovation and Resilience (Youth FIRE) will be convened between June 13 and 15, 2023 with young people from CDB’s 19 Borrowing Member Countries (BMCs), with strong representation expected from the host country Saint Lucia.
Youth FIRE will also see the announcement of the inaugural cohort of CDB’s Future Leaders Network (CDB FLN) which was announced at the close of the 52nd Annual Meeting in the Turks and Caicos Islands last year. The CDB FLN will be a key body in advancing the priority areas of CDB’s work, with the members of the Network, selected from across CDB’s BMCs, serving as advocates for the youth and sustainable development agendas as well as advisors to the bank on youth-focused programming and projects.
The CDB FLN members, and the Network Advisors will be in attendance alongside a contingent of Saint Lucian youth leaders, activists and advocates.
Day one of the conference will feature the Youth FIRE Dialogue, where the full group will participate in a series of interactive discussions and presentations focused on critical issues facing young people in the Caribbean. The young people will interrogate topics including ‘Youth, Innovation and Inclusive Economic Empowerment’ and ‘Youth and Peaceful Societies’, presenting issues and proposing solutions.
Among the innovators and experts who will present at the Dialogue are Johanan Dujon, a Forbes 30 under 30 entrepreneur and founder of Algas Organics, attorney and motivational speaker Raphael Saul and rural women’s advocate Keithlin Caroo, the founder of Helen’s Daughter, a non-profit which provides capacity building and market access opportunities for rural women farmers.
Days two and three will be dedicated to the first meeting of the CDB FLN, where the members will undergo personal and professional development, and capacity-building training relevant to their roles in the Network.
CDB’s division chief, social sector division, Dr Martin Baptiste said the revamped youth outreach programme represents CDB’s commitment to and investment in the social and economic empowerment of the region’s young people.
“Almost half of the region’s population is under 25 years old, hence our youth demographic represents the Caribbean’s greatest asset for achieving sustainable development. At the same time, we recognise the impacts which the COVID-19 pandemic has had on young people in particular – on their mental health, their ability to access education, the availability of economic opportunities and more. Investing in and engaging with young people is imperative in rebuilding the resilience of the Caribbean,” said Dr Baptiste.