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The Youth Policy

Tennyson Joseph

The Youth Policy

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In presenting this brief review of the Barbados Youth Policy bill and its attendant official and unofficial debate, it is imperative that I declare an interest.  
Since 2001, I have been involved with youth policy formulation on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States and the Commonwealth Youth Programme.
Indeed, among the ideas which I have expressed in published works such as the Commonwealth Youth Development Journal has been the insistence on seeing youth as “assets to be tapped, rather than as problems to be solved”, and on using a more progressive and development-focused approach to the formulation of youth policy in the region.  
Thus, an emphasis on culture, sports and creative industries is a more advanced youth development policy than the building of juvenile detention centres.
Closely associated with this view has been the related demand that youth issues be treated, not as a minor consideration in the development effort, but as central to any economic and social policy formulation. Since the very meaning of development implies a projection towards a future transformed condition, then it follows logically that there is no development plan that is not in some way a “youth policy”.
It is on this basis therefore that the Government of Barbados must be congratulated for tabling and commencing the debate on youth policy in Parliament.
While Opposition Member of Parliament Cynthia Forde might have been correct in her assertion that it was merely an attempt to pad the list of achievements to be claimed before the election, it is perhaps unfair that the Government can be accused of not delivering on its promises and yet denied praise when it has actually achieved.
The Government and technocrats such as Cleviston Hunte, Derek Alleyne and Ivan Henry must also be congratulated for producing a document which captures most of the progressive youth development ideas advanced in the Caribbean.  
Sadly, however, the advanced nature of the policy is largely a consequence of the lateness of Barbados in the production of a youth policy.
Before Barbados, 11 of 15 CARICOM member states had developed youth policies. Barbados was therefore, as a result of the law of historical compensation, able to produce a document which captured the best youth development practices and ideas in the region.  
Thus, the document identifies the majority of youth as “decent and hardworking” and quite deliberately captures “mainstream youth” concerns. In addition, the policy is tied to existing development plans such as the National Strategic Plan and the Human Resource Development Plan.
Further, the proposed creation of an inter-ministerial council should also bring youth development more centrally into Government policymaking, and recognition of the role of the Barbados Youth Development Council will also ensure democratic participation.
The tabling of the policy, however, is only a formal statement. Its intentions must now be fulfilled.
• Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, specializing in regional affairs. Email [email protected]