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Youth can save CARICOM - Advocates say millennials could change face of regional body

Published:Sunday | July 1, 2018 | 12:00 AMBrian Walker/Staff Reporter
Dr Terri-Ann Gilbert-Roberts
Odayne Haughton
Terisa Thompson


Declaring that young Caribbean nationals are displeased with the level of transparency in CARICOM, a local academic and former youth ambassador is urging that they be empowered with data to advocate for how they want to see the regional bloc operate in the future.

Dr Terri-Ann Gilbert-Roberts, research fellow at the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies, stressed that young people play a major role in the sustainability of the 15-state body.

"People don't know exactly what decisions are being taken and they don't know what are the factors that have influenced the lack of implementation of certain things," Gilbert-Roberts told The Gleaner, in considering the performance of CARICOM in anticipation of this week's Heads of Government Summit in Montego Bay, St James.

The former CARICOM youth ambassador suggested that millennials could lobby for the development of a regional freedom of information protocol. The CARICOM Review Commission led by former Prime Minister Bruce Golding noted that it experienced issues in accessing financial information regarding CARICOM and its agencies, and the secretariat told them to exclude the data from its report.

That report is expected to be a primary focus of regional leaders during the three-day summit, which gets under way on Wednesday.

Gilbert-Roberts argued that at this juncture where the Jamaican Government is rethinking its approach to CARICOM, youth participation is critical.

She reasoned: "Older persons have also been in the movement and are themselves becoming frustrated with the lack of implementation. Maybe (they) will be more likely to give up on it (CARICOM) and say, 'You know what, let's just leave'. Where are the informed voices of young people who might say, 'Actually we agree with you, CARICOM is not working, but we want regional integration, but our notion of integration is a broader pan-Caribbean vision of integration'?"

Odayne Haughton, Jamaica's current youth ambassador to CARICOM, is focused on building awareness during his two-year term, which ends next year.

"We find that although we have the educated minority who have a sense of understanding of what it is and what it should be doing, there are still a lot of young people who still don't believe because since then (inception) and until now, it has been a talk shop," Haughton said.

"CARICOM can do better in terms of all the things that were set out."

Terisa Thompson, who served as a youth ambassador to CARICOM from 2015 to 2017, asserted that young people need more exposure.

"We want to increase opportunities for young persons to interact with other persons from other parts of the region, so that they can build relationships and understand the socio-economic situation that exists there and realise that we really are the same set of people living in the same region ... ," Thompson said.