The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) funded a young professional to attend the 11th Festival of the Pacific Arts held in Honiara last month.
Ms. Jean Choi, an intern at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) working with Dr. Akatsuki Takahashi, Programme Specialist for Culture, travelled to Honiara to participate in the first regional workshop for youth and heritage. Part of her tasks involved reporting to SPREP on her work in Honiara. She visited SPREP on 31 July to report on her activities.
When asked about the importance of considering heritage in establishing sustainable development initiatives, Ms. Choi said, "Natural and cultural heritage are the greatest resources available in the Pacific, so if we want to consider any sustainable development we must take into account both of these forms of heritage."
The three day workshop, entitled Youth Speak!, was jointly organised by the Pacific Islands Museum Association (PIMA) and the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) with support from UNESCO, SPREP, and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).
Its primary objective was to share the youth perspectives on safeguarding cultural and natural Pacific heritage and a major outcome of the workshop was the development of a regional action plan to be used to integrate the youth voice into actual initiatives for change in sustainable development.
"The youth voice is somewhat relegated to the sidelines and easily dismissed because we're young," said Ms. Choi.
She hopes that with this action plan they will be able to recreate the successes of a youth event held at the Barbados Plan of Action Meeting in 2005, which led to a lot of youth initiatives in the area of sustainable development.
The regional action plan will also be used to reach out to communities and regional and international organisations to support the initiatives and outcomes of the Youth Speak! Workshop.
"We would like to partner with everyone, and so far we've been very successful in garnering support from the Australian and New Zealand governments, UNESCO, SPREP as the regional environment leader, and also local community support from institutions like the National University of Samoa (NUS)."
"Everyone is welcome to participate in some way either through contributions, as workshop participants, or just by spreading the word."
Twenty-one youth under thirty years old from eleven Pacific Island nations made up the participants of the workshop and have since built a network which they hope to expand through integration with the Pacific Youth Council (PYC) by way of SPC, the Pacific Emerging Environment Leaders (PEEL) network through SPREP, and by partnering with youth organisations in local communities and universities.
In this way they have already begun planning the first-ever national Youth Speak! workshop in Samoa with the National University of Samoa to be held in 2013.
The network has also created a page on a popular social networking site for Youth Speak! 2012 in order to establish an online presence and coordinate network activities and events. The group is also encouraging other youth to join the network by "liking" and sharing their information through their own social networks.