NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS (June 25, 2019) — The following are remarks made by Hon. Mark Brantley, Premier of Nevis at the Mount Nevis Hotel on June 25, 2019, at the opening ceremony of a two-day regional conference for women and youth in peace and security.
The event was sponsored by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis. It was hosted by the Ministry of Health and Gender Affairs in the Nevis island Administration.
Since the adoption of the Buenos Aries Plan of Action (BAPA) in 1978, which created the foundation and reference point for South-South Cooperation, this approach has grown and expanded to include the sharing of knowledge, skills, expertise and resources in all areas of development.
Today, South-South Cooperation highlights ways that developing countries are collaborating among themselves through solidarity, peer-to-peer learning and collective self-reliance.
South-South Cooperation is not only an instrument of cooperation, it is also an expression of the aspirations of developing countries to strengthen their economic, social and political interdependence to accelerate development. It is therefore based on the philosophy that no country is so rich that it cannot learn, and no country is so poor that it cannot teach.
This morning’s workshop on women and youth in peace and security building on a South-South approach is both essential and urgent. The Nevis Island Administration and the wider government of St. Kitts and Nevis are committed to taking a holistic approach to peace and security.
In this regard community dialogue is essential. Such dialogue affords a participatory process which in turn enables meaningful conversations to deepen our collective understanding. Peace-building mechanisms, if encouraged in our local communities, can assist us to create a framework which can be of immense benefit to greater social cohesion, crime reduction, and an enhanced community spirit.
It is critically important that we find ways to engage our young people, young men and women who hold such a valuable and influential place in our society to ensure an inclusive approach to peace and stability.
At times in our haste for economic development politicians such as myself give an inordinate amount of attention to physical infrastructural development. Regrettably, with scarce financial resources, such attention often comes at the expense of the social infrastructure in the country.
However, if we are to truly achieve the targets as set out in the UN Sustainable Development Goals, we must give the same level of support to our social infrastructure as we give to our physical infrastructure. We must give focussed attention to our women and our youth.
When we invest in and empower women, we are empowering our communities, our nation. Indeed we are empowering our very humanity. Therefore, all of our investments must be designed for gender responsiveness.
Women must be at the epicenter of all of our efforts if we are to succeed as a nation. When women are better represented in politics, we see improved social protection and gender consideration. When girls are better educated, they contribute more to their communities and are far less tolerant to abuse and violence against them.
The empowerment, autonomy and improvement of women’s political and economic status should be high on the agenda of every country in the world.
Sadly, in today’s world, women continue to face threats to their lives, health and well-being as a result of violence, being overburdened with work, and a lack of power, influence and opportunity.
In most areas of the globe, women and girls continue to be systematically excluded from achieving their fullest potential. They receive less formal education than men, they receive less pay even when equally educated and their knowledge and skills often go unrecognised and unappreciated.
Achieving change requires policies and programmes that will improve women’s access to economic resources, remove legal hurdles to their participation in public life and raise social awareness through effective programmes of education and mass communication.
Countries should act to empower women by establishing mechanisms for their equal participation and equitable representation at all levels of the political process and public life in each community and in the wider society. We should all endeavour to promote the fulfilment of women’s potential through education and skills development. By every means necessary, we must eliminate all practices of discrimination against women.
Our youth today are dynamic, determined and more globalized than ever before. They are however sadly also the perpetrators and victims of most violent crime. In our efforts to promote peace building, conflict prevention and sustained peace among our youth, we must recognise their strengths and support them as our leaders of today and tomorrow.
Some say our youth are our future. I however, continue to insist that they are our present. We must include them in our decision making process. Our partnership with them must be based on shared initiative and responsibility. The government, the community, all of civil society must contribute to this endeavour.
The active engagement of youths in our efforts to achieve peace and security essential to a stable society. Meaningful youth inclusion involves the empowerment of grass root youth organisations, clubs and movements. Our policy development and implementation must be reflective of their aspirations. Our decision making should be responsive, inclusive and participatory at all times.
We should continue to put a premium on creating opportunities such as this workshop for young people to come together, build long-term relationships and engage the policy makers. We must also create economic opportunities for our youth to combat the scourge of youth unemployment and underemployment.
To this end, the Nevis Island Administration shall shortly launch a $5 million revolving loan fund offering loans at nominal interest rates to a maximum of $100,000 geared specifically to women and to men under 35 years of age to provide seed capital for small and micro business start-ups. This fund will target the two groups most in need of economic empowerment and allow them the opportunity to own and operate their own businesses.
In closing ladies and gentleman, permit me a moment to commend and congratulate the organisers of this significant conference.
My colleague the Honourable Minister Hazel Brandy [William] and her team at the Ministry of Health and Gender Affairs have done a tremendous job as being the local focal point in organizing this event. Our only female minister in the Nevis Island Administration continues to show by her stellar performance why women in leadership are so important.
I must also thank the representatives from the Commonwealth Secretariat along with other international and regional delegates for gracing us with their presence. This intervention here in Nevis is timely, and I commend the Commonwealth and our Secretary General for the continued strong support for the interests and needs of small states.
To all the participants, I trust that you will find the next two days of deliberation both fulfilling and rewarding, and you will depart this engagement eager and willing to implement the knowledge gained. This conference creates a unique opportunity for St. Kitts and Nevis to develop a model for peace and security and the role of women and youth in that thrust for the other nations in the Caribbean and internationally.
As we leave this place two days hence, we must ensure we can build on this critical meeting and identify sustainable ways forward for the ideas generated here.
I end by publicly thanking the Government of India for the Commonwealth window of the India-UN Fund. This window of opportunity for Commonwealth countries will allow us to benefit from needed South-South best practice and expertise. St Kitts and Nevis would be very interested to see how a project of this nature, using a framework of community dialogue, could possibly benefit from this facility sponsored by the Indian Government in the interest of the people of the Commonwealth.
I wish this important two-day dialogue every success and wish you God’s blessings and wisdom that together we can find a pathway to greater peace and security for all.
Thank you, and God bless you.