BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Nov. 16, 2017–Last week, for the first time in its history, Belize hosted the World Youth Conference, which saw the turnout of over 200 youth from 43 countries around the world. The conference, which is held annually, is for youth leaders to meet and discuss pressing issues, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which are new goals and indicators that are to guide the political policies of UN member states over the next 15 years. These goals are a continuation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were drafted in 2001.
Today, Amandala spoke to Dominique Noralez, the acting president of the Belize National Youth Council.
She explained how the conference came to Belize, after being held in India last year. “The World Youth Conference came to Belize because the Director of the Department of Youth Services [Allison Brown Mckenzie], along with the then Public Relations Officer [ Sabreena Daly] and the then CARICOM Youth Ambassador, went to the 2016 World Youth Conference and Belize was chosen and given the opportunity to host this year’s conference,” she said.
When asked about the gargantuan effort to host so many young people at the Princess Ramada Hotel and Casino, Noralez explained that the planning was led by young people, but they were not alone.
“In terms of preparation, there were a lot of young people behind it with, of course, the guidance of senior officers of the Department of Youth Services,” she said.
She explained that the turnout was a success, even though participants had to secure their own flights.
She said, “Well, there were about 250 young people from about 43 countries. That includes countries like Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, countries from across Asia, and a lot of representation from Latin America.”
And how did those 250 global leaders spend their time in Belize, from November 6th to the 9th?
“The days were really broken down. It started on the 6th when people arrived. There was an opening ceremony on that night. The sessions really started on the 7th. The opening session was really plenary, so everybody was in a room hearing about the Sustainable Development Goals and their relations to young people. And then there were breakout sessions, so people had the opportunity to sign up for the sessions, ranging from eradicating poverty to health and wellbeing, economic empowerment and climate change and environmental action. And so people got a chance to sit in these sessions,” said Dominique.
She added that young people facilitated the entire process and even served as presenters. These included Belizean national Greg Nunez, who is currently completing his PhD in the United Kingdom, Nikoli Jéan-Paul Edwards, a Temporary Independent Senator at Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago and the Vice Chair of the Commonwealth Youth Council, as well as Jamaican national Sujae Boswell, who is the Commonwealth Youth Council’s representative for the Caribbean and Latin America.
At the end of the conference the global youth leaders signed on to what they coined, a “Mahogany Declaration.”
According to Noralez, “It is a consorted document that speaks to how young people plan to continue to work towards achieving the SDGS. It was created and drafted by the youth leaders who came in.”
That document is still being ratified but should be released sometime next week.