“The better world envisioned in the SDG’s needs youth involvement” – UNDP hears from the Pacific

“The better world envisioned in the SDG’s needs youth involvement” – UNDP hears from the Pacific

The United Nations Development Programme hosted an Interactive Circle to showcase the experiences of developed and developing countries, civil society and private sector on why multi-stakeholder approaches are important to effectively integrate anti-corruption into the SDGs, particularly in national and local level SDG plans.

The “Integrating Anti-Corruption in the SDGs: Implementation, Measuring and Monitoring” session comprised expert panelists from across the world to share their ideas. Ms. Vani Catanasiga, Executive Director of the Fiji Council of Social Services (FCOSS) was on the panel. She is the first female executive director of FCOSS, a national CSO platform that represents CSO voices to government on social development issues.

A full transcript of Ms. Catanasiga’s address is included below.

Ms, Catanasiga (second left) with members of the Pacific cohort

Thank you Patrick – I will begin by saying that all of us sitting in this room have envisioned a better world than what exists now. That’s why we are here – that’s why we have,  for the past two days talked, not just about the problems we face in building a world free of corruption but also about solutions that takes us closer to a future where integrity, justice and dignity underlie how humanity and society progress.

That future or any future we create belongs to the youth. This underscores the need for their involvement in this effort. In the Pacific where more than 50% of the region’s population is youth, a significant proportion of this youth bulge is marginalised from mainstream development efforts which has created development burden and hindered the region’s progress.

•            young people who are not in education, employment and training;

•            young women;

•            rural youth;

•            young people with disabilities; LGBTQI

are key youth populations marginalised from mainstream development efforts. In an attempt to address these systemic lack of participation and access, the Pacific Youth Development Framework 2014–2023 was developed after the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting in Auckland.

A targeted approach proposed in the framework was a better and stronger focus on networking – linking groups of young people from these groups to national youth structures,  development opportunities, development partners and governments. This would provide an opportunity for young people from key youth populations to lead their own development initiatives.

In hindsight, this focus could not have been more timely – a year in, world leaders adopted the Sustainable Development Goals – a bold and universal agreement to end poverty and work towards an equal, just and secure world – for people, for prosperity and for the planet by 2030.

The onset of the SDGs for me particularly emphasised the need not just for a consistent multistakeholder effort for the planning, implementation and review of development efforts but to ensure its sustainability through an intergenerational approach.

Afterall the SDGs were designed to be integrated, indivisible and balanced the 3 dimensions of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental. the SDGs required a new way of work – not business as usual particularly as leaders and stakeholders pledged to leave no one behind.

These compel all of society to play their part in this plan of action, moreso the people and the generation that will inherit what we build today – the youth. However, last year when the Pacific Islands Association of NGOs begun to scale up its work on SDGs it rolled out the SDG barometer it was a homegrown diagnostic tool built around 6 ideal pre conditions for CSO effective-ness in SDG country planning, implementation, monitoring and reporting. The initial results was no surprise, all 6 national CSO platforms from the Northern Pacific that undertook the diagnosis in mid 2017 indicated a minimal awareness of the SDGs. The result was almost the same when members of the Pacific Youth Council undertook the diagnosis later in the year.

Now its not all bad news – infact what was compelling and really encouraging was that most if not all of those who participated in these diagnostic trials were already engaged in some form of anti corruption work – from community to national and regional levels.

The only gap that needed to be plugged was their awareness of the Goals and how it could work to support their work on anti corruption or even scale up national efforts to realise the goals and transform their communities!

There are some really really great examples of youth networks- all of them VOLUNTEERS that are leading the charge and these are

 1. The Pacific Youth Forum Against Corruption Network – which is an initiative of the  Pacific Youth Council and the UN Pacific Region Anti Corruption Programme. They’ve done some great work around supporting the next generation of Pacific leaders and current social justice advocates through the development of a Pacific Youth Anti Corruption Advocates toolkit, regular  Innovation Labs for its members and really building a community of practice for youth advocates in the region.

2. Youth Against Corruption Fiji which is formerly Youth for Integrity attached the TI Fiji chapter which was closed down. The youth volunteers have managed to continue their advocacy and activities on themes like Corruption & Environment Degradation, Corruption & Humanitarian Operation which was activated during the humanitarian response to the world’s first category 5  tropical cyclone Winston in 2016, and artivism’ – using art to promote anti corruption.

3. Fiji Youth for Democracy which is group of democracy activists engaged in social accountability activities such as organised citizen analysis of national budgets, facilitation of youth volunteerism with major stakeholders on election integrity, good governance and democracy.

4. Bua Urban Youth Network is an indigenous youth collective led by young women who have worked on right to information, free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) and communities right to development and called for increased accountability and transparency of government and extractive companies.

5. Kauwai Network is a volunteer network of young professionals who provide advocacy support for rural communities who interface with mining companies and developers interested in accessing natural resources for business or profit.

There are many things we are learning as we continue this work of eradicating corruption – particularly as we embrace and take on the responsibility of achieving the SDGs in our region.

a. The need for accompaniment for youth advocates – we are fast recognising that youth who stand against corruption will need much more than one off support. They will need to be accompanied – and this goes beyond funding and money, but it is about championing them in societies where the prevailing attitude is that youth and children are seen not heard

b. All of those I mentioned are volunteers networks – they do not consistently get support to do what they do. That speaks to the levels of personal motivation that undergirds their activities but it also speaks to the contexts to which they operate – youths are organising on the sidelines because it gives them freedom to innovate and network for stronger messages and collaboration for anti corruption. The question then is where are the established CSOs and NGOs who receive substantial support from the donor community to do good governance, anti corruption? Are their efforts perceived inadequate in the eyes of the younger generation and the realities they face on the ground? I will leave that for discussion

c.  Aspects of our Pacific culture has always copped the blame for creating a climate ripe for corruption. In PNG for example, Wantokism and in Fiji veiwekani are concepts that have negative connotions for those involved in this effort but are quite different from the western concept of nepotism to which these are compared to in many instances. Wantokism and veiwekani is about relationality, so its not actually negative – its about relationships and common good which in my opinion is an untapped potential for some really transformative work for anti corruption. So we are testing out a few ideas with this particularly around natural resource governance by reviving Pacific customs of intergenerational dialogues. Conversations around their concerns about development take place on the mat in a circle around a ceremonial kava bowl with youth, current leaders and elders – the only value add is that someone facilitates the progress of the conversation to ensure that everyone gets a chance to speak and that conversations are intentional about partnerships, solutions and grounded in mutual accountability.

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