PHILIPSBURG: The Department of Youth, in collaboration with UNICEF the Netherlands, will host the 4th Youth Round Table Conference on March 3, 2022. This event will be held virtually as a precautionary measure due to the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic and will be the first of other RTC activities that will take place during this year.
However, despite the challenge posed by the pandemic, the department anticipates the participation of approximately 250 students from the various high schools and tertiary education institutions on the island as well as other youth related organizations. This year’s program also sets a new precedent, having it executed in its entirety by youth speakers, presenters, panelists and entertainers from St. Maarten.
The theme for this year’s conference is placed on “Meaningful Youth Participation” and through this, the Department of Youth is working towards a youth mainstreaming strategy for the government apparatus in general.
This event comes on the 25th anniversary since the first ever Youth Summit was held on the island in 1997. The conference was a collaboration between the former Department of Social Cultural Development, now known as the Department of Youth and the St. Maarten Youth Council Association. Through this initiative, the department devised its strategy for the years to come by anchoring the decision to host such conferences on a 5 year basis. This decision would allow the further planning, implementation and evaluation of policies and programs stemming from these events.
A notable outcome from the 2004 Youth Summit was the drafting of the island’s first Integrated Youth Policy during the tenure of former Commissioner Louie Laveist. This policy was and remains the compass to direct the Department of Youth’s additional policies and programs up to present. In 2013, the Youth Round Table Conference saw the implementation of the St. Maarten Youth Desk as an outcome, offering information sessions to students and parents and included a youth innovation competition where youth initiatives were presented by the various schools. These proposals were later translated into activities organized by youth.
25 years later, the department continues to employ the same strategy albeit in a different format to cater to our current reality since the disaster of hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 and the start of the Covid 19 pandemic in 2020.
The Minister of Education, Culture, Youth & Sport, the Honorable Drs. Rodolphe Samuel, acknowledges the importance of getting youth on the island engaged in an even more meaningful manner by including them in decision making that affects them and creating opportunities to prepare youth on the island to assume more leadership roles based on international and global standards.
“While the Topic of Meaningful Youth Participation is not new for St. Maarten, it certainly holds a high priority in my portfolio and that of this Ministry. Together with our partners,we are now exploring enhanced ways and means to translate these policies and programs to suit the 21st century and equip our youth to function in their best capacity as leaders” the Minster said.
He further challenged the participants to become more aware of the topic of meaningful youth participation by engaging actively in the discussions and taking heed of the recommendations from this conference.
The Minister extended his sincere gratitude to the staff of the Department of Youth and to the team of UNICEF the Netherlands, for their tireless efforts to make this conference a success.