Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris addresses the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York

Emphasis on young people’s empowerment transforming the world

 By Dave Kaiser

“The empowerment of young people is of critical importance to the transformation of our world and will result in a better world where youth can make positive contributions instead of degenerating into a life of violence,” Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris, Prime Minister of Kitts and Nevis told officials meeting Sept. 24-26 during the General Debate of the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly.

“There is a common view that significant intervention is required in order to nurture aspiration, vision, leadership and a sense of civic responsibility in our young people,” Dr. Harris said. “By providing opportunities for their constructive engagement in critical matters that directly affect them and society, we can transform their frustration to meaningful empowerment.”

Prime Minister Harris, who is Minister of Finance, Sustainable Development, Information, National Security, People Empowerment and Constituency Empowerment in St. Kitts and Nevis, has publicly recognized the important interventions that experts in child care, mental health and parenting can make in helping to reduce crime among young people who are at or under the age of 35 – a demographic that not only accounts for approximately 65 percent of the population of St. Kitts and Nevis, but also disproportionately comprises both victims and perpetrators of violent crime.

“It is of critical importance to the transformation of our world to empower our youth,” Prime Minister Harris said. “There is a common view that significant intervention is required in order to nurture aspiration, vision, leadership and a sense of civic responsibility. By providing opportunities for their constructive engagement in critical matters that directly affect them and society, we can transform their frustration to meaningful empowerment.”

“We should tackle head on the increased incidence of youth-on-youth violence,” Prime Minister Harris said. “Youth violence is invariably symptomatic of deeper societal issues. We cannot dismiss the apparent despair of the youth. We have to find ways to make them see that violence is not the answer by adopting a multi-sectorial and integrated approach. In St Kitts and Nevis we are focused on job creation, skills enhancement, entrepreneurship, counseling and support to teen mothers and the provision of other social services.”

“Youth violence is invariably symptomatic of deeper societal issues,” Dr. Harris said. We cannot dismiss the apparent despair of the youth. We have to find ways to make them see that violence is not the answer by adopting a multi-sectorial and integrated approach. In St Kitts and Nevis we are focused on job creation, skills enhancement, entrepreneurship, counseling and support to teen mothers and the provision of other social services.

Small Arms, Light Weapons Treaty implemented

The Prime Minister pointed out that small arms and light weapons have had devastating effects on many young lives and families. Dr. Harris said in an effort to work more collaboratively to stem the proliferation of these weapons, on July 4, 2011,  St. Kitts and Nevis signed and ratified the CARICOM Declaration on Small Arms and Light Weapons Treaty, but the Federation is still in need of much support.

“Almost on a daily basis, we witness increasing incidents of violence perpetrated against innocent people,” Dr. Harris explained. “We look on seemingly helpless, as large groups of people are alienated and isolated in their own countries; some forced to uproot with their families and risk their lives to escape armed conflicts in search of security and better opportunities.

It is clear that the root cause of many of these problems can be attributed to years of social neglect and entrenched economic inequities. We simply cannot resolve these problems by:

  1. a) dismissing their fears;
  2. b) stereotyping;
  3. c) resorting to isolationism, xenophobia and protectionism.

 Behavioral changes important

The Prime Minister has continuously addressed the plight of the Federation’s youth:

During the 2015 National Consultation on the Economy hosted by the Ministry of Finance under the theme Changing Lives – A Fresh Start Towards Sustainable Development, Growth and Prosperity, Prime Minister Harris said his Unity Government “intends to examine in detail, with a view to enhancing in a significant way, parenting programs and the systems that are in place to reduce truancy.”

In his official address to mark the occasion of the Team Unity Administration’s first anniversary in office on Feb. 16, Prime Minister Harris noted five points related to the country’s youth, parents and families that he said require “collective, national effort on a consistent basis.”

The Prime Minister said ways to bring about positive attitudinal and behavioural changes in our youth include: Abatement of crime, especially homicides among our young men; strengthening of families; return to positive influences for young people; parenting skills and responsibility; and Inculcation of life skills, anger management training, conflict resolution and diversion programs.

 Youth attaining academic success

In his Sept. 19 Independence Day Message the Prime Minister outlined how the transformative idea of Changing Lives – A Fresh Start Towards Sustainable Development, Growth and Prosperity, put forth at the 2015 National Consultation on the Economy, to materialize the everyday experiences of Kittitians and Nevisians.

The Independence Day message focused on the country’s young people, who increasingly are attaining academic success.  “Our young people are excelling.  They are surpassing traditional best standards in their performances at secondary school and at sixth form.  We hail the new high set by Rol-J Williams with his 17 CXC passes with distinction.  More of our people are pursuing tertiary-level education in the Caribbean, the Americas, Asia, the Pacific and elsewhere in the world.  Given the critical role that tertiary-level education can play in the development of a country, we are happy to witness such expansion in the number of participants at this level of education and training,” Prime Minister Harris said.

“Our aim is to ensure that by 2030 every family household will boast a graduate,” the Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis told the nation.

“There are many ongoing projects where those in need of jobs can find work,” Prime Minister Harris said.  “Over 200-plus have benefited from our affordable Fresh Start Loan Programme. As we attempt to provide that well-needed financing for small and medium-sized enterprises, we will invest another $30 million over the next two years into the Fresh Start Programme.  Our Housing Programme will get started in earnest before year-end, bringing well-needed housing solutions to our people most in need of them.  The future prospects are bright and encouraging.  Several hotels are to come on stream shortly, adding well-paying jobs to the economy.”

The 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations Headquarters in New York convened Sept. 13 under the theme: “The Sustainable Development Goals: A Universal Push to Transform Our World.” General Debates began Sept. 20 and the final session was held Sept. 26.