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OECS successfully concludes Inaugural Council of Ministers: Youth and Sports

The OECS region has reaffirmed its commitment to investing in its youth with the successful hosting of the Inaugural OECS Council of Ministers: Youth and Sports. Hosted by the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission in collaboration with the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports, Saint Lucia under the theme “Beyond the Field: Ensuring Sustainable Impact and Legacy of OECS Youth”, the Council of Ministers (COM) was a forum for reviewing needs and initiatives with the inclusion of the youth who were invited to share their views. The COM resulted in significant decisions and critical actions for implementation which will positively benefit the youth of the OECS. 

Honourable Kenson Casimir, Minister for Youth Development and Sports, Saint Lucia assumed the Inaugural Chair of the Council of Ministers: Youth and Sports. The COM was attended by Ministers of Government for Youth and Sports and Permanent Secretaries from OECS Member States. Developmental Partners in endeavours related to Youth and Sports, Heads of Sporting Associations and executive members of the OECS Youth Advisory Network (YAN) were also in attendance. 

In addition to the participation of members of the YAN, youth from various youth-oriented organisations were also present and participated in discussions. This active participation of youth at the OECS Council of Ministers was initiated in 2023 at the OECS Council of Ministers: Education held in Antigua and Barbuda. Its continuation underscores the Commission’s commitment to the OECS Youth Empowerment Strategy (YES), empowering the youth of the Eastern Caribbean and ensuringthey are given the opportunity to engage in a national dialogue to shape the future they will inherit.

Delivering remarks at the Opening Ceremony on March 13, 2024, His Excellency, Dr Didacus Jules, Director General of the OECS stated:

“The concern for social development of the people and the youth of our region while articulated in 2010 has become an increasingly urgent imperative as we are increasingly confronted by internal and external challenges that threaten our very survival as small states in a world of heightened uncertainty and volatility. This is the context in which we have come today to inaugurate the Council of Ministers of Youth and Sports, a pivotal moment in our collective efforts to secure a brighter future for the youth of our region.”

Chair of the COM, Hon. Kenson Casimir, Minister for Youth Development and Sports remarked:

“It is an opportune time in our history for policymakers at the highest level in the Eastern Caribbean to discuss pertinent issues facing the most energetic and vibrant sector of the population, and by this pronouncement, I refer to our young people. During this strategic meeting as evidenced by today’s proceedings, a conscious effort is being made to integrate Youth and Sports, a combination that would hopefully bear fruits that are sustainable, inclusive, diverse, impactful and enjoyable.”

A key highlight of the Opening Ceremony was the honouring of Dr Joseph “Reds” Perreira. Delivering a most fitting tribute on behalf of the OECS Commission, Mr Terry Finisterre reflected that having covered 152 Test Matches, over 200 One Day Internationals and Five World Cups, hundreds of millions of people have listened to cricket commentary from Dr Perreira, whom he fondly referred to as “Reds”. He stated:

“He was invited many moons ago, way back in 1984, to create the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States Sports Desk. To work as Sports Desk Coordinator with federations across the sub-region to build their programmes, to reinforce their administrative practices, to develop champions. He spent twelve years at the sports desk molding it, building it in his own image. In that time we saw the emergence of numerous championships: volleyball, track and field, table tennis, basketball, and so many more.

We have seen so many great champions coming out of the OECS. Might it have been possible without the intervention of the Sports Desk? Perhaps. But the role that was played by the Sports Desk in enabling and growing sports in those years that “Reds” was there leading that charge cannot be discounted.”

The Opening Ceremony signified the formal start of the two-day COM. The purpose of the COM: Youth and Sports is to facilitate open policy discussions among key policy leads in the field of Youth and Sports that would lead to the prioritisation of key issues in Youth Development and Sports within the region. The Inaugural Meeting of the COM: Youth and Sports concluded on March 14 however the Council of Ministers remains in effect and will continue to work to advance Youth and Sports in the region and implement the key decisions taken at the Inaugural COM.

The COM: Youth and Sports included presentations on YouthSpeaks Challenges and Opportunities, U-Report, the Opportunities to Advance and Support Youth for Success (OASYS) Project and the  OECS Youth Empowerment Strategy (YES). In a landmark moment for youth advocacy, Ms Daniella Letal, Chairperson of the YAN , and Ms Ashma McDougall, Research Committee Chair of the YAN, presented the OECS Youth Empowerment Strategy (YES) and it was endorsed by the COM. This endorsement is a significant step forward in the creation of a more inclusive and supportive environment for youth in the OECS region. 

The COM reviewed educational opportunities for the youth of the region, reflected on the development of and support for, male and female athletes and explored the promotion of sports to combat deviant behaviours among the youth. Notably, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the OECS and the Centre for Sports Resources, Expertise and Performance (CREPS), located in Guadeloupe. The signing marks a pivotal moment for sports as the MoU will allow OECS athletes to access CREPS’s world-class facilities. 

The Inaugural COM: Youth and Sports:

Agreed to adopt U-Report as a data collection tool to solicit the views of young persons on priority areas at the regional and national levels.

Agreed to adopt the Draft  Youth Empowered Strategy as a source for informing youth, sports policies, and programmes/interventions at the national level. 

Agreed to support the implementation of the OECS Skills and Innovation Project advocating for greater collaboration among key Ministers, which includes Youth, Education, Sports and Social Development and the private sector.

Agreed to establish a high-level OECS Sports Council with sports experts to determine policy and govern at an OECS level.

Agreed to explore the best practices of the Semi-Professional Football League (SPFL) as a model for the OECS to create viable associations and leagues.

Agreed to explore Winners TV as a possible regional sports broadcasting platform.

Proposed that the OECS Commission undertakes a comparative assessment of the model for the  Youth Justice System in the French Territories with that of the English-speaking Member States to identify similar practices and identify good practices and areas of learning. 

Recommended the revival of the OECS  Sports Championships to include all sporting disciplines, including traditional and alternative sports.  

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