Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Pacific Island Representation at the World Conference on Youth 2014

Colombo, Sri Lanka is buzzing with excitement as more than 1500 people gather from the 6th to the 10th of May for the World Conference on Youth 2014. With the theme “Mainstreaming Youth in the Post-2015 Development Agenda”, delegates of the Conference aim to work together over the duration of the Conference to finalize an outcome document known as the Colombo Declaration on Youth.
The Conference will focus on foundations and thematic areas, covering a wide range of issues facing young people and their development.
There are a number of delegates from across the Pacific that are here to be the voices of their region. Delegates from Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Samoa, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea, are prepared to make connections between their authentic truths, as a young person in the Pacific working on development issues, and that of other young people across the globe.
I was fortunate enough to find sole Pacific Island Facilitator and fellow Fijian, 27 year old Sevuloni Ratu. 
It was great to sit down with and discuss many things relating to the #WCY2014, as well as get to know who he is and his area of work back in Fiji.
His work in Youth Development in Fiji
Sevuloni has dedicated a majority of his life to youth development. Most of his work is in the area of Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights. He started his journey in youth development when he was around 20 years old. Starting off his career as a peer educator with the Stepping Stone Program with the Pacific and Regional HIV and AIDS Project.
As a Peer Educator, he conducted trainings for mostly out of school youth in rural and remote communities in Fiji. The best thing about his job he says was being able to connect with a lot of young people in these communities providing them with advice and support on Sexual Reproductive Health and their Rights.
Sevuloni’s first paid job was with the Fiji Red Cross in 2007. He joined the team as their HIV Program Team Leader basically looking after the HIV Program with young people in rural and remote communities. He worked in this area till 2009.
After a while in that role, he got involved with the Youth Peer Education Network (Y-Peer) under the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
The Y-Peer is global youth network made up of young people working in the area of Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights. In 2011 he made the transition from local involvement in this field into the regional and global level when he joined the Y-Peer Global Advisory Board.
From then onwards, Sevuloni was able to specifically run trainings for Y- Peer at the regional level.
Apart from this, he also involves himself with most at risk populations, particularly with Men’s Fiji working in the field of LGBTIQ rights.
Sevuloni also serves as the youngest member of the HIV and AIDS Board with the Ministry of Health in Fiji, where as a young person, he is afforded a proactive role at decision making processes with the Ministry of Health.
On the World Conference of Youth
There are many things Sevuloni hopes to achieve from the #WCY2014. One of them is to be great representative of his country and the region.
“What’s important for me is that the young people back home are well represented and their issues are not only addressed here, but prioritized in the post-2015 agenda.”
He also went on to add that this would be a great opportunity for him to build networks and share experiences on best practices, looking at things that work in other countries and identifying ways in which they could adopt and adapt these locally.
Sevuloni applied to be a facilitator for two main reasons, one, because even though he had seen Pacific Islanders being represented at many forums such as this, he feels that in terms of visibility and presence, Pacific Islanders still had a long way to go.
“On the global front, in terms of global youth development, the Pacific Islands still have a way to go. Its something that we need to work on as a region, but I feel, that if enough consolidated effort is put into youth development in the region, we can move forward leaps and bounds”
“We have the ability and the capacity to bring about change in youth development and also position ourselves in the global arena of youth development.”
One of the biggest challenges Sevuloni finds about conferences as large as this is with influencing the outcome of the forum.
“Sometimes we have a lot to contribute in these far away places, we carry the hopes and aspirations of youth back home, however when are here, we usually get drowned out by the other development issues of concern other young people bring to the table. Its obvious that the priorities will vary from region to region, and sometimes, because of the different levels of representation and numbers of representatives from regions, our issues wont be seen as important enough.”
“This is where I think more advocacy and strategizing with other regional issues there is important. We need to be able to identify areas of collaboration with issues and present one united strong voice”
The other I notice, he adds, is that the big challenge would be ensuring that whatever comes out of these forums, the resolutions/ the calls to action/ the declarations, come into fruition back home.”
Sevuloni is one of four young Fijians present at the World Conference on Youth 2014.

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