The University of the South Pacific Student Association (USPSA), with support from the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), developed a policy platform with priorities for change in the areas of disability rights, education and youth. An article detailing the policy platform can be found below and the full platform is attached.
While the Universal Declaration of Human Rights certifies various rights for all people when participating in civic and political life, there are still many barriers that remain to inclusive participation, especially for young people. However, strides in the Pacific region have been made including the development of the Pacific Youth Development Framework, 2014–2023, which was a youth-led effort to incorporate more young people’s opinions and promote youth participation in the development processes at the country level. According to the Pacific Community’s Statistics for Development Division, over half of the total population in the Pacific region is under the age of 23 years old, yet marginalized youth populations are still excluded from development efforts, meaning youth participation is not inclusive and accessible for all young people in the region.
In March 2021, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and in partnership with the University of South Pacific Student Association (USPSA) launched an interactive virtual webinar series to empower young advocates to raise their concerns through inclusive advocacy efforts. The first half of the “Youth Advocacy for Inclusive COVID-19 Response and Recovery Webinar Series,” trained a select group of students and young leaders from Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu on developing a policy platform from which they can advocate during COVID-19. The second half of the series will focus on supporting the same young leaders to use digital means such as social media like Twitter and Facebook, which are popular in the region, to implement advocacy in support of their identified priority areas.
During the first few sessions, young leaders learned how policy platforms could be a useful advocacy tool during COVID-19 to bring awareness to important policy issues. Students brainstormed areas of importance to them, considering the COVID-19 environment, and prioritized three main policy areas: disability rights, youth participation, and education. After identifying these areas, students discussed challenges associated with their policy areas and solutions which were then developed into key policy asks for government officials to address. To further emphasize the importance of inclusion in policymaking, the training also took the students through various existing frameworks for inclusive participation such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Students discussed the significance of equality, equity and justice for marginalized groups during COVID-19 and the various statistics that surround how the pandemic has impacted these communities to ensure their policy platform was inclusive of all. The Policy Platform of Pacific Youth can be found attached below.
Over the next few weeks, students will develop advocacy plans to elevate their policy platform and implement their activities through the use of social media and digital means. Funding for this activity is made possible through the support of the United States Agency for International Development.