A Pacific Youth Council Partners Rountable gathering yesterday paid tribute to the late President of Vanuatu hailing him as one of the greatest youth champion in the region.
Pacific Youth Council executives and representatives from over 14 countries dedicated a minute of silence to honour the life of President Fr. Baldwin Lonsdale Womtelo of Vanuatu who passed away three days ago.
Leading the session, Vanuatu National Youth Council’s Principal Administrator, Joe Kalo, said the passing of the late President Womtelo would be mourned not just by the VNYC but by the region because of his unwavering stance and commitment to youth empowerment and his personal interest in the development of the Vanuatu Youth Council.
A visibly emotional Kalo shared that upon the successful election of Womtelo, the Vanuatu Youth Council was invited to meet with him.
“When we had that audience with him, he told us about the status of the Youth Bill as he has met the PM (Kilman) to ask for his support for the Bill.
“It’s an immense loss for us as Vanuatu youth that someone who has supported and championed the cause of youth at the highest political office of the country has passed on but his legacy and his commitment to social justice we hope to continue the good work that he has left behind,” Kalo said.
Womtelo’s state funeral took place yesterday at Port Vila’s Parliament House.
The youth participants had earlier visited the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in Suva where they presented recommendations to sustain youth voices in regional discourse to PIFs deputy secretary general, Crystal Pratt.
Speaking on behalf of the 20 youth leaders from the regional, Niue Youth Council’s Ina Vakaafi said the PYC is asking the Forum to increase prioritisation on key youth issues.
“We invite the Forum to consider some of our key youth asks including that the outcome of FEMM specifically on youth employment and entrepreneurship is implemented, as an avenue to address the critical issue of unemployment in the Region,” Vakaafi said.
“The inclusion of youth representatives or ‘voice’ in key regional policy spaces such as the Sustainable Development Goals process, Framework on Resilience, CSO Dialogue and the Forum Leaders Meeting to name a few.”
“That the Forum Secretariat considers having a youth desk officer within the Forum Secretariat or similar to the current arrangement of having the Gender & Disability Officer. This we feel enables the visible presence of youth issues within the Forum Secretariat.”
She said PYC hoped that youth would be prioritised with with the Forum Leaders and regional civil society organisation’s position papers for the Forum must include youth as one of the priorities.