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Guyana working on new youth policy, strategic plan; youths urged to help heal division

Minister of Education Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine and Presidential Advisor on Empowerment, Aubrey Norton.

Guyana on Friday began crafting a new National Policy on Youth Empowerment and a Strategic Plan that seeks to improve the conditions of young people over the next five years as well as help bridge the decades-old racial-political divide.

The Presidential Advisor on Youth Empowerment, Aubrey Norton said government envisages that the youth policy and strategic plan should be in place by November for Cabinet approval.

To move the planning from the Arthur Chung International Convention Centre (ACICC) and offices to youths in communities, Norton said there would be a public awareness strategy and then implement the plan across the country.  “The essence of what we are going to do is community-based. It is not going to be top-down, it’s going to be bottom-up,” he said.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) are among the agencies supporting government’s efforts in this regard.

Norton said the new draft National Youth Policy includes elements from previous policies.

Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine told the opening of a National Consultation that he hopes that youth involvement and education would help heal the split in the anti-colonial movement in 1955, two years after its genesis in 1953.

Roopnaraine said the healing of Guyana began when the “warring parties”- his Working People’s Alliance (WPA) and the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR)- decided to put the past behind and work together for the country’s development.

Spearheading the formulation of the policy is Presidential Advisor Norton, a long-serving senior member of the PNCR-the largest partner in A Partnership of National Unity (APNU)- which is in a coalition government with the Alliance For Change (AFC). In his address, Roopnaraine described Norton as “brother” and “comrade.”

The WPA has consistently blamed the PNC-led Forbes Burnham administration of assassinating then WPA co-leader Dr Walter Rodney on June 13, 1980, but Rodney’s critics say he died by misadventure while leading a civil rebellion t the time.

Roopnaraine charged the broad cross section of youths to become “crusaders for national reconciliation” by bring an end to suspicion and hovering conflict over the country. “I don’t believe that we can do all of the good things that we are projecting to do and planning to do except we deal with the issue of national reconciliation and I want to say to the youth there is no more sacred task confronting you, confronting us, confronting your generation than the healing of the nation,” he said.

The Minister of Education pledged that government would listen to the youths’ concerns and recommendations and work with them as partners to build a country that they could all be proud of.

Roopnaraine urged the participants and facilitators to craft an implementable policy rather than just another report.  “We have reports on everything. I basically am not interested in many more reports. What I am interested in is implementation. Any report that comes to me and does not have a programme of implementation and action plan is not a report that I am going to spend a lot of my time on,” he said.

The Presidential Advisor on Youth Empowerment told reporters that government would be tapping in on Guyanese technical expertise to work along with international consultant to formulate a five-year strategic plan. “That five-year strategic plan will be aimed at empowering young people,” said Norton.

Norton further informed that a high-level inter-agency committee would be responsible for implementing the plan. Representatives would be drawn from the Ministries of Education, Social Protection and other entities that would have a role to play in the empowerment of young people.