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Pacific Youth Lead Global Discussions

PRESS RELEASE

For immediate release

Pacific Youth Lead Global Discussions

12 May 2008 – Two young people from the Pacific have just been chosen by their peers to lead the Pan-Commonwealth Youth Caucus for the next four years, putting them at the forefront of international discussions on youth issues.

Australian Matthew Albert, 27, and Tongan Ebonie Fifita, 23, were confirmed as Chair and Vice-Chair respectively of the Pan-Commonwealth Youth Caucus (PCYC) just prior to the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Ministers’ Meeting (CYMM) held in Colombo, Sri Lanka from 27 – 30 April.

The PCYC is made up of youth representatives from the Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP) Regional Youth Caucuses. The PCYC advises international Commonwealth leaders, include prime ministers and youth ministers, on youth issues and priorities and advocate for youth empowerment through their participation in decision-making.

The leadership of PCYC is rotated every four years between the four Commonwealth regions – Asia, Africa, Caribbean and the South Pacific. This is the first opportunity the South Pacific RYC representatives have had to lead PCYC in 11 years. Ebonie and Matthew were chosen by their South Pacific RYC peers in Auckland last month, and then confirmed in the leadership roles by the other members of PCYC just before CYMM.

PCYC Chair Matthew Albert describes the leadership role as “an immense honour and privilege”, but says there are plenty of challenges and learning ahead.

“Among the big hurdles is that we are trying to be a representative voice for a range of issues as broad as can be imagined,” says Matthew.

“We are there to put issues forward to decision makers and to guide them on what our peers seek most – peace, health, education, employment, an equal say and a wealth of opportunity.

“Negotiating priorities and trying to be an effective voice for all is a skill that we will have to refine. But this will be made easier by virtue of having a very strong caucus of committed and informed representatives, which we have in the present caucus.”

Matthew says that in previous years the PCYC’s role in the Commonwealth has been limited to the governance of Commonwealth, but they’d like to develop that role.

“I would like to see the PYC grow to be a source of insight into the situation of people under-30 in all Commonwealth countries for other agencies and the media.”

Matthew will hold the PCYC Chair position for two years, after which time Ebonie will step into the role and another Vice-Chair chosen.

Commonwealth Youth Programme South Pacific (CYPSP) Regional Chair Ms Afu Billy says the Pacific has a comparatively low profile on the international Commonwealth scene, and that having two young Pacific people lead a Pan-Commonwealth body is a great opportunity.

“By having two Pacific Islanders lead PCYC, the Commonwealth family and the rest of the world will know more of the youths of the Pacific, especially about their successes and their challenges. The South Pacific is now noticed by the Commonwealth.”
And for Matthew and Ebonie personally, it’s an opportunity to lead global discussions and engage world leaders, which Ms Afu Billy hopes will trickle down to other Pacific young people.
“This is important for their own empowerment, but the skills and knowledge gained will hopefully trickle down to the general Pacific youth population through RYC members in their countries who learn from Matthew and Ebonie.
“I know Matthew and Ebonie are two young people who are fervent about passing on their knowledge and skills to the other Pacific young people and CYPSP will make sure we provide conditions which allow them both to perform in their roles to the best of their abilities,” says Ms Billy.
MATTHEW ALBERT, 27, from Melbourne, Australia is a young lawyer and has been a member of the South Pacific Regional Youth Caucus for two years. He co-founded the Sudanese Australian Integrated Learning (SAIL) programme when he was just 20, which now works with 300 volunteers to provide support and community services to Sudanese refugees in Melbourne and Sydney. In 2005 he won Young Australian of the Year for Victoria, and in the same year was named by Junior Chamber International at one of their ‘Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World’ for his contributions to children, world peace and human rights.

EBONIE FIFITA, 23, from Nuku’alofa, Tonga founded and coordinates On The Spot, a programme which works to empower young people through media, performing arts and visual arts. Ebonie joined the South Pacific Regional Youth Caucus in 2007, and will take up the Chairperson role of PYC in 2010.

THE COMMONWEALTH YOUTH PROGRAMME works to empower young people (15 – 29) to contribute to the development of their communities. CYP South Pacific (CYPSP) is one of four regional centres around the world, and works with the young people, governments and NGOs of its 14 member countries in the Pacific region. CYPSP supports a group of young leaders from the Pacific, CYPSP Regional Youth Caucus, who advocate for Pacific young people’s issues and advise CYPSP. CYPSP works with Tonga, Fiji, Tuvalu, Samoa, Kiribati, Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau and Nauru.

PYC Chair Matthew Albert, PYC Vice-Chair Ebonie Fifita and CYP South Pacific Regional Director Ms Afu Billy are available for interview.

ENDS

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