OECS Ministers to discuss enhanced Social Protection Measures for children and vulnerable families on Tuesday

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Ministers for Social Development will on Tuesday March 24th 2015, discuss an action plan which further protects the lives of children and vulnerable families in the OECS.

While they do they will be considering recommendations from key players in this drive to raise the level of empowerment in the most vulnerable particularly in the midst of serious global financial challenges. For example UNICEF’s Khin-Sandi Lwin’s suggestion that OECS Social Development Ministers help ensure that the most vulnerable face the least possible barriers in accessing services that reduce vulnerability.

The UNICEF official addressed Monday night’s opening of the OECS 2nd Council of Ministers Meeting for Human and Social Development. The meeting which begins deliberations on Tuesday is being held in Saint Lucia. Ministers will be reviewing and reporting on a variety of social interventions in the OECS as well as strategies for Youth development and social protection that according to Director General of the OECS Dr Didacus Jules will “change the landscape of social development in the OECS.”

A major and historic development planned for Tuesday will be the Ministers’ endorsement and launch of the OECS Social Protection Technical Committee which will be the guiding light for the best possible policy decisions which Dr. Jules describes as one which requires approaches which are equitable, rights-based, child-sensitive and gender-responsive.

Addressing Monday night’s opening ceremony, Dr. Jules  described the OECS Commission’s proposed Youth Development Strategy which he will present to Tuesday’s meeting as an urgent work in progress that has been given a new mandate through the call of the President of the Regional Council of Martinique Serge Letchimy for new dynamism in the OECS’ engagement with the young people of the region: “Much of our work to date has focused on youth at risk and on education reform but now we are attempting to bring all of this together in a more ecological framework that will look at youth from a more holistic perspective and shape solutions that create opportunities as equally as they address challenges.  While it can be asserted that we are facing a youth crisis in the Caribbean the dimensions of which we are still to fully appreciate, the deeper truth is that we are ignoring an immense universe of opportunity that can be created for youth.  Our analysis of the situation of youth must be more textured and sophisticated.  We need to come to grips with the huge scale of the demographic of youth at risk but recognize that “the problem” is not the youth but the system which has and continues to fail to protect, promote and propel the youth.  We miss this and demonize youth because we fail to listen to their voices and their silences.  And yet it has been thirty odd years since the message of Bob Marley has been resonating globally.  Are we listening when he says that “Babylon system is a vampire, sucking the children day by day…”  So even while we create interventions to stem the tide of risk, we need to also put in place systems of affirmation and mechanisms of opportunity that will empower our youth to become a different future.”

Saint Lucia’s Minister for Human and Social Development Hon. Harold Dalsan noted advances which the OECS has made “with notable success” in social development initiatives. He told the ceremony which included eight colleague OECS Ministers and an impressive turn out of Permanent Secretaries of 2009 when the Member States collectively with the assistance of the OECS Commission, formulated a common Social Safety Net Framework to ensure that no one is left  out of the development process: “This framework emphasized social protection and poverty alleviation programmes to address the social deficiencies that existed in this regard I wish to commend  all of you here today and in particular the OECS Commission for the progress realized thus far.”

The OECS 2nd Council of Ministers Meeting for Human and Social Development follows Mondays first ever session of the proposed OECS Social Protection Technical Committee (OSPCT).

That meeting identified short, medium and long term strategic solutions with action plans to address challenges and opportunities  as well as discussed a strategy for the post 2015 agenda as the region seeks the best possible interventions for society’s most vulnerable.