02 May 2017 - With the aim of developing innovative solutions to address corruption, youth representatives and students from some 13 Pacific Island countries and territories gathered this past week for the Pacific Youth Anti-Corruption Innovation Lab held in Nadi, Fiji. Held over three days, the event also considered how education can best be used as a tool to foster the culture of integrity and lawfulness and ultimately counter corruption.
At the opening, the Permanent Secretary in the Fijian Ministry of Youth and Sports, Alison Burchell, highlighted the importance of these gatherings with young people: "Most people in Fiji are youth and it is your future as young people, so you need to be able to define what you see as your future", she noted. "It is not your future in five or ten years' time but it is your future tomorrow. Unless we start acting now, we are not going to be able to make those culture and mind shift changes."
Realized through a partnership between the UNODC-UNDP Pacific Regional Anti-Corruption (UN-PRAC) Project, the Pacific Youth Council, UNODC's Education for Justice (E4J) initiative and the Washington & Lee University's Law School in the United States, the Innovation Lab recognized the talents and contributions of young people in the Pacific as invaluable partners who can advance meaningful solutions and contribute fresh ideas to policy-makers. It also encouraged youth to take proactive measures on various issues pertinent to youth development.
"The idea of the Anti-Corruption Innovation Lab is to provide a platform for young leaders from the region to get together and brainstorm creative approaches to increase youth involvement in the area of anti-corruption, thereby contributing to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 16 targets in the Pacific", explained UNODC's Regional Anti-Corruption Adviser, Maria Adomeit.
Dyfan Jones, Effective Governance Team Leader from the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji meanwhile acknowledged the contribution of youth: "We know that many of the youth present have taken innovative approaches in the way they do things. All our field interactions throughout the Pacific Island countries confirm that youth groups have brought new freshness and enthusiasm in the anti-corruption work in the region".
The event gave the participants the possibility to learn more about the United Nations Convention against Corruption as the global anti-corruption framework and discuss possibilities for the youth contribution to its implementation in the Pacific in four policy areas: citizens' friendly budget; access to information; oceans management; and the role of youth in resilience building and disaster risk management from an accountability perspective.
The partnership with the E4J initiative meanwhile gave the lab participants inspiration to explore the role that schools and universities can play in the region to promote integrity, transparency, accountability and the rule of law, and how young people can support these efforts and bring about change. The discussion was also enriched by the participation of a group of students from the Washington & Lee University who study corruption, led by their professor Speedy Rice.
"It was clearly recognized that education is one of the most powerful tools to empower youth to demand and create a future they want and deserve", Ms. Adomeit concluded at the end of the three days. "We are excited to see how the participants will bring forward the issues they have identified as priorities".
The UN-PRAC project is a four-year initiative jointly implemented by UNODC and UNDP and aims to support Pacific Island countries (PICs) to strengthen their national integrity systems to promote clean governments and create an enabling environment for trade, business, investment and sustainable development to increase in the region.
E4J, a component of the Doha Declaration Global Programme, seeks to prevent crime, corruption and promote a culture of lawfulness through education activities designed for primary, secondary and tertiary levels. These activities will help educators teach the next generation to better understand and address problems that can undermine the rule of law and encourage students to actively engage in their communities and future professions in this regard.