Many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have seen periods of heightened violence generated by gangs and the drug trade in urban centres. Instability has also been fuelled by armed conflict, especially in Colombia and its neighbouring countries. This has caused forced displacement and disrupted countless lives, creating pockets of enduring crises in certain parts of the region.
RET International took its first steps in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2003, to then establish itself in the region in 2008 with larger projects and a more profound impact. The main focus of our work in the region has been community stabilisation through the integration of vulnerable youth in need of international protection. And to do so, youth have been placed at the centre, and are encouraged to take leading roles in creating and implementing solutions.
Over the last 3 years, part of our strategy has been to bring young people who have benefited from our programmes together in regional meetings called “We Have Something to Say”. During their 3rd such meeting, in Panama City, young refugees, migrants and nationals of Colombia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Panama and Venezuela exchanged concerns, experiences and above all showed the impact their actions have had on themselves, their environments and their com-munities. Their sustained work has achieved better integration, promoted constructive change in their environments and had a significant impact in reducing violence and xenophobia.
The final product of the meeting was the creation of a Youth Declaration. The ideas and proposals contained therein are the result of a collaborative process between RET and the youth who have participated in our projects. As we always say: young people are not our beneficiaries, they are our partners.
Young people having a say implies that their rights should be recognised, including: the protection of their chances to receive an education, to be able to develop a dignified life, to have access to employment and financial services, the possibility to initiate their own productive activities, being able to organise and participate in matters that affect their quality of life and that of their communities.
It is in this sustained process of strengthening and empowerment that, when submitting the joint statement, the young leaders also established four organised groups in the region: “Madiba Youth” in Costa Rica, “Young X” in Ecuador, “EACAJ” in Panama, and “Active Youth” in Venezuela. They define their goals and actions themselves according to their circumstances, their shared challenges and their vision regarding the future. They act locally, however, given the experience and contacts provided by the regional meetings they are able to add national and regional dimensions to their work.
We can see their perspective reflected in the Declaration, particularly regarding the obstacles they have faced, the challenges that remain, and the way in which they plan to tackle them. Furthermore, the Declaration also highlights the commitments they have undertaken as organised groups, especially the strength they have acquired in order to move forward and have a constructive influence on their communities. They want to continue informing, raising awareness, adding determination to their integration movements and become positive leaders within their communities.
Obviously, the best is to go and read their own words in the DECLARATION
“WE HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY” from the Youth of Latin America and the Caribbean: Read Here