May 26, 2005

By Julia Freed
The Kaselehlie Press

FSM youth leaders representing a variety of government, faith-based, and nonprofit youth organizations gathered in Chuuk from April 25th - 28th, 2005, for the 12th Annual National Youth Conference. FSM Youth Coordinator Mr. Osaia Santos, HESA Representative Dr. Rufino Mauricio, and a consultant from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Mr. Tangata Vainerere facilitated the event. The theme of the conference was "Chartering the course of Youth Today and Beyond." Conference participants fulfilled the theme by reviewing current practices and implementing new programs for the benefit of FSM youth.

The Secretary of FSM Department of Health Education Social Affairs, Honorable Nena S. Nena, who addressed the conference on the importance of the FSM National Youth Policy, officially opened the National Youth Conference. The Governor of Chuuk, the Honorable Wesley Simina welcomed conference participants to the State. The keynote speaker, Father Julio Angkel, eloquently reminded participants that youth leaders must stay focused in order to effectively charter the course of youth.

Following the Opening Ceremony, the elected chairperson, Mr. Joe Commor, invited State and National Youth Coordinators to present reports on the status of youth affairs in the FSM. The Youth Coordinators provided summaries on youth activities in each state, and elaborated on youth programs that have occurred in the past year.

After deliberation on state and national youth programs, youth service providers and resource people gave insightful presentations on issues that are currently affecting the youth population of the FSM, and shared their expertise on the subject matter. Presentations broached topics such as the Convention on the Right of the Child, Nutrition, the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Juvenile Justice, and the Trio Program.

A significant portion of the conference was dedicated to implementation and reporting of the National Youth Policy. Mr. Tangata Vainerere encouraged participants to foster youth participation and empowerment through policy advocacy, media awareness, and networking. While discussing youth activities implemented as a result of the National Youth Policy, it became apparent that the National Youth Coordinator would need a tool to measure the effectiveness and statistical relevance of these programs. Therefore, participants of the National Youth Conference designed a reporting format based on the National Youth Policy. FSM youth service providers will complete this report during each youth program to efficiently gauge youth activities on a village, municipal, state, and national level.

According to the FSM Youth Council by-laws, participants of the 12th Annual National Youth Conference agreed that they should create an FSM Youth Council in order to "promote, foster and develop the physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual growth of the young population; and to further exercise our sovereign rights to protect our Freedom, Democracy and Cultural Heritage." After review, the FSM Youth Council By-Laws were finalized and members elected based on youth service providers listed in the National Youth Policy. Officers elected for the FSM Youth Council include Mr. Michael Kanas from Chuuk as President, Mr. Peter Rebeuluch from Yap as Vice President, Mr. Churchill Edward from Pohnpei as Secretary, and Ms. Patty Ruecho from Yap as Treasurer. The remainder of the National Youth Conference came to be recognized as the first meeting of the FSM Youth Council.

During this meeting, participants met to discuss the epidemic of suicides in the FSM. Father Fran Hezel from Micronesian Seminar facilitated a presentation and discussion of the suicide problem. Participants voted to elect a Suicide Prevention Coalition Taskforce comprised of state representatives and associated professionals to work in-depth on solutions for this social issue. The taskforce was assembled accordingly. The Suicide Prevention Taskforce are composed of the following members, Mr. Hermes Edmond, Pohnpei State; Ms. Patty Ruecho, Yap State Youth Congress; Ms. Linda Mori Hartman, Chuuk State; Mr. Bell Tosie, Kosrae State; Ms. Jane Elymore, FSM Gender/Development; Dr. Rufino Mauricio, Assistant Secretary for HESA, Father Fran Hezel of Micronesian Seminar and Major Scott Nicloy of the Salvation Army.

Finally, meeting participants discussed the individual State Youth Conferences, which will be held in review of the National Youth Conference. The theme for State Youth Conferences throughout the FSM will be "Youth Empowerment for a Sustainable Future." The 2005 State Youth Conferences will occur this summer and involve state-specific human service providers; including youth leaders, governmental and non-profit human service providers, and faith-based youth workers.

Participants of the National Youth Conference and members of the FSM Youth Council agreed to hold annual national youth leadership summits for reflection and expansion of initiatives. The '2006 Annual Youth Leadership Summit" is scheduled for August 2006, in Yap State.