The future of civil societies and non-government organisations looks very positive. More than half of the 800 delegates at the International Civil Society Week (ICSW) are under 35 years of age, says regional civil society leader Sarah Thomas-Nededog.
“It’s very encouraging and consoling to know that many young people find interest in ICSW,” says Ms Thomas-Nededog, who is the chairperson of the Pacific Islands Association of NGOs (PIANGO).
PIANGO is the co-host of this year’s International Civil Society Week, said to be the largest gathering of civil society leaders which is organised every 18 months.
The key organiser of ICSW is CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation, a network of civil society organisations from more than 175 countries.
Ms Thomas-Nededog says it is critical for the region to have more young people participate and lead in the civil society sector.
“I hope that this translates into a growing cadre of young people who aspire to be or are already NGO and CSO leaders on the ground, and that’s important for us, who have been in the field for decades,” she said.
“I think what’s even more critical for the various communities is to know that young people have a social conscience, have an interest in what goes on in their various islands and they want to be participatory in addressing and resolving that.”
Ms Thomas-Nededog says the international conference, which begins tomorrow will showcase both the contributions and challenges of the Pacific Islanders, foster relations with global organisations, and help promote solutions to the world’s pressing issues.
About 50 tertiary students are assisting as volunteers. The majority are students from the University of the South Pacific.
USP Students Association president Angela Charlie said: “It is an opportunity for our student leaders to be connected with international partners and that would also build their networking contacts in terms of building their campuses and student associations.”
USPSA and USP are among the local partners who have cooperated to host the very first ICSW in the Pacific.
Other partners include the Fiji Council of Social Services, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the Department of Immigration, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, OXFAM Pacific, the Ministry of Health, and the Fiji Police Force.
Source: Pacific Islands Association of Non-Government Organisation