20.07.2012 - UNESCO Office in Apia

Pacific Youths Speak about Heritage in Honiara, Solomon Islands

(c)UNESCO/J. Choi

In an open pavilion at the top of the hill overlooking the festival grounds, youths from every corner of the Pacific came together in a three day workshop entitled, Youth Speak!, to lend their voices to issues ranging from heritage preservation, environmental concerns and sustainable development for the future.

Youth Speak! was hosted jointly by the Pacific Islands Museum Association (PIMA) and the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS). It also received the support of numerous regional and international organizations, including UNESCO (Apia), Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (SPREP).

In this three day workshop, youths from Australia, Federated States of Micronesia, French Polynesia, Fiji, Hawaii, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu learned, shared and discussed with one another the need for culture and nature to be in harmony with each other in the quest for sustainable development for the future.

The workshop raised awareness among the youths of the region of the threat posed to traditional ways of life by incompatible development pressures which often sideline the cultural values and environmental concerns of the region. As Rameka Alexander-Tu’inukuafe, a 24-year-old architecture student from New Zealand, noted as he talked about the role of culture in sustainable infrastructure and development, ‘We can develop economically but not step on culture and heritage. Instead, they should be the main drivers of everything we do in the Pacific.’

The workshop also aimed to empower the Pacific youths to go back to their homes and become grass-root ambassadors for sustainable development through the mantra of “culture in harmony with nature.” For four of the participants from the Pacific Voyagers Society, spreading the message about the need for ecological sustainability through a model of cross-cultural legacy is nothing new, as they practice what they preach every day as they traverse the Pacific on their traditional voyaging canoes. As representatives of the new generation of traditional navigators, Taleni Aiolupotea (Samoa; Gaualofa), Setareki Ledua (Fiji; Uto Ni Yalo), Nabil Mercy Kafalava (Tonga; Hine Moana), and Ikaika Vivas (Hawaii; Haunui), leave this workshop with the challenge of representing also the youth voice in the movement to integrate culture and nature into sustainable development.

Elsei Tellei, a 19-year-old college student from Palau, said, ‘I hadn’t realized how many different aspects there are to preserving our culture and heritage. It can seem really intimidating but we’ve discussed different action plans so it’ll be a little easier.’ The action plans for sustainable development formulated by the participants was one of the key outcomes of this workshop, and will be used to promote the youth voice in sustainable development initiatives throughout the Pacific.

The workshop also celebrated the 40th year of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. In her keynote address, Adi Meretui Ratunabuabua of Fiji, Principal Cultural Development Officer, congratulated Palau’s Minister for Community and Culture and former national museum director, Faustina Rehuher-Marugg, on Palau’s recent inscription of the Rock Islands to the World Heritage list. There was also an exhibition on “World Heritage in the Pacific,” prepared by the International Heritage Section of the Australian Government’s Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population & Communities.

The participants and facilitators, speakers and observers all expressed great hope for the future of heritage and environment in the hands of youths, as the mission to spread the word continues through the establishment of Youth Speak!’s pacific youth network and online presence.

Youth Speak Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/youthspeak2012


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