Democratic processes rely on the engagement and participation of an interested electorate if they are to succeed. In the Commonwealth Caribbean countries, there is generally an apathy towards the community engagement process – particularly at the local government level – largely due to a lack of knowledge and cynicism about civic participation and local governance.
The Caribbean Association of Local Government Authorities (CALGA) is working with young people to help them constructively engage with local government. This project will work to develop student councils in secondary schools, which will send representatives to specially created Junior Councils that will provide a structured interface between young people and local government institutions.
The young people on these Junior Councils will be trained in the local government system, participatory governance and advocacy and lobbying techniques, giving them the capabilities and confidence needed to effectively engage with authorities.
The project will also work with government representatives to integrate the young people’s voices into local government processes. The project aims to eventually embed the Junior Councils into local governance processes, allowing it to continue beyond the duration of the grant.
The work has attracted a mix of trainers and project coordinators in the four countries, from the education and local government sectors. Councillor Examin Philbert from St Lucia – a Project Coordinator and school principal – explained: “The project is timely and will afford students the opportunity to actively participate in democratic processes. It will enable Student Councils to develop leadership skills, forge partnerships with the school administration, as well as, lobby and advocate on behalf of the student body. The Junior Councils will catapult our youngsters into meaningful participation in community and Local Government engagement.”
The Caribbean Association of Local Government Authorities is a not for profit organization established to facilitate the further development of Local Government within the Caribbean region.
Their mission is to promote good governance and local democracy through capacity-building, networking, advocacy, and effective representation of the interests and views of Local Government authorities.
Secondary school students from the Chaguanas Borough of Trinidad and Tobago have received certificates to mark their participation in the pilot of a project funded by the Commonwealth Foundation, Fostering a democratic culture in schools and local communities in the Caribbean.