The Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) says it is collaborating with the United States government to improve opportunities for vulnerable youth in St. Lucia.
It said that it has formalised the commitment by signing a Letter of Agreement earlier this week that reaffirms their joint partnership with the St. Lucia government on comprehensive violence prevention projects being funded by both institutions.
The Acting Mission Director for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Eastern and Southern Caribbean, Julia Henn, signed the agreement with the CDB Vice-President Monica La Bennett.
The CDB said that the signing formalises ongoing collaboration on the implementation of complementary youth initiatives – USAID’s regional Youth Empowerment Services (YES) Project and CDB’s Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) – in St. Lucia.
The agreement follows the establishment of a National Advisory Board to ensure effective in-country coordination, and facilitates sharing of information and best practices, maximisation of opportunities for communication to joint stakeholders and reduction in duplication of efforts to maximise impact.
“The (Youth Empowerment) project is intended to enhance the capacity of the Government of Saint Lucia and its implementing and participating agencies to deliver results-based youth empowerment responses to build the resilience and improve the life chances of vulnerable children, youth and their families,” said La Bennett.
“In this regard, CDB is pleased to partner with USAID to support the government of St. Lucia in addressing the complex citizen security challenges facing the country. CDB welcomes this partnership as we recognise that St. Lucia’s development can only be enhanced through collaboration with partners such as USAID,” she added.
Chargé d’Affaires of the US Embassy, Joaquin Monserrate, said Washington is deeply committed to this region as evidenced by our various youth, juvenile justice, health, and environment programmes that benefit at-risk youth and citizens at large.
“The challenges that the region faces cannot be solved by one agency and I’m pleased that the USG and the CDB are joining forces to use collective resources and ideas to support the region’s greatest asset – its youth.”
He said that the YES Project strengthens youth, family, and community support systems in St. Lucia, St. Kitts-Nevis and Guyana to improve the skills of at-risk youth and create alternatives to involvement in violence.
“Since 2016 the project has engaged over 4,000 youth in positive youth development programs resulting in job creation and reducing risks for involvement in crime across the three countries,” he added.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Equity, Velda Joseph, who is signatory to the agreement on behalf of the St. Lucia government, participated via teleconference.
She thanked USAID and CDB for their “bold step in fostering collaboration,” noting that “significant benefits can be derived from creating synergies.”
In this regard, Joseph maintained that “the merits of collaboration and working together are widely accepted and understood.
USAID’s YES Project is designed to reduce youth involvement in crime and violence in target communities across the Eastern and Southern Caribbean, and Castries Central has been identified as one of the targeted communities for a range of interventions, including after-school programs, life and social skills training, workforce development and family counselling.
Meanwhile, CDB’s YEP Project addresses the expansion of existing Court Diversion Programmes to prevent youth who have committed minor crimes from reoffending.
This includes community-based initiatives such as after-school and summer programs, leadership development workshops and the inclusion of sports and expressive arts in communities.