With over 50 per cent of the total population of Pacific Islands Countries and Territories being aged under 25, the region is experiencing a ‘youth bulge’. As such a significant population, the fortunes of youth populations moving forward will dramatically impact the political, economic and security outcomes of the Large Ocean States of the Pacific as well as the broader region. Educated and engaged youth who feel a sense of belonging and worth have the potential to drive their communities forward socially and economically, creating opportunities for inclusive growth and limiting social fissures. A disengaged, disenfranchised youth populace, however, runs the risk of social disharmony, cultural ruptures and the creation of significant social and economic deficits – seen to some extent in instances of civil unrest over the past 15 years in Fiji, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu and, most recently, Papua New Guinea.
Creating opportunities and responding to the needs of youth will be critical in advancing positive developmental change across the region. This seminar will provide an insight into the state of youth livelihoods and development issues in Fiji and Solomon Islands. Examining the social and economic impacts of the youth bulge, as well as identifying the cultural and political factors that have led to young people and their experiences being structurally minimised, it will address areas crucial to positive developmental change within the Pacific region. It will interrogate the need for a greater focus on youth livelihoods and development issues from government, regional and bilateral organisations.
Aidan Craney is a PhD Candidate in Anthropology at La Trobe University and International Development consultant currently working on projects at the nexus of development and diplomacy in the Pacific region in association with the Institute for Human Security and Social Change. Aidan holds a Master of Social Science (International Development) from RMIT University and a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Melbourne.