The Legislative Assembly of Tonga’s own vision to build an inclusive, vibrant and participatory society that “leaves no one behind” aligns with our broader international commitment.

This is according to the Speaker of Parliament Lord Fakafanua when the Legislative Assembly today collaborated with Tonga UN Office in commemorating 2018 United Nations Day.

The theme for today’s event is Youth for Sustainable Development in Parliament. Lord Speaker said this is a befitting topic in view of the upcoming 2018 Tonga Youth Parliament (TYP) next month.

“This year’s Tonga Youth Parliament theme ties into the United Nations commitment to ‘Leave no one Behind’ which has been a key feature of the discussions on the post 2015 development agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

TYP is a tangible example of the Legislative Assembly’s commitment to achieving and maintaining sustainable development by addressing and supporting our youth in politics,” said the Lord Speaker.

The 2018 Tonga Youth Parliament aims to encourage an inclusive and participatory democracy by allowing a select group of young people from all over Tonga to learn first-hand about Tonga’s Parliament and how they can influence decision making.

“It is a non-partisan initiative in which we hope young people can engage in conversations around how Parliament can influence sustainable development.”

Lord Fakafanua also spoke on the Samoa Pathway which highlighted the need for targeted sustainable development education and significantly that education and empowerment must be inclusive.

This is especially for young people, girls, persons living with disabilities, indigenous children and other groups that have been marginalized or excluded from educational opportunities.

“We are positive that the theme of this year’s Youth Parliament can be an important step towards the education and empowerment of Tonga’s youth- particularly in relation to national political and parliamentary decision making.”

The theme for this year’s Youth Parliament is ‘Our Parliament- Bringing Parliament to You”. Lord Fakafanua said this has been designed to touch on several of 17 Sustainable Development Goals. For instance, it will explore strengthening good governance and what it means to have participatory processes.

It will address environmental issues, disaster risk management and climate change in addition to tackling concerns relating to social and economic development.

Clerk of Parliament Gloria Pole’o said the youth of today are attuned and engaged with issues of national interest whether they are social, economic and political. She added they are increasingly vocal on matters that affect them and are not afraid to assert themselves.

Therefore it is critical that we harness this interest and direct the youth onto a platform that will ensure their views are heard and considered.

Pole’o also asserted it is also important that the youth also learn the processes and procedures of bringing their views and opinions to parliament.

Meanwhile the Under Secretary-General and High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries & Small Island Developing States, Fekita ‘Utoikamanu was very pleased with today’s theme that has been aptly chosen for the commemoration of International UN Day today.

“The United Nations is delighted to work closely with the Parliament of Tonga to ensure that our youth are empowered and made aware of the need for sustainable development in Tonga … we are happy to partner with the Legislative Assembly and to support the Tonga Youth Parliament initiative,” said Mrs. ‘Utoikamanu.

Today’s program also featured the announcement of the 26 successful candidates as MPs of the 2018 Tonga Youth Parliament. The youngest MP is Taone Ma’afu (14) of Vaini - a form four student of Tonga High School. Ma’afu was very humbled and grateful to have been selected as a young participant of the Tonga Youth Parliament.

She said the youths’ future lies with our Parliament. Ms. Ma’afu added every decision our Parliament makes affect the people’s lives. Therefore it is the hope of Tonga’s young people that Parliament inspires young leaders to start thinking seriously not only about today but the future of Tonga, our United Nations and the future of our planet.

The Legislative Assembly looks forward to learning from the talented and inspiring youth who be joining Parliament in the upcoming weeks. And how they can incorporate ideas around sustainable development into the House’s agenda and its work.

Lord Speaker also acknowledged the immense support from the governments of New Zealand and Australia, China, United Nations agencies, Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), Government Boards, NGOs and the business community in making TYP a reality.

“It is only through our concerted efforts and working together that we can continue to sustainably develop and build peaceful and prosperous societies,” concluded the Lord Speaker.

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