I wish to begin by acknowledging the presence of our Almighty God, whose blessings we receive, the Hon. Members of Parliament, Your Excellency, Mrs Fekita Útoikamanu, Under-Secretary General of the United Nations and High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Land-locked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, Hon. Frederica Filipe, Hon. Taone Ma’afu, Members of the diplomatic corps, Rev Dr Taliai Niumeitolu, Government CEOs, Non-Government Organisations, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
Good evening and welcome to the Legislative Assembly of Tonga.
On behalf of the Tongan Parliament, I am pleased to proudly share this platform with Her Excellency, the Under-Secretary General as we commemorate the 2018 United Nations Day.
As a Tongan female leader at the highest levels of global governance - we are honoured and pleased to welcome you today and have witnessed how your work serves to inspire so many young people in Tonga so that more can follow in your footsteps. We are therefore very confident that the unique interests of both Tonga and every small island developing state is well-represented at the United Nations.
The theme for today’s event is Youth for Sustainable Development in Parliament - a befitting topic in view of the upcoming 2018 Tonga Youth Parliament (TYP) which was launched earlier this month.
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.
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 the ways through which they can influence decision making. This is a non-partisan initiative in which we hope young people can engage in conversations around how Parliament can influence sustainable development.
We hope that TYP challenges negative stereotypes that youth are disinterested, disengaged and disillusioned with the parliamentary process.
TYP is a targeted effort to engage youth previously marginalized by parliament, and we hope this initiative will be a new beginning of mainstreaming the voices of the youth in Tonga.
This year, we have chosen the theme “Our Parliament- Bringing Parliament to You” to guide the TYP.
The Samoa Pathway highlighted the need for targeted sustainable development education and significantly that education and empowerment must be inclusive, especially of 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 is an important step towards, the education and empowerment of Tonga’s youth - particularly in relation to national political and parliamentary decision making.
This year’s TYP 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 goals. I am thrilled 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 commitments.
Our parliament is dedicated to encouraging participation and inclusiveness at all levels. The youth from the small island developing nations have highlighted that their vision is to achieve a self-sustaining, climate resilient, peaceful, healthy, inclusive, democratic and transparent society where all young people are empowered as equal partners in the regional and global efforts for sustainable development.
I am also pleased to announce the slogan ‘Our Parliament- Bringing Parliament to You’ is in line with 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 issues on the environment, disaster risk management and climate change, in addition to tackling concerns surrounding social and economic development.
We are looking forward to learning from the talented and inspiring young Tongans who will be joining Parliament in the upcoming weeks and how they will incorporate ideas around sustainable development into our agenda and our work.
Last but not the least, I wish to thank the governments of our development partners - New Zealand and Australia, as well as the People’s Republic of China, the United Nations agencies, Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Government Boards, Non-Government organisations, and the business community in Tonga for your immense support to make 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.
On behalf of the Legislative Assembly, I wish the UN Nations a successful commemoration day and our best wishes to everyone for the year ahead.
Speaker of the Legislative Assembly