The Missing Generation

Type Working Paper - A Situational Analysis of Adolescents (10-14) in the Caribbean Community
Title The Missing Generation
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2008
Over the last two decades youth development in the Caribbean has assumed a complex and challenging
character. With the end of the Cold War and the loss of geo-political importance, many Caribbean
nations have experienced economic decline, due in no small part to loss of FDI and aid, and more
recently from the loss of preferential treatment in agriculture markets and increasing vulnerability of
the tourism sector, coupled with debt service obligations. Structural adjustment programs have
resulted in reductions in health, education, housing, and social welfare programs. These prevailing
economic, social and political ethos have not only conspired to undermine the capacity of the state to
effectively perform its role as a facilitator of economic and social justice but has also diminish the
prevalence of traditional modes of socialization1
, thereby changing the social options and possibilities
for many young people. Moreover, the pervasiveness of ICTs and media coupled with the
effectiveness of international criminal organizations and socially deviant forces and agents in filling the
gap created by the declining influence of traditional social institutions such as the family, church,
schools and many civic organizations.
Caribbean youth issues have emerged during volatile conditions and the lives of Caribbean youth
reflect the socio-political, economic and cultural pressures faced by the region. High unemployment
rates, migration and its consequent depletion of intellectual and social capital, weaknesses in education
systems, persistent health challenges; particularly as it relates to HIV/AIDS, global trends that weaken
our collective economic viability and threaten the sustainable livelihood of significant proportions of
the region, spiralling crime and most recently a change in political paradigms, with new governments
being brought to power in four of the five most recently held regional elections, have all coalesced to
create a situation in which the well-being of youth is potentially compromised.
In keeping with the mandate of the CARICOM Commission on Youth launched in 2006, the United
Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); as an ex officio member of the Commission; assumed
responsibility for the preparation of a situation analysis of Caribbean adolescents 10 – 14 years old, to
inform and support the mandate of the Committee by identifying:
a. The relevant issues by which Caribbean adolescents are affected
b. Existing policy aimed at the development and empowerment of Caribbean adolescents
c. Gaps in existing policy, legislative and institutional arrangements for adolescent development
and empowerment in the region
d. The social, economic and financial benefits of harnessing the assets and talents of adolescents
and youth as well as the cost of non-attention to risk and vulnerability factors.
The situation analysis, which was premised on a comprehensive review of literature around youth
concerns and issues in the region, is intended to be used both as a repository of information on the
collective condition of adolescents in the region as well as to inform policy around youth concerns.
The review was guided by the following seven areas of priority:
1. Globalisation and regional integration 2. Socio-economic situation
3. Adolescent health and well being 4. Adolescent Education
5. Crime and gun/gang violence 6. ICT’s for Development

The Caribbean Youth Development Agenda: From Social Welfare To Transformation 2
7. Participation and Intergenerational Issues
Despite efforts to limit the focus of the Situation Analysis to adolescents 10 – 14, the review of
Literature revealed a lack of a conceptual clarity about the term youth; and the differences between the
various developmental stages within the 0 – 24 age band, generally considered as youth. In many
reports the words “youth” and “adolescent” were used interchangeably, and in many instances it was
difficult to determine if reports addressed issues specific to the 10- 14 age group.
An additional concern was the lack of data that was regional in scope. Most data were country based,
and; given the lack of harmonization of definitions; instructive comparisons were almost impossible.
This was compounded by a lack of disaggregated data and beyond talking about boys and girls, there
was little disaggregating of data based on other organising structures such as socio-economic status,
ethnicity, family structure or location.
There was also virtually no data on two Priority Issues; ICT for Development and Governance, which
could indicate a gap in youth provision in these areas and the need to establish and implement
programmes for adolescents and youth in these areas.
Major youth concerns highlighted in the Literature included:
1. Poverty. Socio-economic disabilities of youth prevent many older youth from establishing their
independence from their parents thereby retarding their transition to adulthood.
Situated within the context of Caribbean poverty as consequent to – inter alia - recent shifts in geopolitical
significance of Caribbean countries as well as new global trading arrangements which have
eroded long protected markets for Caribbean products, this chapter explores three approaches to
defining poverty: poverty as economic deprivation, as denial of human rights and as deprivation of
basic capabilities. With data on poverty rates presented for 13 Caribbean countries, concerns
around adolescent poverty are situated in relation to the Convention on the Rights of the Child,
which includes adolescents.
2. Health. Health challenges may compromise the optimal physical, emotional, cognitive, social and
spiritual development and well-being of youth preventing their ability to form caring, supportive
relationships with family, other adults and peers as well as engage, in a positive way, in the life of
their communities.
In this regard, the sexual and reproductive health of adolescents is of special concern, particularly
as it relates to the spread of HIV/AIDS as a by-product of cultural practices, such as early sexual
initiation, incest and sexual abuse and transactional sex and the high incidence of teenage
pregnancy and related risk behaviours including early sexual initiation, abortion and the impact on
schooling of girls.
Although to a lesser extent, this chapter also addresses other issues of concern including:
1. Tobacco, alcohol and other substance abuse
2. Emotional wellbeing
3. Rage
4. Violence 3
3. Education. Disparities in access to quality education and gendered perceptions of its usefulness
remain a challenge for youth in the Caribbean, with high drop-out rates generally and attrition and
performance challenges for males specifically, which threaten the ability of youth to effectively
contribute to the sustainable development of Caribbean society

This chapter focuses on the two major gender equality goals of Education as espoused in the
Education For All (EFA) Dakar Framework for Action: formal equality in education, which aims
at closing numerical gaps between the sexes at various levels of education systems, as well as
substantive equality which refers to ‘the quality of experience of education in terms of equal
treatment during the educational process, and, benefiting from education beyond school in terms of
the social currency of education to either sex. With regards to formal equality, the chapter
examines the provision of formal education for the 10-14 age cohort in Caribbean education
systems based on gross and net enrolment ratios at the primary and secondary levels as well a
through repetition and drop-out rates. In terms of substantive equality, students’ perceptions of
fair and unfair treatment in schools as well as experiences of verbal, physical and sexual violence of
10-14 year olds in selected Caribbean countries are explored.
4. Crime and Violence. Exposure to violent and abusive circumstances has led to levels rage among
young people being extremely high and antecedent for involvement in gang related and other antisocial
activities. Increased involvement in crime as perpetrator continues to erode the ability of
youth to effectively contribute to the development of Caribbean societies.
In this section a brief overview of the situation of crime and violence in the Caribbean is presented
and the involvement of youth in crime and violence is examined in terms of youth both as victim
and perpetrator of crime. In the absence of regional data, a case study of the involvement of
Jamaican youth, 9-15 years olds, as victims and perpetrators of criminal activities is included. The
direct and non-direct cost of crime and violence and the economic and social multiplier effects are
examined and strategies already undertaken by CARICOM member states to address challenges of
youth crime and violence are outlined.
The Final section looks to explanatory frameworks which highlight behaviours and/or conditions and
perceived causes associated with at risk youth in the Caribbean inclusive of early adolescents in the 10
to 14 age group. Few of the sources, however, locate the discussion within a conceptual framework
that can be used to guide both analyses as well as show possible linkages between cause and effect.
Three such explanatory conceptual frameworks were identified in the literature are reviewed which
make a distinction between micro and macro level factors.
A review of research coming out of the Region in relation to the priority issues addressed in this report
suggests that the focus has been on the micro level factors and addressing symptoms and less in
relation to the political and economic contexts or macro-environmental, structural root causes
The point is made that if governments want a more socially cohesive society characterised by less
violence and a greater rate of human and social capital accumulation they are advised to go ‘further
upstream’ and deal with the underlying structural problems. 4
The major structural factors predictive of high risk behviours such as crime, violence, unprotected sex
and teen pregnancy are poverty, lack of education, youth unemployment and child sexual abuse.
Without the appropriate and adequate support for young people to grow into responsible and
productive adults, we run the risk of2
1. A lack of skills to contribute to the modern economy will impede economic growth and
exacerbate income inequality and poverty,
2. A society with high youth crime rates, which will discourage development
3. An unemployable labour force, high fertility rates, and violence would divert resources away
from productive public investments.
4. Adults who entered the challenges of adulthood unprepared are more likely to pass on to their
children their negative behaviours, thus perpetuating the cycle.
If left unaddressed, these factors have worrisome implications for the future of youth and adolescents
across the region.

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