Developing children, adolescents and young people is the foundation of development, and healthy human capital drives social and economic development. A lack of investment in human capital – or failing to realise the rights of children and young people – causes them to experience multiple forms of risk and vulnerability across their lifecycles, creating significant development challenges for countries worldwide to overcome. Some of these challenges in the Pacific include significantly high child mortality rates; childhood stunting affecting more than a fifth of under five year olds; many children experiencing violence in their daily lives; and high youth unemployment rates compared to the global average.
New Zealand’s policy on International Cooperation for Effective and Sustainable Development (ICESD) affirms a focus on child and youth well-being. The development of the Child and Youth Well-being Strategic Action Plan 2021 – 2025 has been priority deliverable in the Pacific Goal of the Ministry’s Strategic Intentions. The strategic action plan aims to deliver greater impact and equity across New Zealand’s international development cooperation by advancing human rights for children and youth and through taking a targeted and holistic approach across the life-cycle.
Mereia Carling is MFAT’s Senior Adviser for Inclusive Development – Child and Youth Well-being. She presents the purpose, overarching goal, structure and content of the plan. This was followed by kōrero among participants.
Mereia Carling has been working in child and youth rights and development in the Pacific region for 22 years. She has worked for Save the Children Fiji, Oxfam in the Pacific, UNICEF Pacific and the Pacific Community (SPC), as well as producing children’s television in Fiji. She was previously an artist and designer. She has three children and moved to New Zealand to take up this opportunity in early 2020.