THE Saint Lucia National Youth Council has removed a member of its national executive from office over certain allegations made against the member that the NYC said the member in question did not adequately address.
Here is the NYC’s full statement on that development:
In April 2021, the National Executive of the Saint Lucia National Youth Council (SLNYC) was in receipt of disreputable material, alleging sexual impropriety against a member of the National Executive. Since receipt of the material, the SLNYC’s General Council (representatives of SLNYC District Branches) met on several occasions to discuss the organization’s approach to the matter. On May 12th, 2021, members agreed to adopt a Safeguarding process, which led to the appointment of an Independent Committee pursuant to Article 5 (f) of the SLNYC Constitution.
It sought to ascertain the accuracy of the allegations, identify ethical breaches and investigate the presence or lack of safeguarding mechanisms within the organization. Safeguarding as defined by the United Nations, is a concept to protect vulnerable adults, youth and children against Sexual Exploitation, Sexual Abuse and Sexual Harassment and to respond appropriately when harm occurs.
On Friday, 13th August 2021, the Independent Committee submitted a final report to the National Executive, outlining its findings and recommendations from the process. According to the report, “Given the seriousness of the allegations and the findings of this Sub-committee that events such as those alleged could not be ruled out, the SLNYC must treat this as a real and present danger to the young persons that it serves and act on the recommendations from the investigation immediately so as to stop any form of ongoing abuse and ensure through its policies, operations and processes that it explicitly protects all the children and young persons that it represents and communicates a zero tolerance for any and all forms of abuse and discrimination.”
Having reviewed the report, the National Executive consulted its General Council at a meeting held on Wednesday, 18th August 2021. Several actions to fulfill the report’s recommendations were discussed and approved. Additionally, members unanimously approved a motion to convene an Extraordinary General Meeting on Thursday, 26th August 2021 to determine the membership status of the National Executive member in question.
At the Extraordinary General Meeting 26 out of the 29 member organizations, present voted in favor of a motion to remove the National Executive member from office, citing the committee’s decision to refer the case to the relevant authority; disrepute caused to the SLNYC as a result of the allegations; and the member’s failure to adequately address the situation at hand as main reasons.
The overarching concern emerging from the report for members remains the organization’s lack of safeguards for both children and young adults, which the Sub-committee indicated, requires immediate attention. The action taken against the member should send a clear message to our constituents that such allegations cannot be taken lightly especially at the leadership level of the Saint Lucia National Youth Council.
The National Executive has confirmed with the Committee that the matter has been reported to the agency responsible for Child Protection.
The Committee also recognized what it refers to as “an alarming lack of safeguards for both children and young persons in both policy and practice” and shared its recommendations to address these operational gaps.
1. Organizational: The implementation of Standard Operating Procedures and programs to strengthen the function of the SLNYC Secretariat to provide support services for vulnerable youth; and to outline a strict Code of Conduct for office use.
2. Accountability: Empower members at various levels to ensure adherence to policies that protect youth who use the office from any form of discrimination, abuse or exploitation; and to establish an independent sub-committee “to address misconduct in a fair and transparent manner and in keeping with the principles of natural justice.”
3. Programming: Conduct a risk assessment of internal processes and establish partnerships with key agencies to address the differential needs of all genders within the organization.
4. Legislation: Conduct a review of the National Youth Council Act of 1997 to ensure a focus on child protection and safeguarding within the organization.
5. Policy: Embark on constitutional review that will be guided by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child with emphasis on child-friendly initiatives and a zero-tolerance for abuse and discrimination through the necessary safeguards.
In building from this process, the SLNYC will prioritize the establishment of complaints and reporting procedures to protect vulnerable youth against abuse and to communicate that abuse can happen to anyone, at any time, by anyone. As an organization charged with the responsibility to advocate for the welfare of youth, the SLNYC must continue to be a lead champion for child safety and protection.
We are pleased to share that dialogue with professionals who will assist to establish the recommended policies has commenced. Some of these individuals have volunteered their expertise to help the SLNYC restructure its operations to better serve young people.
We are actively pursuing funding for the same and will be partnering with youth-serving institutions who share a similar mandate. Leading up to our Biennial General Assembly in the coming months, more details will be provided in keeping with the General Assembly communication and mobilization strategy.
The Saint Lucia National Youth Council with utmost humility extends apologies to all members and parties directly or indirectly affected by this situation.
We remain optimistic that our partners, constituents and the general public will add to the efforts required at this time to invest in the Council’s potential to build credible leadership and selfless representation of Saint Lucia’s youth.
We extend sincere gratitude to all who provided guidance throughout this period. With particular mention are the volunteers of the Independent Committee and Legal Advisor, Attorney at Law and Former SLNYC President, Ms. Veronica Cenac.