The Palau Chamber of Commerce welcomed Ms. Annika Wythes, UNODC Anti-Corruption Adviser - Southeast Asia and the Pacific and Mr. John Hyde, UNODC Anti Corruption Consultant, to Palau to launch the first youth workshops under the current grant with UNODC. The workshop was held on August 24, 2022, at the Pacific Room in Palau Pacific Resort from 8:30 am until 2:30 pm. The event kicked off with a short prayer by PMA Principal Abner Sanchez, then PMA students led the singing our Palau's national anthem Belau Er Kid. His Excellency, President Surangel Whipps, Jr., welcoming message officially opened the workshop, followed by a special congratulatory message by Senate Vice-President Kerai Mariur, representing The Senate.
The event was attended by 41-high school students from four of Palau's public and private high schools attended this workshop. A majority of the participating youth were female aged 16-17 years old. The students were accompanied by Principal Abner Sanchez (Palau Mission Academy), Principal Smyth Rdang (Palau High School), and teachers Ola Bernardino-Rechelulk (Mindszenty High School), Aleyna Ngirengkoi (Palau High School) and Miss Hanna (Palau Mission Academy).
In his special pre-recorded welcoming message, President Whipps briefly described what the essence of integrity meant in Palauan, using the phrase "Melemalt a rengul or melemalt el reng". Literally translated these words mean straight heart, but contextually it can be interpreted as a strong moral compass which always points towards the right direction. In his message, Whipps also told the youth that a strong community depends on many people that are filled with integrity and are not afraid to stand with integrity in whatever they do. President Whipps also told the participants, that they will eventually become the leaders of our country either in public office or in the private sector.
The youth participants also heard from the Senate Vice President Kerai Mariur that integrity starts from home and comes from the heart. These were important guiding principles that helped shaped the discussions and activities that took place during the workshop.
One of the first activities the youth did was to see how integrity takes form in their schools. Students shared what they do and how that related to integrity. Following rules and respect were key terms that came up repeatedly. In another activity, the youth discussed about the different roles and responsibilities that young people had in the past, the present, and what roles they may have in the future. Although some roles may have significantly changed with time, things like taking care of family, learning skills (education), and becoming independent are still present. The youth were very sharp in sharing how roles are no longer "gender-specific" and that is also true for opportunities to advance in school, sports, vocation, education, or career.
The youth also mentioned taking care of the natural environment as a role in both the present and in the future. While this may have been a responsibility in the past, what is different is the youth are actively looking for opportunities to protect the local environment (where they live) as well as other places in and around Palau. They youth are also very aware of the value and importance of Palau's language, culture, customs, and traditions.
Nepotism was an issue that most of the participants identified as a form of corruption. Nepotism is defined by Merriam-Webster's dictionary as favoritism (as in appointment to a job) based on kinship. While loyalty and family are important reasons the youth could relate how a small family business can allow for nepotism, they also want to be hired based on merit and qualifications.
The workshop ended with the participants learning a little about where to go to find more information about things happening in the community and the importance of verifying information they find. While the workshop did cover a lot of thing, this workshop is only the beginning. Because there is so much that the youth need to share and learn from each other in order to become stewards of integrity and drive positive change in Palau's communities.
For more information about the Palau Chamber of Commerce or the local project:
Contact Jannine Demek, Office Assistant - Palau Chamber of Commerce by calling (68