Junior Minister's Speech- National Children's Bureau NI Project 'Attitudes To Difference' Report Launch

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Thank you for your kind invitation to come here today and for those words of welcome.

I want to start by commending the work that has been put into producing what is an excellent and enlightening report on 'Attitudes to Difference'.

I strongly share NCB's vision of a society where all children and young people are valued and their rights are respected.  That is why our department helped fund the production of this report.

It is easy to make lazy assumptions about how we think young people perceive the world around them.

To have such complex information recorded and reported in such a succinct form is of enormous value.

There are certain facts about about our society that we may not like to admit to, but ignoring them is the most dangerous course.

This report highlights that young people do have a strong moral compass and it was encouraging to read that, although there was experience of racism and sectarianism within their personal lives, a number of the respondents felt that this was unacceptable.

Education plays a key role in dispelling ignorance and misunderstanding.  As the report points out, family and school are the strongest influences on how the young view ethnic difference.

Greater emphasis on the reality of people's lives, dispelling myths and highlighting the richness that cultural diversity brings to our society, can only lead to a healthier mindset.

As a Junior Minister with responsibility for children and young people we have always tried to reach out and talk to our young people so that they can have a say on issues affecting them and also influence decision-making.

And today's report highlights the importance of this approach.  By knowing and understanding the attitudes of our young people towards racism and sectarianism we can develop improved race relations for the future- for their future.

As well as being committed to empowering young people to be able to change the world around them we are also committed to building a cohesive, shared and integrated society.

We recognise the valuable role played by minority ethnic groups on the ground and support their work with £1 million fund to help them provide advice and support in our communities.

I was interested to read that over one third of young people from minority ethnic groups are unsure as to whether they will stay here or leave.  And the reasons they offer, leaving for better job opportunities or a better future all together, are quite enlightening.

For too long we have seen our brightest and best leave these shores for the opportunities that were not available here.  It is essential that we create a society where people- from wherever- want to come here and stay here to avail themselves of the new opportunities we can offer.

Like it or not, we are in a global competition for internationally mobile skills, talent and labour.

We have to tackle and change our attitudes at this fundamental level to create a society that will not just attract but retain the skills and talents we nuture.

New communities in our society are very welcome for the ecnomic benefits, skills, new ideas and fresh perspectives that they bring.

As an Executive our focus is on economic growth to build a better future for all.  We hope that today's report will help us achieve that.