By Eden Yohannes
Addis Ababa, April 9, 2011 (Ezega.com) – High level consultation on youth development issues and funding was held here on the first two days of April followed by a Pre-summit African Youth Forum April 4-6, 2011. An Extraordinary session of the Bureau of the Conference of the Ministers of Youth (COMY III) was held on 8th to 9th April. This pre-summit series of meetings were held in preparation for the June-July 2011 summit to be held in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. Organized by the Human Resources, Science and Technology commission of the African Union, the forum was held under the same theme as the July summit: ‘Accelerating Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development’.
At the opening of the forum, the need for the full involvement of the youth in Africa in the development process was highlighted by Jean-Pierre Ezin, AUC Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology (HRST). A pan African Youth Union representative also noted that the UN system has launched a number of initiatives and programmesin support of African Development.
The rationale for the forum was that the African Union Commission considers African youth as a special resource that requires special attention not only because of demographic issues, but also the inherent energy that it possesses. The Forum is intended to strengthen Africa’s participation and engagement in the International Year of Youth with a view to ensuring that their concerns and priorities are adequately reflected. The primary objectives of the Forum are to raise awareness and call for effective commitment and actions on the part of all stakeholders and partners at all levels, to effectively include youth concerns into development policies, programs, strategies and practices in Africa.
More specifically, the objectives of the forum are,demonstrating compelling evidence of youth empowerment for sustainable development; deliberating on how the youthfulness of the African population could be both an asset and an opportunity; deliberating on challenges that the youth face in general and propose key recommendations for consideration by Heads of State and Government; promoting sharing of experiences, good practices and lessons learned in mainstreaming youth development into sustainable development agendas; showcasing the significant innovative advancement of African youth, including the Diaspora in their research and scientific activities and achievements and contributions towards sustainable development and many other related objectives.
Sub-themes of the forum were youth empowerment and socio-political stability; youth empowerment and socio-economic stability; youth empowerment and social and individual welfare; and youth empowerment and sustainable development. Expected outcomes of the forum were youth empowerment and development programs prioritized and implemented successfully at national and regional levels; enhancing knowledge of African youth in mainstreaming youth concerns in to development policies and practices; strengthening capacity of African youth to address their own development; challenges and leverage opportunities presented; support for the implementation of the African Youth Charter and strategic alliances and partnerships on the Plan of Action.
The pre-summit youth consultation is designed to come up with list of recommendations to present to the Malabo summit. Some 300 young boys and girls from the five geographical regions of Africa and the Diaspora participated in the forum where they debated and recommended issues for discussion at the heads of state meeting in July. Nonetheless, participation in this particular forum by three hounded young participants, representing the 53 African Union member states through their respective youth federation representatives and Members of Parliaments. But the participation of the civil society organizations was remarkably low, if not non-existent.
In the five days of the forum, most of the panelist and presenters spoke on behalf of United Nations agencies such as UN women, the UNEP or UNICEF as well as other International foundations. This criticism is founded on the argument that, as the forum is designed for the participation and consultation of Africa’s young people, more time and resources should have been devoted to home grown initiatives. Although funding is an ongoing concern, we still need to find other methods of getting young Africans to participate in this type of forum and ensuring that their voices are heard loudly and clearly.
After this forum, its various meetings and consultations, many questions still remain unanswered: what is a youth issue? Is it not the same as any other societal issue? What is so different from any other group in the wider community? Is youth not part of society? While these and other related questions were not answered adequately in the forum, many presentations were made about entrepreneurship and innovation, leadership and other topics that did not come close to addressing the real issues.
One of the notable recommendations that came out of the forum was the reaffirmation of the commitment by Africa’s youth for the effective implementation of the African Youth Charter, the International Year of Youth and the decade of Youth Development and its accompanying Plan of Action.
As the July summit on youth is approaching and has only eleven weeks to go, it is every young African’s hope that the recently held forum will actually influence the decisions of heads of state in Malabo in July and not end up being just another forum.
Eden Yohannes is Addis Ababa based reporter for Ezega.com. She can be reached by sending email through this form.