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Happy International Youth Day: It is time to reflect on the International Year of Youth!

February 25, 2017

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All too soon the UN’s proclaimed International Year of Youth will be phased out. This will happen after the 12th of August 2011. For most youth development activists, I think the 12th of August 2011 which marks International Youth Day and the few days after should mark another time of stock-taking.

As a young person myself, I will be interested in knowing how much various institutions, governments, and local communities increased their level of commitment and investment in youth. Did we witness any increased youth participation and partnerships? Last but not least, were we able to increase the level of intercultural understanding among youth?

I think that the International Year of Youth was a laudable idea by the United Nations towards highlighting the challenges and opportunities surrounding youth development through “dialogue and mutual understanding”.

The recent Arab Spring and Norway attacks against the civilian population all indicate “cracks” – failure to listen and invest in youth development and also failure in promoting multiculturalism – in our constructed world. In fact, I think I am not in the same “boat” about the fact that the people who matter in youth development have done little to meet the needs of young people following the recent UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Youth. When Mr. Ban asked: “Are we doing enough for you? Can we do more?” the answers from the audience were a big “No” and “Yes” respectively.

In the absence of a concrete notion that something substantial has been done for young people, here are my recommendations for the future of promoting youth development:

1) Moving past tokenism and recognizing youth as partners in development:

Often when youth are invited to meetings, conferences, or to give input on policies and programmes their ideas are usually not considered central to the final outcomes of the event, simply because it is gradually becoming phenomenal and politically right to have a youth representative. As my colleague David Woollcombe of Peace Child International tells me in the lead up to Rio +20, if we want to achieve anything meaningful development, there is the need to harness the idealism of youth through co-management and “put youth at the heart of development.”

Development agencies and government institutions can integrate young people into their organization’s work through staffing, board membership and other institutional leadership opportunities which can promote youth leadership and sustainable actions. Youth Advisory Panels and Special Youth Program fellowship like that of the UNFPA are worth mentioning. However, it is important to ensure that this is not only at the global level but also at the country level of such organizations.

From my previous experience as a youth leader, I have come to realize that no one can explain the needs of young people better than young people themselves.

2) Bridge the digital divide and ensure full inclusion:

Though the world has become more connected than ever through ICT and the almost ubiquitous Facebook and Twitter society, we must not forget that millions of people still remain disconnectedThere is a need to ensure the full inclusion of young people who are located in hard – to-reach locations in development dialogue. This will bridge the gap between the real needs of young people in rural areas and also in urban areas. As a former National Focal Person of the UNICEF Rural Voices of Youth, I found this initiative interesting.

3) Provide core funding:

Youth-led organizations face extreme difficulty securing funds to meet their operating costs, including the funds necessary to run an office, compensate staff, and cover other overhead expenses. Sustainable youth leadership requires having young people in paid staff positions or volunteers to manage projects and for internal capacity building of youth organizations. Providing long term funding can produce sustainable and meaningful results too.

Well- today is International Youth Day (IYD) and though the International Year of Youth (IYY) will end after today, the daily challenges of young people are yet to end. The theme for this year’s IYD is “Change Your World.” What are you doing to change your world? I could not agree more with John Legend in his song, Wake Up Everybody: .The world will not get any better if we allow it to be as it is.

In retrospect of the IYY, do you think your community or country increased its level of commitment and investment in youth? Did we witness any increased youth participation and partnerships? Have we been able to increase the level of intercultural understanding among youth?

This a previous post made on the World Bank’s Youthink page. Please click here for the original post

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