High Level Youth Policy Dialogue. A shift from Elitism to practicality

The High Level Youth Policy Dialogue on SDGs kick started yesterday at the United Nations Office in Nairobi (UNON) attracting over 150 exuberant youth from all over Africa to engage on formulating the African Voice on the post-2015 debate under the thematic area of, ‘Prioritizing Investment in Youth Development in the Post-2015 era.’

Engineer Peter Magiti, Principal Secretary of Planning at the Ministry of Devolution & Planning, Kenya, gave the keynote address as he officially opened the forum . His sense of concern and urgency for the youth to take up their place in development could not be underscored.  He reiterated the need for youth to raise their voices and demand tracking mechanisms on youth policies across the continent. This includes incorporating accountability at the micro, macro and systemic levels of development.

Four panel discussions took centre stage with the first panel engaging the youth in a dialogue highlighting their objectives and expectations that they foresee from the forum. The second being a discussion of the Sustainable Development Goals in context. Thirdly, the inclusion of youth in the post-2015 agenda. Finally, the critical assessment of the AY African Youth Decade Plan of Action in the context of the AU Agenda 2063.

Mr. Freddy Lutonadio from the Voice Africa Future campaign, in his high spirited address echoed the Principal Secretary and emphasized the need for quality education, good governance and access to quality health care. Furthermore, his remarks emphasized the need for youth policies being action oriented, balanced and committal.

Among some of the other key contributions by fellow delegates was the need for clear articulation of ideologies regarding trade and investment in Africa. Do the youth understand trade and investment in Africa? How do we keep abreast or hold our governments accountable in this regard? Being part of the youth, I strongly believe that all the youth and I should keep abreast with the trade and investment contracts being signed by our respective governments. Africa being the rising star in the globe it is apparent that a lot of development is taking centre stage. How then are the youth being engaged in this? Are the labour policies transparent? Are our needs being met or are we only receiving the short end of the stick? I leave that for you to answer.

Another concern that resonated with me was the issue on how equipped with information the youth are, but which is more important is the quality of information the youth is engaging themselves with. This raises the question; are we reading enough? Or Are we too impatient to absorb what we have read? Are we keeping abreast with current affairs and ratified government treaties?

If not, here is a website that fascinated me

Throughout the forum one thing that came out clear and concise was that as youth in Africa we do need to step up our role in the post 2015 agenda and there is dire need for our voices to be heard. Here is a useful link to understanding the post 2015 agenda It .is no secret that Africa’s most prized possession is the youth. The human capital demographic on the continent is outstanding and exciting to say the least! How then do we ensure that this most prized possession is safely guarded and nurtured to its optimum potential for a global force of change.

Another persistent point that crossed my mind as the dialogue came to a close is the continuous participation of youth in such like forums with no substantive follow up thereafter.

I do advocate for more of these forums as it is through them that we get to share information and learn from each other’s triumphs and trials. However, do we go back to our home countries and actively call for action from our governments? And how do we go about this? Or better yet, are we involved in the institutional frameworks that deal with these issues? Are there structures that allow us to do this to begin with? And if not, how do we go about challenging this? These are questions whose answers still remain unclear. The buck stops with our generation.

In my opinion, it is paramount for these forums to have capacity building sessions to train youth on how to lobby governments to push for our agendas, our inclusivity and transparency. We need to move past mere participation to influencing decision making.

Our governments no doubt have an uphill task in ensuring investment in youth development is executed and they can only achieve this if we the youth assist them in doing so. And this can be done by the youth actively constituting and influencing the youth development. We must move from elitist dialogues to actively contributing in national action plans and strategies on youth policies. Let us benchmark this with set targets and goals and not just leave these ideologies up in the air. Let our voices not only be heard but felt.

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