Be quiet! Sit down! Don't you think that you are too young to speak? This is a familiar sound in most places around the globe. Youth in most cases are not given the opportunity to air their views let alone participate in the governance of their cities.
There are more people under the age of 25 today than ever, totalling nearly three billion - or half of humankind − of which 1.8 billion are between the ages 10 and 24. Youth are the most prominent demographic of many countries, sometimes totalling over 70 per cent of the population. These youth live, largely, in cities and towns; the cities of the developing world account for over 90 per cent of the world’s urban growth and it is estimated that as many as 60 per cent of all urban dwellers will be under the age of 18 by 2030. In Nigeria, where I come from, over 50 per cent of the population are young people aged 18-29. It is important to make the most of this demographic opportunity, as young people might serve as a source of advancement and a building block on which countries can launch their economic development plan.
There are many factors including lack of skills, limited access to education, and a dearth of employment that hinder youth participation and bring about inequality. The importance of education cannot be overemphasized. Proper education increases job prospects and employability for youth. In the MY World global survey hosted by the United Nations, over one million participants voted education as a global priority.
Inequality must be addressed as it breeds distrust and frustration which can lead to violence. Lack of political participation, civic engagement and community mobilization, coupled with the low quality education hinders any city to be equitable. There must be a conscientious effort to encourage and prepare young people for urban governance. There are specific mentions of youth in strategic plans and policy outcome documents, yet we must understand to what extent these policies are youth responsive. An example of work being done in this area is UN-Habitat’s Youth and Land project. In this project, youth from Yemen, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Nepal and Brazil have undertaken participatory research projects exploring youth and land policy and practices. One tool being created from this project is youth responsiveness criteria for land policy.
As a child, I had the immense privilege of serving as the inaugural Chief Whip of my country’s National Children’s Parliament – a position which afforded colleagues and I the opportunity to learn from older parliamentarians and to advance causes that centre on the protection, development, survival, and participation rights of all children in Nigeria. This decision making role at an early age further emboldened me to speak up for youth inclusion in decision making as I transition to youth. A particular scenario I vividly remember was when my team and I synergized action in the wake of the call for inclusion of youth delegates to our National Government’s Political Reform Conference in 2005, after the initial exclusion of youths from the Conference. My speech on a national television breakfast show during that period resonates for me today: “You say we are Nigeria’s future and yet you lock us out. Definitely you cannot hold us responsible for the future in which we are not a part of the planning process because there is nothing for us without us.” These coordinated efforts and others ultimately led to the inclusion of six youth delegates by the Federal Government the following week. It might also interest you to know that the number of youth delegates has since tripled at our ongoing National Conference.
The United Nations is setting an exemplary lead for National Governments in the way that it engages youth. Notable achievements include the appointment of the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, creation of youth advisory boards for various agencies such as UN-Habitat’s Youth Advisory Board, and the increasing involvement of youth in consultations on wide ranging issues such as urbanization, post-2015 development agenda, Habitat III amongst others.
The World Urban Forum and the World Urban Youth Assembly is being held between the 5th and 11th April in Medellin with the theme of Urban Equity in Development – Cities for Life. The conference brings together thousands of delegates to discuss issues related to the post-2015 development agenda and begin the global preparatory process of the Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III). Youth are taking the lead on Habitat III through parallel processes sponsored by the UN-Habitat Youth Advisory Board and partners such as the Norwegian Children and Youth Council.
Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan aptly sums up the importance of youth participation for equitable cities: “No one is born a good citizen; no nation is born a democracy. Rather, both are processes that continue to evolve over a lifetime. Young people must be included from birth. A society that cuts off from its youth severs its lifeline.” Youth must be meaningfully engaged as an equal partner because there is no future without young people’s engagement.
About the Author:
Francis Anyaegbu is a multiple award winning global changemaker with extensive experience in creating and managing youth led development projects. He currently serves as Africa’s Representative on the UN-HABITAT Youth Advisory Board and also chairs the Board’s Committee on the Post-2015 development agenda. He is available on Twitter and tweets from @francisanyaegbu.
The seventh World Urban Forum (WUF7), organized by UN-Habitat, took place in Medellin, Columbia on April 5 – 11, 2014. It is the largest United Nations conference on sustainable urban development and cities. As part of the Forum, a World Urban Youth Assembly is also organized on April 7.
More information here:
The United Nations Inter-Agency Network on Youth (IANYD) met in Vienna from 12 to 14 March 2014. The three-day event was hosted by the incoming co-chair, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and attended by over 20 UN entities who work with and for youth.
Notable results were achieved in strategic planning and distribution of work for the coming year, including the development of a work-plan, joint strategies for increased youth involvement and engagement of youth organizations as well as reporting on the progress achieved in the United Nations' System-Wide Action Plan on Youth (SWAP). The members of the IANYD agreed to increasingly engage in discussions around the post-2015 agenda to strategically position youth related issues and address the multiple challenges faced by young women and men.
News from UN Offices
UNHCR – Taking young people seriously
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is taking displaced young people seriously. UNHCR is helping to reframe the roles of young people within their communities, through dedicated projects which they might lead. The UNHCR Youth Initiative Fund saw successful learning and protection initiatives implemented across 12 countries in 2013. Each initiative was designed and implemented directly by young people. They used sports, theatre and other innovative methods to address issues including child protection as well as sexual and gender based violence within their communities. The focus on young people is continuing in 2014 with more groups developing projects that build capacity and address protection challenges for youth.
UNRWA: Engaging youth: a journey to self-Sufficiency
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is committed to support young Palestine refugees’ inclusion and participation in their communities. The Engaging Youth Project aims at creating entrepreneurial opportunities for young refugees, despite dire living conditions and conflict. Samar, a 23-year-old Palestinian woman, represents a good example of what can be achieved. In January 2014, UNRWA helped her to start her own falafel business, as she had to flee her home in war-torn Syria. ‘My community considers me a role model. It is a sweet feeling’, she says. More.
Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict: Children, Not Soldiers
Nearly twenty years ago, the world united to condemn and take action against the use of children in armed conflict. Since then, thousands of children have been released as a result of action plans mandated by the UN Security Council aimed at ending and preventing the recruitment and use of children in conflict.
The campaign Children, Not Soldiers, launched on March 6th by Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, and UNICEF, seeks to galvanize support to end the recruitment and use of children by national security forces in conflict by 2016.
UNEP: One click away from SCP!
Young people - nearly half of the world’s population - have a significant role to play if we are to bring about the widespread behavioural change needed to shift towards more sustainable lifestyles and consumption habits. Young people are brimming with the determination, creativity and innovation that are accelerating the movement towards sustainable consumption and production (SCP). Sign up on the Global SCP Clearinghouse, convened by United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) - a hub dedicated to advancing SCP. Share your ideas, projects and events, build networks and spread your enthusiasm on SCP!
ILO: ILO and MTV spotlight good practices on youth employment
Youth employment projects in the Netherlands, Bangladesh and Paraguay share the first prize of the ILO’s Call for Good Practices and will be featured on MTV. A committee of international experts assessed the 103 entries received from 57 countries, and identified those that had proven more effective in supporting young people’s entry in the labour market. Each of the winning practices proposed innovative solutions that helped disadvantaged youth boost self-esteem, acquire employable skills and get a foothold in the labour market.
UN Major Group of Children and Youth: Small Island Developing States Youth Blast 2014
Calling all SIDS Youth and Children!
Exciting news! If you are attending the UN conference on Small Island Developing States, you may want also to attend the SIDS Youth Blast 2014 (29th and 30th August 2014)! Register here: bit.ly/SIDS Youth Blast (its free to attend but no funding for participation costs)
The interactive event is aimed at individuals under 30 and will be youth led: It is important that you attend as it includes strategy, planning, capacity building and preparation for the conference. It is also an opportunity to build lasting friendships that can lead to implementing change after participants return home. Spaces are limited so please apply even if you haven't secured funding yet as it will allow us to plan.
UN Major Group of Children and Youth: SIDS Youth Focal Points announced!
The UN Major Group of Children and Youth are happy to announce our Small Island Developing States (SIDS) team for 2014-2016! Each of the three SIDS regions is represented by two individuals. If you are from a SIDS, please contact your regional focal point about how to get involved with the processes to provide input for a sustainable development agenda.
UNFPA Tunisia: Towards youth active participation in Tunisia
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Tunisia, in partnership with youth organizations, developed an educational manual about youth civic engagement, gender and human rights. The manual was elaborated in a participatory process led by young people. This initiative aims to empower young people with necessary knowledge and skills to advocate for their needs and rights and therefore to enhance their effective participation. The objective is also to develop a comprehensive gender-sensitive training package to facilitate campaigns for awareness raising among young people in local and regional level.
UNFPA Palestine: Youth led Initiatives is boosting Palestinian youth’s civic participation
In one of the marginalized Bedouin communities in the West Bank of Palestine, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Country Office and its local partner opened the first ever youth community centre, a platform to gather, engage and discuss issues related to Bedouin youth. The aim of the centre is to respond to the needs of the youth living in a disadvantaged community. Led by youth, the centre engages young people in designing, implementing and supervising the project to effectively respond to the needs of the youth.
UNODA: UN Office for Disarmament Affairs meets youth representatives
On 18 March 2014, staff of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) met with youth representatives of Soka Gakkai International (SGI)-Japan and SGI-USA working in the field of nuclear disarmament. Ten youth representatives from Japan and seven from the United States visited the UNODA for the first time to engage in a dialogue about nuclear disarmament. The group from Japan made a brief activity report on their initiative, SOKA Global Action, which promotes grassroots level support for nuclear disarmament. The representatives from the United States reported on their youth-led initiative, the New Clear Future initiative, which facilitates dialogue among peers to raise awareness on issues related to nuclear weaponry.
Youth in Action
World Assembly of Youth (WAY): 14th Melaka International Youth Dialogue
World Assembly of Youth (WAY) will be organizing the 14th Melaka International Youth Dialogue with the theme “Youth and Education: Taking Action, Getting Results”. The dialogue will be held from 23rd to 25th June 2014 in Melaka, Malaysia. The theme was selected to highlight the major ideas and roles of young people towards the Post 2015 Development Agenda on education. An interactive dialogue on this topic will be of significance to form, educate, and increase awareness on the challenges and entitlements of youth in society More info.
Restless Development: Youth voices at the PGA event on Women, Youth and Civil Society and the Post-2015 development agenda
Primrose Manyalo, a young woman from Zimbabwe, delivered a strong message on how young people must lead the development and implementation of the new development framework in her presentation at the United Nations President of the General Assembly (PGA) event on Women, Youth and Civil Society and the Post-2015 development agenda.
In her discussion, Ms Manyalo stated: “There must be a specific goal on governance, and a target that ensures young people’s roles in decision-making on policies and allocation of resources in all areas that affect them.”
Primrose was invited to speak on best practices and strategies on behalf of the UN Major Group on Children and Youth (MGCY)
UNFPA: ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Review Report
The ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Report is the culmination of a landmark UN review of progress, gaps, challenges and emerging issues in relation to the ICPD Programme of Action. It gathers data from 176 member states, alongside inputs from civil society and comprehensive academic research. At the core of the Global Report, are inequalities – the cost of inequality for dignity and for sustainable development, and how investments in gender equality and rights, in youth, health and education and securing the human rights of all are essential to deliver sustainable global development goals.
To read the full report,click here.
UNDESA: World Population Policies Report
The World Population Policies 2013 report, prepared by the Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, is part of a series that provides comprehensive and up-to-date available information on the population policy situations and trends for all 193 Member States, two Observer States and two non-member States of the United Nations. The 2013 Report publication describes government views and policies from 1976 to 2013 with respect to population size and growth, age structure, fertility, reproductive health and family planning, health and mortality, spatial distribution and internal migration, and international migration within the context of demographic, social and economic change. To read the full report,click here.
ILO: Report on labour market transitions of young women and men in Samoa
This report presents the highlights of the 2012 School-to-work Transition Survey (SWTS) implemented by the Samoa Bureau of Statistics (SBS) and the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour (MCIL) within the framework of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Work4Youth Project.To read the full report,click here.
ILO: Guide on job search skills for young people
This ILO guide offers an effective career instruction tool that facilitators can use with students and young adults looking for work or exploring their future career paths so that they can make informed career decisions. The tool has been developed on the basis of the experience gained by the ILO through the implementation of several technical assistance programmes on youth employment in countries of Central and Eastern Europe, North and West Africa, and Asia. More