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“No spectators, all participants” – UN DESA event series on Youth, Peace and Security

With almost 200 million people aged between 15 and 24, Africa has the youngest population in the world. And it keeps growing rapidly. Over the next 13 years, from 2017 to 2030, the youth population in sub-Saharan Africa is expected to grow to almost 300 million youth. As economies in Africa face challenges in offering jobs for young people, youth migration is becoming alarmingly high.

Young people in Africa are demanding effective and full participation in policy making processes, including in the governance, decision making and development of their communities and societies. Many governments in African countries have recognized that urgent action is necessary in order to listen to the voices of young women and young men and take advantage of the tremendous potential they have to offer to shape the future of the continent.

During two UN DESA led events in Lomé, Togo and Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, young people from diverse socio-economic backgrounds and from different formal and informal civil society organizations discussed issues related to youth, peace and security and the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The events were organized in the context of a project on “Youth Development in Africa: Contributions to Peace and Security” currently being implemented by UN DESA in Togo, Burkina Faso and Cote D’Ivoire. These events constitute a platform to strengthen young people’s skills in the areas of citizenship participation, leadership, communication, negotiation and engagement in the development of effective social policies to support peace and security and the implementations of the SDGs. At a very little cost and with the support of the UN Country Office such events go very far in reaching hundreds of young people.

Based on the principle of “no spectators, all participants”, the events drew on the expertise of specialists as well as on the practical knowledge and experiences of young people, who took ownership by making decisions about the thematic focus and by acting as facilitators in the training and discussion sessions. Many of them described the experience as positive and enriching: “Thanks to the UN DESA team for this great opportunity”; and: “We are proud to be brought together again by UN DESA to improve our skills in this area”; and another, “I have learned a lot and will share it with other colleagues in our organization”.

The project foresees additional capacity development workshops in several regions to promote young people citizenship engagement through the direct involvement of youth-led organizations. It will also support the ministries in charge of youth with the organization of open policy dialogues with youth civil society as well as other youth outreach activities.

The project responds to a call from young people who participated in the MY World global survey. The priorities identified by young people who participated in the survey were education, health and jobs as well as honest and responsive governments.