Yokohama, JapanYouth development is one of the most important issues on the global agenda for peace and sustainable development. About 65 per cent of the total population of Africa is below the age of 35, and over 35 per cent is between 15 and 35.

Volunteerism offers valuable opportunities for youth to engage and contribute to the development of peaceful and inclusive societies. It also allows young people to become active empowered citizens, to acquire skills, build their capacities and increase their employability.

On 2 June, during the Fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V), the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme will host a side event to highlight the significance of youth volunteering for peace and sustainable development in Africa.

UNV promotes youth volunteerism as a people-centred resource for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and sustainable development. Through greater citizen participation, youth volunteering facilitates access to work and contributes to forming young leaders.

In 2012, a total of 966 UN Volunteers, approximately 14%, were between the ages of 21 and 29. To further strengthen its focus on youth, UNV launched the Youth Volunteering programme in 1976. Since then, UNV has partnered with ten universities including Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Uganda and Japan to provide an opportunity for youth to realise their full social, economic and human potential. These volunteers gain a strong sense of civic engagement to bring about transformational change in their communities.

In Burkina Faso, Togo, Mali, Cape Verde, Niger and Senegal, UNV is supporting national governments and civil society partnerships to mobilize youth volunteers to work for the achievement of the MDGs in the areas of education, health, environment and economic development. In Rwanda, a youth programme, partly funded by the Japanese Government, promotes the rights of Rwandan youth and adolescents, and encourages them to take a responsible role in their society. The programme works with young people from 10 to 24 years old on policy development which empowers adolescents and youth to think critically, understand their rights, and express themselves freely.

The Asia Youth Volunteer Exchange Programme in Zambia, funded by the Japanese Government, mobilizes the skills of Asian volunteers and is an excellent example of South-South cooperation. This programme provides a mechanism for volunteers from Asia to work in Africa and transfer skills and knowledge in the agricultural and private sectors, especially to small and medium scale farmers.

Richard Dictus, UNV Executive Coordinator, will open the side event at TICAD, where participants will discuss ways to strengthen continental, regional and national youth volunteer programmes in Africa. Representatives of the African Union youth volunteers and Japanese youth will present their activities and their views on volunteering.