On September 30 to October 1, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi visited Somalia to reiterate his unwavering commitment to empowering young people to participate in development and peace processes.

“Young people in Somalia have paid the highest price of conflict and instability,” said Mr. Alhendawi. “I have witnessed the challenges first-hand, but I am confident that the determination of youth and right investment in them will transform the country. Young people have the potential to become drivers for peace and stability.”

People under 30 years old represent more than two-thirds of Somalia’s population – one of the largest demographic youth bulges in the world. As a result of over 25 years of conflict in Somalia, two generations of youth have been denied education, employment and even a chance at a normal and peaceful life. Somalia has one of the lowest school enrolment rates in the world, with only four out of 10 children in school. Two thirds of the country’s youth are unemployed and lack access to opportunities. Because of this social and economic marginalization, young people are increasingly turning to crime and radicalization and are at risk of being recruited by armed groups.

In meetings with high-level Federal Government officials and youth organizations, Mr. Alhendawi reiterated his support to developing the National Youth Policy, which is being developed by the Ministry of Youth and Sports to empower young men and women to play their role in bringing peace and stability to Somalia.

Mr. Alhendawi meeting with Somali Prime Minister, Mr. Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed

Mr. Alhendawi meeting with Somali Prime Minister, Mr. Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed

“If we improve the situation of youth, you improve the country 70%” said Prime Minister, Mr. Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed, in a meeting with the Youth Envoy. “Your visit will contribute to this process that is already underway.”

Day long consultations between Mr. Alhendawi, representatives of UN agencies, and the Ministers of Youth and Sports, Education, Higher Education and Health explored tangible next steps in advancing the National Youth Policy and implementation of employment and social services programs to empower youth.

Mr. Alhendawi meeting with Somalia's Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr. Khalid Omar Ali

Mr. Alhendawi meeting with Somalia’s Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr. Khalid Omar Ali

“The Youth are one of the critical resources of our nation considering their potential, numbers, vitality, and capabilities as change agents for national transformation,” said Mr. Khalid Omar Ali, Somali’s Minister of Youth and Sports.

Throughout the course of the 2-day visit, Mr. Alhendawi stressed that we needed to launch an aggressive media campaign to “show the world that the ‘real shabab’ of Somalia are the youth working hard to support positive development and peace.”

“Let’s restore the term ‘shabab’ to its true meaning – ‘youth’ in Arabic. Somalia’s youth are the key to its future,” he added.

Mr. Alhendawi meeting with youth representatives from different regions in Somalia

Mr. Alhendawi meeting with youth representatives from different regions in Somalia

Mr. Alhendawi expressed his support to youth directly on the second day of his official visit, which included meetings with youth delegates from different regions in Somalia and in a visit to the Centre for Peace and Democracy, implementing the Youth for Change (Y4C) programme – a joint initiative between UNDP, UNICEF and the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The 'real shabab' of Somalia

The ‘real shabab’ of Somalia

“Youth can open a new chapter for Somalia. Somalia is a success story in the making,” said Mr. Alhendawi said to youth delegates. “Young people are already proactively contributing to the rebuilding of their country and their future—we need to support the great work you are already doing.”

After fruitful meetings with key Somali stakeholders and youth, Mr. Alhendawi met with UN officials in Somalia to restated support for two initiatives: a comprehensive strategy on youth that aims at increasing youth participation in governance processes, prevent violence and promote reintegration, stimulate employment and economic empowerment of youth including through providing employment skills to the youth.

Meeting with UN officials for Somalia

Meeting with UN officials for Somalia

After Somalia, Mr. Alhendawi travelled to Nairobi, Kenya to meet with international donors to ask them to invest in programmes that support Somali youth.

The Federal Government of Somalia confirmed a high-level delegation will join The Global Forum on Youth Policies, to take place in Baku, Azerbaijan from 28 to 30 October, organized in part by the Office of the Envoy on Youth. The Forum will bring together over 700 Government-level Ministers, experts and youth organizations for the first ever international meeting focused on advancing the UN World Programme of Action for Youth.