Youth engagement as partners for development and peace

Young women and men have got the creativity, the potential and the capacity to make change happen – for themselves, for their societies, and for the rest of the world. UNESCO is committed to empowering young women and men and helping them to work together to drive social innovation and change, participate fully in the development of their societies, eradicate poverty and inequality, and foster a culture of peace.

The UNESCO Social and Human Sciences Sector in Southern Africa recognizes that the youth should not just be beneficiaries of the work by others, rather they should be essential actors in finding solutions to the issues faced by young people in the world today. Their energy and leadership must be demonstrated across the world, and they must be fully engaged in social development themselves and supported in this work by their societies.

Building on previous experiences and recent lessons learned based on UNESCO’s work on youth in all its fields of competence, UNESCO will provide upstream policy advice for the development or review of transversal and inclusive public policies on youth with the equal participation of young women and men and in line with national priorities and through an integrated and youth needs-sensitive analytical approach. 

At the regional level, UNESCO will enable the exchange of good practices and knowledge among countries and regions and will foster related policy debates. At the national level, building the capacities of decision-makers and personnel of related institutions will be an integral part of UNESCO’s action, which will be reflected in the UNDAFs and UCPDs. 

UNESCO will also guide national governments in applying participatory processes, engaging all related stakeholders, particularly young women and men. Specific focus will be placed on the creation or strengthening of national youth structures (Youth Councils etc) to ensure representation of different groups of youth especially vulnerable and marginalized groups. Complementary to the policy work, UNESCO will foster youth civic engagement, democratic participation and social innovation, emphasizing three specific aspects of engagement: 

  1. Youth participation in decision-making and democratic consolidation: UNESCO will advocate for, associate its networks to, and facilitate the development of youth participation processes from the local (school, community, municipality) to the global level (regional and international fora, youth consultation processes, etc.), with particular attention to marginalized groups. These efforts will be complemented by initiatives that allow youth to express themselves, to understand their rights and responsibilities and to play an active role in affirming democratic processes.
  2. Youth leadership, entrepreneurship and innovation for sustainable livelihoods and poverty reduction: UNESCO will mobilize partners and networks and will provide technical advice and training to support young women and men in leading action for sustainable livelihoods and community development.
  3. Youth engagement to promote mutual understanding, prevent conflict, combat violence and discrimination and participate in conflict resolution and building and consolidating peace. UNESCO will develop comprehensive and gender sensitive interventions, engaging youth through artistic, cultural, entrepreneurial and sport activities, as a means to prevent the violence and discrimination affecting them. Youth engagement in conflict prevention, reconciliation and the consolidation of peace, particularly in countries in transition, will be supported through targeted training, youth exchanges and dialogue initiatives. All activities will be designed with the necessary critical mass to deliver impact and will, in particular be reflected in UNDAFs and UCPDs.


Recently implemented activities:

  • Youth’s perspectives on secondary education in Southern Africa (SDG 4)

Through engagement with around 300 young women and men in Southern Africa (Malawi, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe), UNESCO provided youth with a platform for their contribution a study on the relevance of secondary education in their countries. One important conclusion of the research is the role of communities and its influence on the engagement and disengagement of students. Youth recommend involvement of the communities in the education system and the transformation of families and relatives into advocates for and supporters of youth engagement. School management and local authorities have to reach out to communities and jointly address the social and cultural factors that cause disengagement from education. Youth also addressed the issue of demotivated teachers and the central role that teachers have in supporting engagement with education systems, installing a culture of learning and providing support to students. Finally, the education system has to adapt its content to local realities and needs. There is need as such to provide tutoring, better understand and build on the existing systems to improve communities-schools interactions, and make curriculum relevant to the realities of youth in the region.


  • Youth policies revision and implementation; National Youth Forum 9-10 March 2017, Lusaka, Zambia

In line with UNESCO’s operational strategy on youth (2014-2021) ROSA has been providing technical and financial support to ministries responsible for youth on Zambia and Zimbabwe to facilitate the revision and effective implementation of national youth policies. A communique by the youth was developed and endorsed by the government during the national youth forum in Zambia. More than 1100 young people had the opportunity to participate in governance process and to engage the government on matters that affect their well-being and make recommendations that are best suited to resolve the challenges that young women and men face. ROSA will continue to support the government of Zambia in the implementation of the youth policy.


  • Youth, peace and security regional conference: Youth, peacebuilding and regional solidarity: Lessons for Africa 10-11 May 2017, Banjul, Gambia

Despite the positive strides that have been made to put youth concerns at the heart of the development agenda and increase the participation of youth in governance, peace and development processes in the region, youth participation is still limited. Youth participation is stifled weaknesses and challenges in existing frameworks and intervention. In recognition of the growing need to promote youth participation in governance processes UNESCO offices in Africa organised an international conference on youth and peacebuilding in Banjul, Gambia. The conference was an opportunity to celebrate youth contribution to democratic transition in the Gambia and to reflect on youth movements’ role in the transition and consolidation of democracy in the continent. The conference was attended by 100 youth leaders from 22 countries as well as notable Pan-African leaders including UN Special Envoy for Central Africa professor Abdoulaye Bathily. As a follow up ROSA will nominate Malawian and Zambian delegates to the UNESCO Youth and peacebuilding forum.


  • National Youth Policy consultations, 26-27 June 2017, Harare, Zimbabwe

The youth policy national consultation seminar in Zimbabwe in response to a request by the Zimbabwe Youth Council for support in mainstreaming the youth policy to ensure systematic, sustained, and coordinated input from other ministries and government departments in the implementation of the national youth policy. Representatives from various government departments and youth organisations identified key priority areas for the period 2018-2019 and presented five recommendations for coordination and monitoring and evaluation of youth development activities in the country. ROSA’s work on youth policies has benefitted from collaboration with other UN agencies namely UNFPA, ILO, and UNDP as well as UNDESA.


  • International youth media summit 27 July- 9 August 2017, Falkenborg, Sweden

UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa (ROSA) supported a delegation of youth participants attending the 2017 International Youth Media Summit (IYMS) that took place in Sweden. IYMS is an annual two-week event that brings together young people from different cultures to create media projects aimed at inspiring their own generation to take action and responsibility for the future.   At each Summit, delegates explore the power and impact of media to transform attitudes, behaviours and lives. The final products of each Summit include seven short films, each focused on finding a solution to one of these issues, and seven workshop guides, tools to accompany the films to stimulate dialogue and action in community settings around the world. A short film produced by the ROSA delegate from Zambia was featured at the Auburn International Film Festival to be held from 18-20 September 2017. ROSA is currently developing a funding proposal to facilitate the participation of more delegates from Southern Africa in the IYMS that will be held in Sydney, Australia in 2018.


  • Intercultural dialogue and culture of peace among young people in Zimbabwe, October-December 2017

This project will mainly focus on acquiring intercultural competencies non-formally through creative expressions and exchanges. Young people between the ages of 15 and 28 years will be targeted in this project. Because young people are the interface between socio-cultural pluralism and social cohesion, they occupy a strategic space within which positive change can begin to happen. Participants will go through three sessions. Each session will have an hour of theoretical and practical training using various exercises and a two hour session focused on creative expression. In the final session participants will be asked to put together an artistic production to highlight key community issues and to showcase the competencies they have acquired.

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