"The African Youth Charter is the first legal framework in favor of youth development" - Interview with Raymonde Agossou
On the occasion of a meeting of the United Nations System Chief Executives’ Board in Geneva (Switzerland) from 13 to 14 April which will focus among others on “Youth in sustainable development”, Dr Raymonde Agossou, Head of the Division Human Resources and Youth Development of the African Union Commission, explains the importance of the African Youth Charter, and highlights how youth organizations can help to promote its ratification and implementation on the African Continent.
What is the African Youth Charter? How and why did it come into existence?
Referring to the rights, freedoms and duties of the African youth, the African Youth Charter is the first legal framework provided to Africa, by the relevant actors in the youth area, to support national policies, programmes and actions in favor of youth development. The document was adopted by Heads of States and Governments, and recommended for ratification and implementation.
The necessity of having a charter developed for the African youth was stated in the African Union Strategic Planning 2004-2007 to ensure that youth issues are embedded in a legal framework and taken seriously with the deserved attention and care. The drafting process took place between September 2005 and May 2006 through a very interactive approach, engaging African youth leaders, Youth experts from Ministries, Ministers of youth affairs, partners and all interested stakeholders. This process was finalized with the adoption of the document by the African Heads of State and Government on 2 July 2006 in Banjul, Gambia.
The African Youth Charter came as an institutional and legal response to youth development and empowerment in Africa.
What can the Charter do for young people? How can it change their situation?
The African Youth Charter has a clear role:
- It facilitates the institutionalization of Youth participation in political debates, decision making and development processes at national, regional and continental levels; on a regular and legal basis; for positive and constructive contribution;
- It contributes to the strengthening of the capacity building programmes for young leaders in Africa;
- It opens the possibility of dialogue and more opportunity for exchange on youth development issues and facilitates relevant actions for improvement through education, training and skills development.
The Charter addresses, among others, the following areas for major and concrete actions for change:
- Education, skills and competence development;
- Employment and sustainable livelihoods;
- Youth leadership and participatio;
- Health and welfare;
- Peace and security;
- Environment protection;
- Cultural and moral values.
To date, how many States have ratified the Charter? Have there been any concrete examples of action by Member States to implement the Charter?
- 28 African countries have ratified the Charter (since 13 July 2011).
- Since January 2012 two more countries have ratified and must deposit their respective Instrument of ratification to the AUC Legal office before being counted (Tanzania and Central African Republic).
- 39 African countries have signed it.
- The African Youth Charter entered into force on 8 August 2009.
Many of those countries are implementing by putting in place
- the national youth policy and the national youth programme;
- improved youth participation in development activities, the political arena and decision-making processes;
- improved strategies for youth employment;
- a special fund for youth empowerment;
- financial support or credit allocation for project development
What can youth organizations do to promote the ratification and implementation of the Charter in their countries and communities?
Among many other things, youth leaders and youth organizations can do the following:
- contribute to dissemination and popularization of the charter, and work with Ministries of youth to promote the understanding of the content of the charter among youth at all levels (schools, workshops, churches, etc.) in particular through
- translation in local languages and large distribution;
- specific workshops and meetings with specific targets to facilitate popularization of the Charter;
- national activities or festivals for the launching of the Charter, with media involvement;
- communication and information sessions in schools and universities for students and teachers;
- public rallies, competitions, and marches for country wide information and action;
- advocacy meetings with officials and decision makers.
- Work with parliamentarians, especially those dealing with education, youth development or any related areas, to advocate for the ratification of the charter, through
- special programs with media involving youth organizations and government;
- celebration of the African Youth National Day and any other cultural and artistic productions and events;
- celebration of the Year of African Youth.
- Support the post ratification process by advocating for the implementation of the charter, through creation, improvement and reinforcement of partnerships with the public and private sectors, Diaspora, NGOs, and international institutions.
- Support the ministerial work in reporting on progress made in countries, via
- websites for interactive entertainment, social media and ICT facilities, and TV and radio programmes;
- advocacy material: posters, t-shirts, etc..
All this will facilitate the domestication of the Charter, including its ratification where not yet done, and the implementation of policies, programmes and plans of action for youth development.
How do you see UNESCO’s contribution, in collaboration with the African Union Commission, to the ratification and implementation of the Charter?
UNESCO is one of the major UN Organizations that can work very closely not only with the African Member States on the issues of building their institutional capacity to efficiently respond and implement all development frameworks, but also with the young leaders of youth organizations in relation with government and civil society to assist in skills development and leadership building.
UNESCO’s support will participate in the efforts of African countries to ratify and implement the African Youth Charter. In conducting in-country advocacy activities, the youth will appreciate the support of UNESCO for example in the production of advocacy and communication materials, media events, workshops for the dissemination of the contents, and translation of the Charter into local and vehicular languages.
In addition, UNESCO can also assist in the following regarding the implementation of Article 13 of the Charter:
- Towards youth development, support capacity building of African youth by using Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) as a response for quick wins, but also for sustainable socio-economic development. The UNESCO International Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (UNEVOC) would be a strong ally in this area (expertise and experience sharing);
- Adult education and training, and lifelong learning, are areas where youth targets can benefit from and contribute to the partnership with UNESCO – CONFINTEA.
And a lot more could be done in the area of leadership development.
Interview by Maria Kypriotou and Petra van Vucht Tijssen