Initiatives: what we have achieved so far (2010-2011)
Building knowledge on the situation of youth in Africa
- A regional paper showcasing successful experiences and practices of youth civic engagement in Africa was prepared by Dr. Dennis Bright, former Minister of Youth and Sports of Sierra Leone (2002-2007) and current Regional Director of the NGO Right to Play for West and Francophone Africa. The report was presented and discussed at the 7th UNESCO Youth Forum (UNESCO Paris, October 2011) in a session dedicated to “Youth-led Social Innovation in Africa”.
- Great Lakes region: with the support of the Veneto region, UNESCO organized a round-table discussion on “Youth Policies and the Prevention of Violence in the Great Lakes Region”, at the end of June 2011 in Nairobi (Kenya), in collaboration with UN-HABITAT. The project was based on UNESCO’s decade-long experience in the prevention of violence affecting youth in Latin America.
The discussion focused on youth development, gender equality and social inclusion as methods of youth violence prevention. Government representatives, UN agencies and NGOs discussed best practices in the development of national and regional actions.
A regional comparative paper concerning four countries (Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, and Tanzania) was discussed at the meeting. The paper revealed that in the region, one of the major factors predisposing young people towards violence is the mismatch that exists between their aspirations and the opportunities available to them.
- Northern Africa: UNESCO has developed national studies examining youth civic engagement as a means for economic participation in Morocco and Egypt. These form part of a regional paper for the Middle East andNorthern Africa, which was developed with the support of the Islamic Organization for Education, Science and Culture (ISESCO), and discussed at the regional expert meeting on “Youth and Civic Engagement in the Arab region” (Beirut, Lebanon, 19-21 September 2011).
- A study on the situation of youth in the Greater Horn of Africa was developed in 2010 in cooperation with the Greater Horn Horizon Forum (GHHF) and IGAD. The study was discussed at the Conference of Youth Ministers of the Horn of Africa countries which was organized in Djibouti, in December 2010.
The GHHF, with UNESCO’s aid, also held a three-day meeting from 1 - 3 May 2010 in Djibouti, where representatives from the GHHF’s Member States discussed the contribution of youth, the media, NGOs and intellectuals to facilitate mutual understanding, regional integration and peace-building through dialogue.
- In cooperation with UNESCO, the UNESCO Chair in Children, Youth and Civic Engagement of the University of Galway is continuing research on youth civic engagement in Zambia, focusing particularly on civic engagement in rural areas.
Policy work in line with the African Youth Charter
The round-table on “Youth policies and violence prevention in the Great Lakes region” (Nairobi, Kenya, June 2011) identified policy recommendations for Member States to support civic participation and engagement as a way to prevent violence affecting youth in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya and Tanzania.
The following observations were made:
- Better platforms for youth participation need to be developed in order to work with them, and offer them more opportunities for employment and recognition.
- Young people should be informed and involved regarding national laws and challenges.
- Arts and sports activities should be strongly considered as tools for peace building and development.
- Network innovations should be worked on at the local and national level to ensure coordination among stakeholders to tackle issues like corruption and poor governance.
- Cooperation between national and local government would be important in setting up pilot projects based on good practices shared at the meeting.
- The governmental representatives from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya manifested particular interest in the “Open Schools” programme. This initiative was successfully introduced by UNESCO in Brazil and other countries in Central America. Developed in 2000, “Open Schools” aims to open public schools on weekends so that children, youths, and neighboring communities can participate in educational, cultural, sports and leisure activities. This allows young people to find ways other than violence to express themselves.
Youth civic engagement and participation
UNESCO contributed to the training of the second batch of the African Union Youth Volunteers Corps. This is a major programme led by the African Union Commission as part of the Decade for Youth Empowerment and Youth Development in Africa (2009-2018).
A 3-year extra-budgetary project, funded by the government of Brazil, was launched in Guinea-Bissau, to engage young leaders in disseminating socio-educational practices in Guinea-Bissau. The project is based on the “Open Schools” initiative developed in Latin America. This is a good example of South-South cooperation: Brazilian government funds are implemented by NGOs and the local community in Africa, with the participation of Brazilian youth volunteers.
UNESCO also launched three new partnerships during the 7th UNESCO Youth Forum (UNESCO Paris, October 2011). They will contribute directly to the Strategy’s aim of supporting civic engagement of African youth:
- The International Youth Foundation signed a partnership with UNESCO on 18 October 2011 for the development of a 3-year programme to support youth-led social innovation in Africa, through building skills amongst young people, and providing them with access to professional networks, coaching and mentoring, financial resources, and advocacy opportunities. The particular skills emphasized are the “soft” skills that are vital for employability. The project is also intended to build and strengthen the capacity of 180 youth-led, innovative projects which will in turn help build civil society.
- UNESCO and “Peace and Sport, L’Organisation pour la Paix par le Sport” (known as Peace and Sport) signed a partnership on 19 October 2011 which focuses on the potential of sport in community cohesion, peace building and youth inclusion, particularly in Africa. Peace and Sport participated in the round-table discussion on youth violence prevention in the Great Lakes Region, organized by UNESCO in June 2011.
- The Association For International Sport for All (TAFISA) and UNESCO signed a partnership on 20 October 2011 which focuses on the role of youth in national development strategies and the importance of their civic engagement, particularly through sport. This includes the development of the UNESCO-TAFISA “Volunteer Initiative for Peace through Sport” (VIPS) which foresees education and development initiatives designed for young volunteers, to support social inclusion, integration, civic engagement and sustainability.