By Godfrey Olukya 5-11-2012
Experts at the International Conference on Youth and Democratization which is taking place in Addis Ababa have agreed that African youth are in the vanguard of political and governance changes in the continent.
In a statement at the opening session of the Conference, Mr. Carlos Lopes, UN under Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) stated that it is essential to promote youth participation in political processes and decision-making.
‘We must provide the youth with quality education that equips them with the skills to function in the modern economy, ‘he said.
‘In the same vein, we also have to give our youth a clear and uplifting vision of Africa. Our youth have to be able to relate to our aspirations for African unity and economic integration. They also need proper engagement in order to appreciate Africa’s potential and what their own contribution can be, ‘Lopes added.
Mr. Vitalie Muntean, Deputy Country Director of Operations in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); Mr. Redwan Hussien, Public Mobilization and Participation Advisor to Ethiopia’s Prime Minister; and Mr. Vidar Helgesen, Secretary General of the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) also addressed the opening session of International Conference on Youth and Democratization.
Mr. Vitalie Muntean, Deputy Country Director of Operations in UNDP speaking on behalf the Resident Representative, Mr. Eugene Owusu, said ‘We should all prioritize education as the primary gateway to gainful youth employment and empowerment and equality must be ensured in both education and employment between young men and women as well as between rural and urban youth.’
Mr. Vidar Helgesen, Secretary General of the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) noted that youth participation and youth representation needs to be at the level of government and also at the level of international organization.
‘But the key responsibilities rest with young people, to get organized, to achieve the skills, to face up to the adversity and the frustrations that will eventually come when moving from protest to participation – but to really not give up the ultimate promise of youth participation in democratic processes because they can be a powerful force for changing governance.’ He said.
Mr. Redwan Hussien, Public Mobilization and Participation Advisor to Ethiopia’s Prime Minister who officially opened the meeting referred to the Sierra Leone and South African Soweto uprisings to illustrate how active the African youth were to uphold the principles of democracy and good governance in their countries.
‘I firmly believe that this Conference will afford us an opportunity to reflect on the ways in which we can provide a balanced and equitable environment for our youth so they could deliver their best for the development of our societies’, said Mr. Redwan.
The speakers at the opening session all praised the African Union for enacting the African Youth Charter and for agreeing to accelerate implementation of the Plan of Action for the Decade of Youth.
The International Conference on Youth on the theme, ‘Youth and Democratization in Africa: Lessons Learned and Comparative Experiences’ is a joint initiative of the Economic Commission for Africa ,the United Nations Development Programme and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.