Africa Region Youth Ministers made a number of commitments in a statement to advance youth development across the region with a view to giving young people better support and resources to help them tackle the serious challenges such as Ebola and the rising threat of terrorism.
The statement is the result of the two-day Africa Region Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting, which took place in Yaoundé, Cameroon from 8-10 February 2015.
The meeting was convened by the Commonwealth Secretariat and hosted by Cameroon’s Ministry of Youth Affairs and Civic Education under the theme ‘Young People Building a Stable and Sustainable Future’.
Youth ministers, youth representatives and senior officials contributed to in-depth dialogue to come up with a set of concrete commitments to provide young people with better opportunities, and make sure their needs and capabilities are strongly reflected in the post-2015 development agenda.
Deodat Maharaj, Deputy Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Secretariat, who facilitated discussions alongside Cameroon’s leadership, described the meeting as “coming at a critical time” as world leaders are on the cusp of setting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He noted that, “young people must be at the centre of the new development framework - they must be given a voice”.
Mr Maharaj added: “Young people are not just the future, they are the present with rising expectations we cannot ignore. We must provide them with real opportunities, training and skills that will enable them to contribute to creating a more prosperous future.”
Youth ministers underscored the importance of strengthening national youth policies to address major development challenges. They resolved to provide young people with a greater role in decision-making processes; create youth entrepreneurship opportunities, and ensure youth-specific targets in the draft SDGs.
The Youth Leaders Forum, which took place one day before the meeting, provided young people with a platform to debate issues and prepare recommendations for ministers. They identified insecurity caused by terrorism and health-related disasters such as Ebola as two of the main barriers to future development in the region.
As a result of their discussions, young delegates produced their own statement and called for peace, more jobs, a greater role in decision-making, and for leaders to turn policy into action. Ministers endorsed many of these recommendations in their final statement.
The Honourable Deputy Minister of Youth and Sport in the Government of Ghana, Asamoah Vincent Oppong, explained that the meeting provided an important opportunity for high-level officials to learn from each other and from young people to find more effective ways to advance youth development.
He said: “We are at an important crossroad for setting the future development agenda, at a time when we are facing real threats from rising extremism and health-related disasters.
“This meeting has given us an essential window of opportunity to ensure that young people are given the right support and resources to build a better future and combat these threats. Today, we have seized that window of opportunity and made significant progress. We pledge to turn our words into action.”