Countries Pledge to Develop and Implement Youth Policies — Will They… Really?

Human Wrongs Watch

The United Nations-backed Global Forum on Youth Policies, which brought together over 700 participants from over 165 countries, concluded on 30 October 2014 in Azerbaijan with the launch of an outcome document pledging to support countries that are in the process of developing and “elevating” national youth policy.

Source: Youth Policy Forum

Photo: Youth Policy Forum

“I am happy to say that we will be launching a global initiative on youth policies that will be providing technical support and assistance to many governments and countries that are in the process of developing national youth policies,” said the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth Ahmad Alhendawi, as the Forum wrapped up its work.

The Baku Commitment on Youth Policies agreed to by participants and co-conveners, highlights the principles to guide formulation, implementation and evaluation of youth policy in the 21 century. It calls for greater youth involvement in youth policy monitoring and evaluation.

As of October 2014, 127 countries have an adopted national youth policy, up from 99 in 2013. This leap symbolizes that governments are increasingly aware of the increasing power that young people have to impact change. Sustainable human development is directly related to the well-being of young people.

Photo: Youth Policy Forum

Photo: Youth Policy Forum

Since Monday, youth Ministers, experts, advocates, civil society, and representatives of the United Nations, as well as other international and regional bodies, participated in panel events, bilateral discussions and informal meetings on how to reinvigorate commitment to a global youth policy framework.

“Now it is time to make concrete commitments, not only declarations,” said Alhendawi, whose office co-convened the 3-day Forum which provided an unprecedented platform to take stock of progress made in youth policies at various levels since adoption of the World Programme of Action on Youth.

In 1995, UN Member States adopted the World Programme of Action, providing for the first time a global blueprint for national action to improve the lives of young people around the world.

Photo: Youth Policy Forum

Photo: Youth Policy Forum


Committed to reinvigorating that document, the Baku Commitment aims to ensure that youth policies are rights-based, inclusive, gender-responsive, knowledge-based, fully resources, as well as accountable. The Global Forum spotlighted the need to include youth in every aspect of policy from the grassroots level to parliament halls.

“There has been a lot of progress made here in Baku over the past three days,” Alhendawi said.

“We have seen young Africans come together to establish a network for researchers on youth policies. We have seen countries pledging support and commitment and resources to support the global initiative on youth policies. I’ve seen people debating issues around youth policies.”

Photo: Youth Policy Forum

Photo: Youth Policy Forum

Today’s Baku Commitment seeks to further promote and support implementation of the 1995 World Programme of Action against the backdrop of celebrating its 20th anniversary.

“We have witnessed a great energy here in this Forum and I am pleased with the outcomes of this document and the significant progress in elevating youth issues,” said Mr. Alhendawi, adding that he was looking forward to a process that supports youth policy beyond the Forum.

The Baku Commitment pledges to further promote synergies between youth policies and broader development policies and frameworks, particularly in the context of the post-2015 development agenda, currently being crafted by UN Member States to succeed the landmark Millennium Development Goals, which wrap up next year.

Photo: Youth Policy Forum

Photo: Youth Policy Forum

In addition, participants committted to strenghtening collaboration and partnerships in the field of public policies on youth. Designing and implementing processes and fostering partnerships that enable inclusive, and multi-stakeholder involvement in youth policies is also critical.

The Baku Committmemt called for increased youth civic engagement and meaningful participation in decision-making and political processes and institutions, including by promoting youth involvement; and by making specific efforts to promote young women’s participation as well.

The Global Forum was co-organized by the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and, the Council of Europe. It was hosted by the Ministry of Youth and Sports in Azerbaijan. (*Source: UN Release).

Wars, Poverty, Lack of Adequate Education and Geographic Isolation

While many challenges facing young people today are universal, youth activists and experts attending the First Global Forum on Youth Policy on 30 October 2014 shared with the UN News Centre how war, poverty, lack of adequate education and geographic isolation shape their work.**

Gathering in Baku, Azerbaijan for a three-day UN–backed Forum, hundreds of policymakers, experts, researches and activists came together for a second-day of panel discussions, side events and bilaterals aimed at bridging the gap between youth and the policy that affects them. The Forum concluded on 30 October 2014.

Photo: Youth Policy Forum

Photo: Youth Policy Forum

Youth unemployment, one of the most profound obstacles facing young people today is universal. However, a booming economy does not necessarily translate to jobs for young people, as in the case of Mongolia, said Bolortsetseg Sosorburam, head of policy planning at the non-governmental group, Mongolian Youth Federation.

“There are so many places to work, but there are not enough young people who are qualified to work there. They lack the experience. At Universities, we have to start practice-based education so that they can work right after.”

In earlier times, people mostly studied economics, law and languages but because the economy is booming so fast, there is need for engineers, construction workers, and mining working. Bridging the skills-gap requires a “change in attitude when choosing a profession.”

Indeed, young people have unique needs, and it is important to ensure that they are financially literate from a young age, said Sameer Chand, an analyst at the Reserve Bank of Fiji. Financial services must be accessible and affordable for young people, he told the UN News Centre.

“While we talk about the issues of employment, entrepreneurship, health and services, one issue that cuts across all these is access to financial services, and I believe this is an issue that needs to be incorporated in the youth policies of all the countries and Fiji is no exception,” he said.

Photo: Youth Policy Forum

Photo: Youth Policy Forum

Fiji’s reserve bank has taken the lead in developing a national financial youth literacy strategy, the main goal of which is to improve financial competency in rural areas and villages.

Through financial training programmes spearheaded by the private sector, young people “rather than dipping into the poverty cycle, can come out of it,” said Mr. Chand. By starting young and incorporating financial education into curriculums the next generation will come out of school financially literate.

“They will know what saving is. They will know what budgeting is,” said Chand.

But if there is no peace as in the case of Gaza, the priority shifts entirely from building financial portfolios to building nations.

“It’s very important to get young people involved in not only rebuilding Gaza but building the State of Palestine,” said Ziad Yaish from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), also attending the Global Youth Forum.

Photo: Youth Policy Forum

Photo: Youth Policy Forum

Young people in the State of Palestine are a “special case” because they live under occupation, he added. In Gaza, there is “tremendous” need for jobs, youth empowerment and participation. Young people in both Gaza and the West Bank need hope and a chance at a better future.

Following a trip to Gaza where he met with youth groups, he said that UNFPA developed a proposal of civic participation of youth to ensure that their voices are heard with the Government and other donors.

“During the war last summer, youth groups were the first to come out and help the internally displaced people and people who suffered from the war,” Yaish said.

Photo: Youth Policy Forum

Photo: Youth Policy Forum

Young people are becoming increasingly active in their futures as well. In Baku from Oman, 21-year-old activist, Mazoon Alzadjali said in her country, she works as a peer educator raising awareness about HIV/AIDS among 13-30 years- olds and informing young women of their reproductive rights.

“We always use a fun, educational way, because actually it is the only way peers can connect and gather the information and keep it in their mind,” she said.

Through the Youth Educational Network, a programme run by UNFPA, a football game is used to educate players and the crowd about health and services. And by using puppets Alzadjali spreads information to young girls about the benefits of family planning.

“We educate girls and young women marriage and having kids by using puppets and through a show. With a girl who wants to get married, especially if she’s under 18, we educate her on getting an education first and then getting married,” said Ms. Alzadjali. (**Source: UN Release).

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2014 Human Wrongs Watch

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