Ugandan delegates prepare to speak out on development at first African Youth Forum
By Roshan Khadivi
These 20 youth delegates come from every corner of the nation. In a series of exercises prior to the start of the AYF, they are learning how to make a meaningful contribution to the development agenda and become some of Africa’s strongest advocates for its youth and communities in need.
At the same time, an SMS text-messaging campaign – designed by UNICEF’s Technology for Development unit and promoted through a national television network – is generating a strong response across Uganda. Young people are engaged in the campaign via cell phone and are involved in chat sessions with their peers as far as away Malwai and Madagscar via the Speak Africa online forum for African youth, as well as the social media sites Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
Call for action from African youth
Scheduled to take place a week before the 15th session of the African Union Summit, the AYF will provide an opportunity for 124 delegates between 16 and 29 years of age to share their views. Participants will identify key strategic recommendations for developing an outcome document with a call for action from young Africans.
On the final day of the Forum, two delegates will be selected to present the call for action to the Heads of State and Government at the AU Summit. Two others will be selected from the AYF to engage in panel discussions with First Ladies of Africa at their meeting, one of the side events at the 2010 AU Summit.
“I would like to encourage you to use this forum to explore practical ideas to address the development challenges your communities face,” UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said in a message sent to AYF delegates. “Ask yourselves what you need to build a future full of opportunities; a future in which all Africans can have the opportunity to live full, productive lives. And then ask yourselves what you can contribute.”
Joining the development discourse
In 2009, UNICEF fronted the idea of hosting an African Youth Forum alongside the July 2010 AU Summit in Uganda to make Africa’s youth an integral part of the continent’s development discourse. The idea was welcomed by the Government of Uganda and endorsed by the AU Commission earlier this year.
In addition to UNICEF country and regional offices in Africa, partners organizing different aspects of the Forum include the African Union Commission, the Offices of the President and First Lady of Uganda; the National Youth Council; Uganda’s Ministries of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Foreign Affairs and Health; the Commonwealth Association; other UN agencies; and civil society groups.