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Ugandan delegates prepare to speak out on development at first African Youth Forum

UNICEF Uganda

By Roshan Khadivi


KAMPALA, Uganda, 13 July 2010 – At first glance, it seems an ordinary day in the UNICEF country office here – until the cameras zoom in and reporters begin interviewing young people selected as the Ugandan delegates to the first-ever African Youth Forum, or AYF. The Forum will be held in Entebbe from 17 to 19 July.

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
The proposed theme of the AYF is achieving development goals on maternal and child health. Other issues on the agenda include HIV/AIDS, youth rights, climate change and access to quality education for all.

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
The AYF sessions will be webcast, providing an opportunity for young people throughout Africa to contribute to the discussions. Uganda Telecom, a key partner, is providing free Internet access as well as a technical team on-site at the AYF. From the media room, young journalists will interview delegates and file news reports in English, French, Arabic and Portuguese.

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.

 

 
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