As Your Voice Your Future campaign closes, youth in Africa and Europe call on leaders to act
Elevating the voices of young people to strengthen the partnership between the African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU)
“Young people deserve a seat at the table of decision-making,” says Ayesha from Lesotho speaking on the issue of youth participation as part of a joint UNICEF-EU-AU campaign.
The European Commission (DG INTPA) and UNICEF joined forces with the African Union in 2020 on an initiative that gave a platform to young people from Africa and Europe. The two-year campaign, called Your Voice Your Future, sought to elevate the voices of young people across both continents on the issues that matter most to them, and center youth participation in the AU-EU partnership.
Over 450,000 young people responded to U-Report polls throughout 2021 on education, peace and security, digitalization and the environment. The findings were turned into a flagship report, and then championed by young people as calls to action for leaders and policymakers on both continents.
The campaign also provided opportunities for young people to relay messages to decision-makers in person. In February 2022, a group of U-Report ambassadors traveled to Brussels for the AU-EU Summit and petitioned leaders directly to take urgent climate action for the sake of future generations.
Alexander, a U-Reporter from Romania, remarked: “Our leaders have the ability to fight climate change, but they need to act fast. We’re running out of time.”
Additionally, in the lead-up to the AU-EU Summit, the ambassadors hosted a youth-led side event on climate change, met with high-level representatives, and the official Summit proceedings opened with a video entitled “Dear Leaders” that relayed their call to action to attendees.
Education has emerged as a central theme for young people when asked about their concerns and hopes for the future. It is also among the top priorities of the EU – 13% of EU ODA will be going to education in the period 2021-2027, amounting to 6 billion euros. EU Commissioner for International Partnerships, Ms. Jutta Urpilainen, also established a Youth Sounding Board in 2021, has appointed a Youth Special Advisor In 2022, EU Member States approved the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child as well as its first-ever Youth Action Plan, both with substantive input from UNICEF. The mutual focus around youth and education paves the way for continued collaboration and further opportunities for partnership, including around digital learning.
Your Voice Your Future has now reached its conclusion, closing with strong messages on youth empowerment. The final campaign features 8 young people who reflect on their experiences as U-Reporters and call on their peers to continue holding leaders to account. While there is an emphasis on climate and education, identified as key issues that define the future direction of the AU-EU partnership, a central theme is to encourage young people everywhere to continue raising their voices on issues that affect them and their futures.
David from Nigeria affirms: “If we’re the leaders of tomorrow, we need to speak up today.”
Investing in human development in Africa is a mutual priority for the AU and the EU, with an emphasis on investing in children and youth. UNICEF brings the expertise and programmatic knowhow. UNICEF has a strong programmatic presence on the African continent, which provides a foundation for contributing to the partnership between African countries and the European Union.