Youth Meet to Access Progress of MDGs in West Africa
"Yesterday is our history, today is our responsibility and tomorrow, our heritage. Let's keep the promise." This was the final statement of the communique presented at the Youth Hearing for the Achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in West Africa. Youth leaders gathered in Accra, Ghana, from July 4th to July 6th, 2007 to evaluate the process of the Goals, and conceive strategies to engage more youth to take action.
Set in 2000, the MDGs are an 8-point blueprint for ending poverty. The year 2007 marks the midway point for the 2015 deadline. At this point, the MDGs are just starting to pick up in Africa, with most African countries not likely to meet the targets. In West Africa, youth participation in the MDGs campaign has been low. However, youth should be the motor towards pushing the Goals forward.
Under this premise, 25 leaders from Nigeria, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ghana, representing their organizations and communities, talked about the activities in their countries and discussed best practices for enhancing youth engagement. A public forum on the MDGs attracted about a hundred representatives from UN and international development agencies, NGOs, youth groups, academic and research institutions.
YES Ghana Country Network led the Hearing, with the support of the National Secretariat of the Ghana MDG Campaign and the Africa Office of the UN Millennium Campaign in Nairobi, Kenya. YES Ghana is the leading youth-led organization in Ghana championing the course of youth participation in national development.
The first day, participants shared their experiences in ongoing activities to promote the MDGs in their countries. For example, Shola, a Nigerian delegate, explained that the Nigerian campaign now focuses on peer training to increase MDG awareness, since this approach worked well with the country's HIV/AIDS campaign. Sam Jacobs Abbey from Ghana reported about the International Center for Conflict and Human Rights Analysis that currently runs an online school on the MDGs with 82 participants from 53 countries.
The second day of the Hearing, several speakers addressed the participants, such as Simran Singh (UNDP), Nicholas Amponsah (UNDP Accra), Seth Abloso (GCAP West Africa), George Gould (UNDP Liberia) and Emmanuel Edudzie (YES Ghana).
"Looking at global statistics, one fourth of the world population lies between the ages of 10 and 25, making this one the largest groups entering into adulthood that is economically, socially and politically underrepresented," said Simran Singh.
"The MDGs are an opportunity for the empowered youth to take action. You all have a great deal to contribute to each of the goals. Examples from around the world have already shown the positive and catalytical role the youth are playing. We need to continue to build on this," she added.
"To achieve the Goals, we have to localize them. There is need to localize the MDGs because poverty is urbanizing. It is truly felt and lived at the global level. Therefore, global targets require local action," said Nicholas Amponsah of UNDP, Ghana.
The final outcomes of the Youth Hearing are the 16-point communique, as well as a regional action plan with concrete steps to engage West African youth. The Ghana MDG Youth Platform acknowledged that young people in West Africa face difficult challenges. But when youth are integrated into the design, implementation, monitoring and assessment of national processes, it not only empowers them as individuals, but also enhances the collective coherence of youth as a group working together for the betterment of all.