Addis Ababa — African youth have set out the priorities they said their governments should focus on as part of their youth programmes and called for actual fulfillment of promises on youth matters.
The youth also have appealed for more investment and allocation of resources particularly for rights-based health interventions for young people, who account for the overwhelming majority of the continent's population.
"Governments need to increase investments into research and population data to inform design and implementation of rights-based health interventions for young people, in particular marginalized groups... Ensure appropriate allocation of the health budget, especially to adolescent and youth SRH programs," reads the Outcome of the Youth Pre-Conference to the Africa Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).
The appeals came at the end of a two-day Youth Pre-Conference to the Africa Conference on Population and Development, also known as ICPD. Around 200 youth representatives gathered in Addis Ababa from 24 - 25 September 2013 to identify their priorities for population and development agendas beyond 2014.
The outcome of the youthful meeting is to be presented as a set of recommendations for the experts and ministerial segment of the African Regional Conference on Population and Development taking place in the same city throughout this week.
These recommendations will eventually feed into the regional intergovernmental conference on ICPD in Africa, for the next twenty years. The youth, therefore, discussed a number of pertinent issues including sexual and reproductive health and rights, education, youth employment, family planning and maternal mortality as well as inclusive participation, security and governance.
Part of the recommendations is an appeal to the world to invest more resources in young people and ensure their human rights in order to promote socio-economic development and growth.
According to Mr. Faustin Yao, the United Nations Population Fund's (UNFPA) Representative to Ethiopia, the ICPD resolved in Cairo in 1994 to give the needs and potential of young people, especially girls in order to drive sustainable global development.
Twenty years on, the UN has asked for a review of progress, gaps and challenges in achieving those goals set out twenty years ago.Mr Yao observed that many of the promises to young people set out in Cairo remain unfulfilled.
"Millions of girls and women worldwide still are without adequate sexual and reproductive health services and universal access to comprehensive sexuality education for young people is yet to be delivered."
Equal access for the youth to health, education and economic opportunities doubles the potential for development and helps societies to break the cycle of poverty which is still prevalent in Africa, he added.
Similarly, Mr. Hassan Yousif, Representative of the Human and Social Development Division of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), reminded the gathering that Africa is the youngest continent with a majority of its population below the age of 30 years.
He said addressing their concerns in terms of "education, health, employment, inclusive participation, governance and security, remains one of Africa's priorities." Meeting these needs is crucial to maintaining the region's peace and development, he added.
Robert Nkwangu, a member of the African Youth Panel (AYP) Steering Committee and Eastern Africa Focal Person, suggests inclusion of the youth in decision making is the best way to address youth issues.
According to him, while governments in the region have made a significant improvement regarding consultations with youth in policy making.young people still do not have a seat at the decision-making table.
"We young people are now always consulted in policy formulation. Though we appreciate that departure from the past, we need youth inclusion in decision making," he said in an exclusive interview with this writer.
According to Nkwangu, even decisions exclusively about youth are made without the involvement of youth; hence, making such decisions inconsiderate to the needs of the youth.
"As much as governments give attention to gender balance in decision making, they should emphasize "age balance" (proportional inclusion of youth) in governments," he added.