From protests to participation, youth call for more organized political engagement


ECA Press Release 189/2012

Addis Ababa, 2 November 2012 (ECA) – Youth representatives and experts attending the International Conference on “Youth and Democratization in Africa: Lessons Learned and Comparative Experiences ended three days of dialogue with recommendations aimed at better engagement of youth in political processes.

Held from 1-3 November 2012 in Addis Ababa, the Conference underscored that the uprisings of young people around the world are clear manifestations of unemployment, marginalization, unsound social policies as well as corruption, exclusion, political dictatorship and denial of basic rights.

They noted that young people are keen on the promise of democracy and the basic attainments of equality, social and economic inclusion and accountability. However, high unemployment is driving the youth to violence and crime. They stressed addressing youth unemployment with appropriate policies should be a major policy initiative of governments, political parties and development partners across Africa.”

Participants also called for proper engagement of youth at all levels of development as this is crucial to preparing them to be responsible youth and adults. “African governments should increase youth participation in governance and consider affirmative action for young people in structures such as the parliament and the Executive,” they said.

Ideas were shared on areas of much-needed participation, for instance, on issues surrounding pastoral communities in conflict in the East African region. They agreed on active engagement as a way of enhancing peace among such communities.

“The key responsibility rests with young people – to get organized and be skilled and to face up to the adversity and frustrations that will eventually come when moving from protest to participation,” they said.

The forum called on governments to expedite the signing, ratification and domestication of the African Charter on Democracy, Governance and Elections, and the African Youth Charter, which they acknowledged, “remain the primary normative frameworks to ensure the constructive involvement of Youth and their effective participation in the debates and decision-making processes in the development agenda of the Continent.” They also called on Regional Economic Communities (RECs) to put in place appropriate regional frameworks on youth and ensure their effective implementation.

Participants agreed on the need for a new culture of national and regional solidarity “devoid of divisive ethnicity, religion, race, color and sectarian identities.” The free movement of people was emphasized even and decried free and easy access to western nationals over and above fellow African citizens. In addition, they made calls for inter-generational dialogue that can prepare young people to take over leadership.

Further, knowledge-sharing among countries and regions of the developing world on the role of youth and democratization was highlighted as a means of managing political transitions from authoritarian to democratic and just societies. Learning from others would also enable them reflect and reform policies on incorporating youth in emerging governance processes.

We must organize through the power of ideas, not agonize, they stressed.

The Conference was attended by youth representatives of Non-Governmental Organizations, Community-Based Organizations, leading scholars, academics and experts working on youth issues. In addition, youth organizations and activists, as well as youth groups working in the social media arena, young political leaders, and young policy makers were in attendance.

The Conference was a joint initiative of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA).


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ECA Information and Communication Service
P.O. Box 3001
Addis Ababa Ethiopia

Tel: 251 11 5445098 Fax: +251-11-551 03 65

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© 2012 Economic Commission for Africa