The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Executive Secretary, His Excellency Mr Elias Mpedi Magosi and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Botswana Representative and Representative to SADC, Dr Joan Matji met on 15 September 2021 to re-affirm collaboration and commitment towards Implementation of key components of the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Plan (RISDP) 2020-2030.
Dr Matji informed H.E Mr Magosi that UNICEF will continue to support the implementation of priorities in line with regional integration focusing on Health & Nutrition, Water and Sanitation, Education, HIV & AIDS; Social Protection and Child Protection. She further shared new developments in UNICEF work on Youth Development and Empowerment.
UNICEF is concerned about high rates of unemployment amongst the youth and to that effect a global initiative called Generation Unlimited was launched in September 2020. The Generation Unlimited partnership aims to ensure that every young person of the ages 10-24 is in school, learning, has access to training and has better prospects of employment by 2030. During the meeting Dr Matji indicated that His Excellency Mokgweetsi Masisi the President of the Republic of Botswana is the lead Champion for Generation Unlimited which aims to unlock the full potential of the Youth in the Region.
The focus of Generation Unlimited is about connecting every school and learner to internet, Scaling up online/remote learning and livelihoods platforms, boosting Entrepreneurial skills and opportunities and engaging youth as changemakers. Countries in the region have started to take up youth on entrepreneurship skills development programmes with UNICEF Botswana having launched the call for Youth to join the programme in September 2021.
UNICEF further noted that COVID 19 Pandemic has resulted in great socio-economic impact in our societies with a rise in violence and exploitation towards women and children. It is within this premise that UNICEF wants to assure the SADC Secretariat of its commitment in strengthening Social Protection Policies and programmes as one of the new priority areas in the RISDP (2020-2030). The support will include development and implementation of social policy instruments and strengthen child protection programmes. Additionally, it will contribute to the regional multidimensional poverty analysis to inform Regional strategies that address poverty.
H.E Mr Magosi applauded the progress achieved through the SADC-UNICEF partnership and underscored that the UNICEF-SADC Joint Action Framework was in place to enable the two organisations to work harmoniously. He highlighted that SADC welcomes UNICEF's commitment on contributing to the Youth Agenda jointly with other partners, including UN Agencies, and highlighted the importance on strengthening capacity of the National Youth Councils. He emphasized the importance of better coordination of partners with regards to COVID-19 response including procurement of vaccines as one area that would need strengthening.
The SADC Secretariat also acknowledged UNICEF's contribution, together with other UN agencies towards development the SADC Regional Humanitarian Appeal and establishment of a regional humanitarian hub to mitigate effects of the 2015/16 drought. H.E Mr Magosi reiterated that continued efforts and coordination is still needed to address issues of climate change in the Region.
The two parties concluded and agreeing on joint participation in the upcoming Global and regional events that will be putting the Children and Youth of the SADC Region in the forefront as game changers for development in the region.