SADC YOUTH FORUM 7-8 APRIL, 2014, LILONGWE, MALAWI
SADC Secretariat, in collaboration with the Southern Africa Trust and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), convened a SADC Youth Forum, hosted by the Government of the Republic of Malawi, in Lilongwe from 7-8th April, 2014. The purpose of the Forum was to provide a platform for youth in SADC to consult among themselves and come up with recommendations on key youth issues and priorities that will inform the agenda of SADC Ministers responsible for youth at their next meeting scheduled for June 2014 in Malawi. The Youth Forum was held under the theme, “Youth Empowerment and Participation for Sustainable Development”, and was attended by 60 delegates representing the National Youth Coordinating Structures from Member States of SADC, Civil Society Youth Networks, Pan African Youth Union, Regional Economics Communities (RECS), United Nations Agencies, Youth experts, and the private sector.
The Youth Forum was officially opened by Malawi’s Minister of Youth and Sports Honourable Enock Chakufwa Chihana who emphasised that the theme underlines new thinking, commitment and direction by SADC leadership, which now considers that increasing budgets on youth development is an investment which will bring about socio-economic development, rather than a burden or expense; the new thinking also recognises the importance of youth participation in policy formulation and programmes on issues that affect their lives and the entire SADC region. Honourable Chihana noted that promoting youth empowerment and participation, including young women and youth with disabilities, is very important in SADC where two thirds of the population is below the age of 35 - referred to as a "Young Population", compared to other regions where there are faced with an aging populations. According to the Minister, this "young population" presents a window of opportunity for the fortunes of our countries and the region to be drastically transformed into greater economic growth, prosperity, and self-determination that is unparalleled the world over.
The meeting reviewed the Draft SADC Strategy and Business Plan on Youth Empowerment and Participation for Sustainable Development 2014-2019, and reconfirmed consensus made during previous SADC youth consultative forums on seven key priorities of regional co-operation to accelerate youth empowerment. These include: (a) aligning education and skills training for youth to the socio economic needs of SADC Member States; (b) strengthening regional coordination aimed at accelerating youth participation in socio-economic and political matters, and ensuring that they take part in policy and decision making processes of government and of SADC; (c) enhancing wealth creation, livelihoods, employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for youth; (d) strengthening health service delivery, including sexual and reproductive health to prevent problems such as child marriages, teenage pregnancies, sexual abuse among others, and to ensure youth well-being; (e) strengthening research on and monitoring and evaluation of youth development; (f) promoting volunteerism, social responsibilities and leadership development; (g) promoting awareness of and responsiveness to the humanitarian challenges of climate change, conflicts and emergency situations; and (h) strengthening coordination and implementation of the youth empowerment strategy and business plan at the secretariat and in Member States.
The forum noted that youth issues and priorities are interrelated and must therefore be mainstreamed and integrated into the different sectors of development of SADC. The meeting recalled that most SADC Member States face recurring challenges of food insecurity and poor nutrition that affect the majority of children, youth, and women, most of who live in rural areas. Youth delegates therefore made recommendations which call upon governments, the private sector, and other stakeholders to provide resources for youth to actively participate in food production and distribution; in agro-business; as well as in the management of natural resources (such as land, water resources, and forests), and climate change.
The recommendations by the youth coincide with the priorities outlined by the SADC Chairperson and President of the Republic Malawi, Her Excellency Dr. Joyce Banda for the region, which are Youth and Women Empowerment; Food and Nutrition Security; and Poverty Alleviation. The meeting also agreed that a regional mechanism for coordinating youth empowerment and participation must be established as a matter of urgency to spearhead youth participation in all national and regional development issues.
As a result of their deliberations, the youth prepared a draft "SADC Declaration for Accelerating Youth Empowerment and Participation for Sustainable Development" which will be presented to SADC Heads of State or Government to ensure commitment at the highest levels of SADC. The delegates concluded their deliberations on a high note and offered their heartfelt gratitude to the government and people of the Republic of Malawi for their warm reception and kindness extended to them during the course of the meeting.
Sunbird Capital Hotel in Lilongwe, Malawi
April 8th, 2014