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NEWS: Youth at Heart forum provides platform for young voices to be heard

The majority of the world’s youth population is located in the Global South, which presents both huge challenges and opportunities. Last week, the Government of the Netherlands hosted the Youth at Heart virtual forum to provide a platform for young people to facilitate inspiring exchanges and ideas, and to make their voices heard on what they need for a better future. CDKN’s Emma Baker reports.

The Youth at Heart forum was centred around the pressing challenges currently faced by young people across the world, including education, digitalisation, migration and climate change. Running throughout the forum were the cross-cutting themes of youth participation, entrepreneurship and youth-led change. “Age cannot be a barrier” said Sigrid Kaag, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, “we can’t do this without young people at the table, hear their voices and give them true power.”

A seat at the table is one of the aims of the We Are Tomorrow Global Partnership, who hosted a session on youth participation for climate action at the forum. A collaboration of ten countries and growing, We Are Tomorrow aims to increase the influence of youth on climate policy-making as part of the Paris Agreement, and thereby raise climate ambition across the world. They do this by co-creating constructive youth visions and climate action plans with which they aim to influence decision-makers.

In practice, this can also involve raising awareness among other young people in the country to widen participation and have greater influence. For example, Girls for Climate in Uganda responded to the government’s announcement in July that seven towns would be elevated to city status by holding planning exchanges and government dialogues to make sure that plans are inclusive, resilient and sustainable. They made an effort to contextualise the government’s agenda for young people and equip them with knowledge on cities so that they could identify opportunities to contribute to building sustainable cities that do not widen existing exclusion, marginalisation and spatial economic inequality.

In a session on young people’s involvement in the green economy, Hasna Zamouri, a young entrepreneur from Tunisia, also highlighted the importance of young people coming together to formulate advocacy messages that would be taken onboard by decision-makers, to make system-wide improvements that would help them flourish as entrepreneurs. “Young people have voices but they are not often heard”, she said, “the voices of young people need to come together in a single voice”, for example through youth platforms at the local and national levels to interact with the municipality.

Both Zamouri and Chantal Adiko, director of AfricaCompost, are striving to create meaningful, resilient green jobs for young people in the agricultural sector. They advocate that there are a lot of innovative jobs for young people in agriculture, for instance in using technology creatively to both boost crop productivity and to market produce. The Covid-19 pandemic showed that youth have the ability to be highly adaptive – both Zamouri and Adiko moved quickly to seek out digital platforms for marketing and selling their products online. Adiko also found that her agri-business was well positioned to capitalise from the slowdown in international trade during lockdown, as there was high demand for domestically produced agricultural products rather than imported ones.

The overwhelming theme of the forum was to give young people a platform for their voices to be heard, in order to provide better support and future prospects. With climate action, there is no time to lose, so We Are Tomorrow are focusing their efforts on COP26 next year as a platform for more structural participation. As Tyler Booth from the Youth Climate Action Network, South Africa, summed up: “We cannot address climate change without an intersectional approach that includes meaningful youth participation in decision-making spaces, and hence intersectionality, systemic change, accessibility and sustainability are the underlying principles of what we want in our future.”

 

Photo: Agriculture project in Tunisia. Photo Marcel Crozet / ILO

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