Youth-SWAP Meet: Walking from the Margins to the Center of Policy

28 Sep

Editor’s Note:   For the past few weeks, Kritika Seth has been examining opportunities and resources for developing a sustainable youth initiative through GAPW.   She will share perspectives from her search in this space throughout the fall. 

Youths are best understood as those undergoing a transition from the dependence of childhood to the independence of adulthood with an increasing awareness of the high level of responsibilities as members of a community.

Youth is often indicated as a person between the age where he/she may leave compulsory education, and the age at which he/she finds his/her first employment.  Today almost half of the world’s population (48%) is under the age of 24; of this 18% are youth. Moreover, while youth is growing in numbers, more and more of them are raised in environments that hinder their educational opportunities, increase the likelihood of unemployment, and force them to confront other burdens such as HIV/AIDS, war and other forms of violence.

In the wake of the recent and ongoing issues faced by young people all over the world, the Inter-Agency on Youth Development (IANYD) along with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) organized a unique meeting last week from September 18th to September 20th. . The structure of this meeting was different from the typical annual meeting that the two agencies conduct. In this instance, the decision was made to invite youth led organizations and networks to participate in open dialogue regarding the newly released System-Wide Action Plan on Youth (SWAP).  The SWAP is a document that teases out four thematic areas that call for our attention immediately – Employment and Entrepreneurship; Protection of rights, political inclusion and civic engagement; Education, including comprehensive sexuality education; and Health. Nonetheless, it should be noted that the SWAP is a framework document to support the World Program and Action on Youth and not replace it. Despite the urgent attention and development needed in youth affairs, the SWAP marks the first steps taken towards fulfilling a viable youth agenda.

During the three-day meeting, participants were given several opportunities to discuss and identify opportunities for engaging young people in the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the Youth-SWAP. There was also discussion of specific tasks that need attention, such as communication strategies, methods of partnering with other organizations and effective ways of participating in the process of youth development. In order to support all these concerns and provide a ‘reality check’, the UNFPA and INAYD team made sure to have a representative from related UN agencies: for example, the presence of the UN Volunteering Program during the discussion on participation; or the presence of the International Labor Organization (ILO) during the discussion on youth employment and entrepreneurship opportunities.

Despite the constant thinking and brainstorming that we were required to do, the room was constantly buzzing with good and positive energy. A horizontal flow of interaction amongst those seeking advice and those who were full of advice was an ongoing sight along with conversations that began with “you are?” and ended with “we should get coffee sometime soon.” Overall the meeting was of great value resulting in concrete recommendations such as the need to personalize the communication of SWAP for better implementation strategies and outcomes, for instance through the creation of a SWAP-specific website in order to more effectively spread the word.

It will be interesting and valuable to follow – and hopefully impact — the next steps on implementing the Youth-SWAP document and other pressing issues. As the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth concluded at the MTV reception, “if you want to walk fast you walk alone, but if you want to walk far we will walk together.”  GAPW is prepared to walk beside this process and we will regularly engage our audience in this space regarding issues affecting youth participation in global policy.

 Kritika Seth

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