Press Statement: Prioritise National Youth Policy and leave no youth behind!

On the occasion of International Youth Day, 12 August, 2017, the Voices of Youth Coalition calls on the President, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, to focus his governance agenda on developing a comprehensive, youth-led National Youth Policy that would transform Ghanaian youth into productive members of society, active citizens, and drivers of socio-economic development.

There is growing global acceptance of the value of committing time and resources to the formulation of national youth policies. A National Youth Policy is a practical demonstration that youth are a priority. It is a declaration for youth development, a vision statement, a framework for political action, and a blueprint of the status, rights, responsibilities and roles of youth. When well done, a National Youth Policy can empower, enable and encourage youth, and maximise youth participation. Such policy can also provide realistic guidelines, timetable and framework for government, private sector and other stakeholders to work together to help youth, and ensure stronger coordination among youth-serving organisations, as well as enhance service delivery.

The Voices of Youth Coalition recognises government efforts towards youth employment, including through initiatives such as Youth Enterprise Support Fund, Youth Employment Agency, Planting for Food and Jobs, and the new National Entrepreneurship and Innovations Plan. While these initiatives are well intentioned, they operate in a policy vacuum, without clear direction, and with little multi-sectoral linkages. This makes it difficult to measure the contribution of these initiatives to the national development agenda. Yet, when well done, National Youth Policy will harmonise the youth development effort and ensure coherence with all sectors of the economy.

Convenor of the Voices of Youth Coalition, Mr. Emmanuel Edudzie posits, “focusing on youth policy will be in fulfilment of commitments contained in the Constitution of Ghana, the African Youth Charter, and the United Nations World Programme on Youth, all of which recognise the importance of prioritising youth in poverty reduction and development”. He also emphasises that “progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in Ghana will be determined in part by the situation of youth and bridging the gap between their present realities and the SDG targets”.

In formulating a national youth policy, government must adopt a systematic procedure requiring an assessment of those elements of existing national policies that constitute a general orientation for youth policy. Such elements might include the constitution, legislation, overall development policy and sectoral policies, as well as international legal instruments to which Ghana subscribes. There should also be an evaluation of various government and non-government programmes of direct or indirect concern to youth, the resources available to them, and assessment of the categories and proportion of young people affected. Adoption of the policy by government and its formal enactment by parliament is crucial in ensuring national acceptability and binding implications for all stakeholders, including youth themselves. Once adopted, widespread diffusion of policy documents and associated statements is required to inform youth and broader society of the seriousness of the issues of youth, of the need to address those issues and to secure the effective participation of youth and other stakeholders in the achievement of youth policy goals. Relevant institutional arrangements must be established and procedures designed to secure the effective integration of youth policy into national development planning, and the coordination of all related activities. Government must implement policy measures, with attention to the continuous and effective participation of young people and the establishment of efficient programme management and operational evaluation.

Involving all relevant stakeholders is essential to leaving no youth behind. The empowerment of youth is everyone’s business and involves the concerted efforts of a number of key stakeholders, including government, non-governmental organisations, the media, research and educational institutions, the private sector, families, kinship and community networks and, above all, young people themselves.  Youth empowerment, which is the ultimate goal of every National Youth Policy,  is based on the belief that people are themselves the best resource for promoting their development, and that they must be both architects and agents in meeting the challenges and solving the problems faced in today’s society. In this case, it is indicative to emphasise that young people have a better understanding of the ramifications and realities of youth empowerment and as such have much to offer policymakers. Involving young people in policy-making initiatives that affect their lives is cost effective – designing a policy without involving one primary constituency stands less chance of success. Involving youth and other civil society groupings can also help the process of governance become more open and transparent.

The Voices of Youth Coalition, a community of more than 350 youth groups in all ten regions of Ghana, have demonstrated their willingness to galvanise effective youth engagement in any government effort to prepare a youth policy. In 2012, the Coalition developed the Ghana Youth Manifesto, a comprehensive compilation of youth policy options from a youth perspective. Various stakeholders, including the United Nations, civil society organisations, research and academic institutions, traditional and religious organisations, and the private sector, supported this effort. To this end, the Voices of Youth Coalition and its Ghana Youth Manifesto provide an important foundation for effective youth engagement on any National Youth Policy development effort.

It is time for government to demonstrate, beyond rhetorics, that it is committed to effective youth participation and development; doing so on the basis of a comprehensive National Youth Policy!