“Every year, since 2000, the United Nations has celebrated the International Youth Day on August 12. This year, the Day’s event which held last Sunday, is aptly titled, “Building A better World, partnering with youth”… The 2012 event is geared towards providing opportunities for the improvement of youth organisations and for UN Member States worldwide to fortify partnerships with youths through diverse and innovative means.” More from Ayeni Kenny
The following opinion piece is a re-posting from Kenny Ayeni, Communications Coordinator at LEAP Africa. The piece originally appeared on Punch Nigeria online.
Every year, since 2000, the United Nations has celebrated the International Youth Day on August 12. This year, the Day’s event which held last Sunday, is aptly titled, “Building A better World, partnering with youth”. This is in recognition of the need to encourage youths to be ambitious and recommendations to the older generation to partner with young people to achieve their goals. In addition, the UN is showcasing outstanding works done by young people around the world whilst also emphasising the need to improve and strengthen connections with them in order to advance their quality of life.
The 2012 event is geared towards providing opportunities for the improvement of youth organisations and for UN Member States worldwide to fortify partnerships with youths through diverse and innovative means. This would include exploring the ways through which the UN, member states, civil society, the private sector, the academic sector and humanitarians could team up and work with young people to improve their living standards as well as improve their education, employment opportunities, entrepreneurship, citizenship and, most importantly, human rights.
The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, is quoted as saying that, “to unleash the power of young people, we need to partner with them”. Also, in an address by Kofi Annan, United Nations-Arab League joint special envoy for Syria and seventh UN Secretary-General, on the International Youth Day in 2004, he urged the international community “to prepare for the future, so as to promote solidarity between generations today”. Consequently, countries across the world are devoting resources to youth development to ensure that their youths are adequately trained and prepared to address personal, organisational and societal challenges. The case should not be different in Nigeria. There is an urgent need for the government to invest in youths to create a sustainable and successful future, most especially to survive in a competitive and changing world that we live in.
In order to effectively alleviate global challenges faced by the youth, such as poverty, gender discrimination, human trafficking, drug abuse, high illiteracy and unemployment, there is an urgent need for stakeholders to work together. This underscores the importance of establishing a global strategy to build a better world; a world that is free and fair. A world that recognises that if the youth are constructively engaged, they will emerge as great leaders and become useful resources to their nations.
It is germaine to mention that there are organisations in Nigeria that are dedicated to working to achieve this year’s theme. One such organisation is the Leadership, Effectiveness, Accountability and Professionalism (LEAP) Africa, a non-profit organisation committed to developing dynamic, innovative and principled leaders. For the past decade, the organisation has trained more than 20, 000 youths and partnered with many youth-led organisations in an attempt to amplify their leadership capacity. The organisation also offers training programmes targeted at disadvantaged youths aged between 14 and 35 years through its various leadership programmes such as the Leadership, Ethics and Civics Programme, Employability Programme and Values and Leadership Skills Programme.
It is instructive that beneficiaries of such programmes have initiated high impact social change projects in their local communities across Nigeria and Africa. These young innovators are championing global discussions in areas like climate change resolution. Locally, they are also contributing to national issues including agriculture, corruption, human rights, and providing basic health care to the underserved — in an attempt to alleviate social and economic problems in the society. Beyond these activities, seminars to impart knowledge to their peers and young adults on topical issues ranging from teenage pregnancies to entrepreneurship are encouraged.
The actions of these young people demonstrate that leadership is not a position but an act that clearly defies the belief that only successful and influential individuals can positively transform lives and influence situations in their community.
To celebrate the 2012 International Youth Day, the United Nations and LEAP Africa urge non-governmental organisations, government, private sector and well-meaning citizens to partner with and support young people in the key areas of need such as employment, entrepreneurship, political inclusion, citizenship and protection of rights, education and sexual/reproductive health.
The dedicated and collective efforts of organisations and citizens towards establishing positive and strategic youth engagement on a national scale would eventually lead to improvements in the global state of affairs.
•Ayeni is the Communications Coordinator, LEAP Africa. firstname.lastname@example.org