Participation & Governance

Guest blog: The rise and rise of youth voices in the Post-2015 development process

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The profile of young people in development advocacy has been raised in recent months through their active engagement in the post-2015 process. Whilst the official process for developing the post-2015 development framework is being carried out through formal channels, the means by which young people have gathered data to present their priorities to policy-makers has remained inclusive and innovative. Read more…

Six months ago, youth were virtually absent from the post-2015 process. Six months ago, there had been hardly any consultation with young people to speak of on the world that they wanted post-2015. Well… it’s safe to say that it’s been a busy few months, and if you’ve been following the process you’re probably already aware of how active young people have become since the start of consultations and High Level Panel meetings last November.

I work for the youth-leddevelopment agency Restless Development. About a year ago, we could see that there was this gap in youth voice and leadership in the process, so we identified a couple of things we could do to change this. We ran consultations in 12 countries globally - mainly funded by the EC Youth in Action programme - delivered through our youth partners. We also pushed for and facilitated youth roundtable meetings at the High Level Panel meetings in London, Monrovia and Bali. Together with Plan International we also set up the Children and Youth Working Group of the Beyond 2015 civil society coalition - largely in response to the high number of enquiries that the coalition was receiving from youth at the start of 2012, but recognising that many were still out of the loop on the process and entry points to influence. Our aim has been to facilitate diverse youth participation from the Global North and South, supporting them to build a unified voice during these key influencing moments.

So… what have we found in all this?

Front Cover - Youth Voices ReportYou can download the report Youth Voices on a Post-2015 World here, which details the issues and values that young people prioritised in the youth consultations based on the facilitators toolkit that was developed. This has already been shared directly with UN High Level Panellists and their advisors, as well as being shared widely throughout civil society, youth and UN agencies. But what we’re trying to bring greater focus on in this process is ideas, innovations and youth-led solutions… not just problems. In Bali in March 2013, we launched our own “Big Idea” at a side event with High Level Panellists, think tanks, civil society reps and young people. Our idea - being developed with other partners - is a data revolution driven by young people from the bottom-up. It’s a way to transform government accountability where young people own open-data and use it to monitor progress against development goals in real-time. In the coming weeks we’re going to be reaching out to additional partners to enable us to pilot this in the next 1000 days..

I recently took part in a panel debate at a meeting hosted by the European Youth Forum in Brussels. It was a great opportunity to hear the perspectives of youth from across Europe, as well as other CSOs working on post-2015. We were asked to give our reflections and try as far as possible to be provocative. When it was my turn to speak I offered the following…

Firstly, young people are increasingly recognised (most recently by the High Level Panellist John Podesta) for having the tendency to speak out on the interests of marginalised groups: LGBT, disabled people, ethnic minorities, women…. Perhaps because youth are present in most marginalised groups! This is usually in contrast to other sectors who are often much more focused on their own interests. I think it sets youth apart in the post-2015 space but how can it be used for greater influence?

Secondly, content and policy goals are important - of course! But this must be seen as an opportunity to enfranchise youth and youth organisations by 2015. Issues are important but I think it’s how we’re viewed, recognised and involved in the process that will secure the role of youth as serious and equal partners in development. So, it’s not just the’ what’ but the ‘how’ that should matter to us as the youth sector.

Finally, focus on collaboration - take it seriously, not just as an after-thought. Youth organisations are good at finding a unified voice and putting our organisational egos to one side. We’ve certainly seen this in the High Level Panel meetings. The goal of this process is about finding agreement - if we can continue to do work in this way we’ll be setting a standard for global partnership but hopefully also putting ourselves at an advantage.

Follow the conversation @youthpost2015 @restlessdev #post2015

Featured Image Credit: Inside North Point