15 September 2015, was the International Democracy Day.
The theme for this year’s celebration was “Engaging young people on Democracy”. More than 100 young people from across the African continent commemorated the day in Nairobi, Kenya.
They were part of select group of youth leaders attending a three day consultation on “Silencing the Guns: Youth building a culture of democracy and peace in Africa.”
The consultation is convened under the auspices of the African Governance Architecture and Platform of the African Union. The young people are responding to the call by African leaders to end all wars on the continent and silence all guns by 2020 as part of the 50th Anniversary Solemn Declaration of May 2013.
The High Level Dialogue and pre-consultations are convened by the African Union in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme and GIZ.
Statement on the commemoration of the International Day of Democracy - Engaging young people on Democracy was delivered by Amb Aisha Laraba Abdullahi, Commissioner for Political Affairs.
In Africa Young people continue to innovate and lead creative ideas aimed at addressing governance challenges and deepening democracy. Strengthening governance systems and institutions as well as engendering a culture of democracy and peace guarantees inclusive development in Africa only can be sustained by the active and meaningful engagement of young people who are estimated at over 60pc of Africa's population.We must, therefore continue to effectively harness the creative energies of Africa's youth and enhance structures for them to participate, strengthen and deepen democratization in Africa.
Acknowledged that an estimated 60% of the overall African population, Africa’s youths are at the heart of Africa’s violent conflicts, which has in recent years, been exacerbated by acute governance deficits which has hindered development and triggered violent conflicts on the Continent. Conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction as well as developing strategic interventions that are aimed at silencing the guns in Africa by 2020 must be rooted on sturdy, resilient, participatory, efficient, effective and inclusive governance systems.
Noted that Africa’s greatest resource is its youthful population and that through their active and full participation, Africans can surmount the difficulties that lie ahead; In particular Article 11(2) of the African Union Youth Charter provides that “Each State Party shall […] take the measures to promote active youth participation in society including; guaranteeing the participation of youth in parliament and other decision- making bodies, facilitate the creation or strengthening of platforms for youth participation in decision-making at local, national, regional, and continental levels of governance; give priority to policies and programmes including youth advocacy and peer-to-peer programmes for marginalised youth, such as out-of- school and out-of-work youth, to offer them the opportunity and motivation to re-integrate into mainstream society and provide technical and financial support.
Further noted with concern the situation of African youth, many of whom are marginalized from mainstream society through inequalities in income, wealth and power, unemployment and underemployment, infected and affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, living in situations of poverty and hunger, experiencing illiteracy and poor quality educational systems, restricted access to health services and to information, exposure to violence including gender violence, engaging in armed conflicts and experiencing various forms of discrimination.
Recalled that regional and international obligations and commitments at global and regional levels address youth empowerment and inclusion in governance and economic policy making and implementation processes;
On strengthening democratic governance to silence the guns in Africa
The AGA Secretariat should ensure inter-departmental and multi-sectoral partnerships with relevant African Union Organs and institutions, civil society, development partners and media in the implementation of the AGA-YES. Such partnerships must ensure the active involvement of the Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) of the Africa Union.
The AU should partner and support national and regional youth structures to promote ratification and domestication as well as assessment and reporting on compliance of AU shared values and instruments as a key means of silencing the guns on the Continent.
The AGA through its cluster on Democracy should provide opportunities for young people across the continent to participate and engage effectively with various organs and institutions of the AU and RECs on issues of elections, parliaments, political parties amongst others. In particular ensure the effective involvement of young people in the pre-election processes, election observation and post-election audits.
The AGA Secretariat should coordinate with AU Youth Programme and partner to develop a continental youth mentorship initiative towards strengthening democratic governance, rule of law, constitutionalism, human rights and humanitarian assistance.
The Humanitarian Affairs Cluster should in collaboration with AU Youth Division, develop a Youth Peace Corp to support emergency relief and humanitarian crisis in AU Member States.
On Peace building and Preventive Diplomacy
The AU should encourage and support Member States to put in place structures that foster and strengthen conflict resolution, peace-making and peacebuilding at national, regional and conti¬nental levels.
Member states emerging from conflicts should make deliberate efforts to ensure that young people participate and are included in preventive diplomacy, conflict resolution, mediation and post conflict reconstruction and development efforts.
The AU Panel of the Wise should proactively engage in preventive diplomacy on the basis of efficient and effective AU and RECs early warning mechanisms.
Member States should commit to the implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty and accelerate efforts to eradicate small arms proliferation in Africa.
Socio-economic development for sustainable peace
AU member States should develop and/or strengthen national youth structures to create opportunities for innovation, entrepreneurship, jobs and engagement in public service.
The African Union Youth (AUY) Program should take a lead in enhancing the capacity of young people across the continent to effectively engage and participate in public service and entrepreneurship.
The AGA platform should institutionalize and broaden the youth pre-consultations to the High Level Dialogue to include capacity strengthening and training in leadership, public service and entrepreneurship.
The AU should encourage Member States at a political and technical level to make greater investments in Science, Technology and Innovations to spur sustainable economic development and peace
Requests the AU to identify and request sitting Heads of States to champion the implementation of Youth Pre-Consultations Recommendations “as the key contribution by the youth to silencing the guns at the 2015 January Summit of the Heads of State.
The AU should strengthen its communication, media outreach and citizen engagement strategies to ensure that they are user-friendly, accessible and impact oriented.
The AU should partner and collaborate with young researchers and youth oriented think tanks in data and knowledge generation, management and dissemination on democratic governance trends, challenges, prospects and opportunities in Africa
The AGA secretariat should coordinate the implementation of the Recommendations as well as the AU Youth Engagement Strategy.
In conclusion, participants expressed satisfaction at the quality of discussion and called on the Africa Governance Architecture and Platform to prioritize the implementation of the various recommendations from the meeting. The AGA Secretariat is also requested to ensure that the conclusions are implemented in a participatory and inclusive manner.