In an effort to revive conversations on the current youth trends in the sub-region and to contribute towards the advancement of the African Youth Charter, the African Union Southern Africa Regional Office (AU-SARO), the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), Southern Africa Partnerships for the Prevention of Conflict (SAPPC) and FES-AU co-hosted a coordination meeting of SADC National Youth Councils (NYCs) from 5 to 6 October 2023 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Most AU member States have formulated youth-related policies and programs and recognized both the challenges and the significant opportunities that the youth offer. Efforts are also made to involve young individuals in political and decision-making processes. Regional and national youth networks have been established to facilitate youth engagement and to ensure that the perspectives of young people are integrated into policy and program development. Nonetheless, given the current fragmented and uncoordinated state of initiatives and the limited financial support for youth engagement activities, there arises a necessity for more coordinated and unified efforts aimed at youth development in Southern Africa. In this context, it becomes imperative for institutions like the AU to establish platforms that can effectively address these challenges. Despite the commitments made by member states to empower youth through representation in decision-making bodies, as enshrined in the African Youth Charter, there remains substantial work to be done in this regard.
The coordination meeting brought together 14 NYCs from the SADC region as well as representatives of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and provided a platform to establish a better understating of issues and challenges the Youth Councils are currently facing. The event allowed NYCS to discuss the African Youth Charter implementation and advocate for its ratification at the member states level as well as to discuss the African Plan of Action for Youth Empowerment (APAYE) which is about to expire. Moreover, NYCs were able to have a better understating of emerging regional youth challenges and threats such as violent extremism and radicalization, and strategies to address these threats. The forum also enabled taking stock of the implementation of the Youth in Peace and Security (YPS) Agenda in the sub-region and capacitate NYCs on the development of National Action Plans (NAPs) on the YPS agenda.
By engaging in discussions about youth policies and their implementation, the event has facilitated the promotion of youth participation, engagement, and leadership at the AU and RECs levels and deliberate on youth-centered policies and actions in the sub-region.