By Mankosi Singo: Pretoria, South Africa – On 13 August 2019, the UN in South Africa under the leadership of UNFPA hosted a Youth Consultation Workshop on the United Nations Strategic Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF) , under the theme: “Nothing for Us, Without Us”, as part of International Youth Day activities. The objective of the consultation was to mobilize support from various partners and UN Agencies around how best to work with the youth towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
The UNSDCF provides the basis of the United Nations system work in South Africa, as aligned with the National Development Plan (NDP) with particular focus on priorities outlined in the NDP.
The workshop kicked off with a theatrical drama skit by students demonstrating young people’s interpretation of the work of the UN centered on development, conflict resolution, humanitarian work and poverty alleviation.
The discussions focused on the needs, challenges and opportunities for the youth in general and those living with disabilities in particular. “Your voice is our voice”. These were the words echoed by the Resident Coordinator, Nardos Bekele –Thomas, who spoke about the vital role of the youth in the country’s economy and social development. The Resident Coordinator hinted that policies can be drafted and strategies be implemented, but young people needed to have self-determination and learn how to combat challenges in order to drive their own success.
Ms. Bekele-Thomas shared the challenges she encountered, as a young woman, during the period of political instability in Ethiopia and encouraged the youth to be selfless and take initiative to drive change, not just for themselves but also for their families and communities. “Once you are a leader, you are a leader forever and have the responsibility to lead by example.” she said.
Ms. Shoki Tshabalala, Director General at the Department of Women, Youth and People with Disabilities said, “It is important to strengthen collaborations with the UN, as the UN exposes the youth to international work and networking opportunities, which allows South Africa to be part of the global community”. Ms. Tshabalala, reminded participants that South Africa has a long history of youth who led South Africa into the democratic country it is today and that young people are critical agents for change.
Ms. Juliet Tshoke, Executive Director, Corporate Strategy and Planning, at the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) shared her experience about the challenges and lessons learnt in providing services for the youth. She counselled the audience on how best NYDA can restructure and evaluate the current programmes and policies to better serve youth. “Unemployment has become a crisis in our country and the department needs to implement programmes that motivate young people to be thinkers and get involved for social cohesion.”
The UNICEF Representative, Ben, gave feedback on the U-Report, which is a social messaging tool developed by UNICEF to stimulate interaction with the youth.
In the consultation, the young delegates raised issues and concerns affecting the youth such as access to funding for young entrepreneurs, skills gap in the labor market, lack of mentorship opportunities, and negative mentality towards agriculture. Other issues mentioned included the stigma surrounding disabled people who are faced with the same challenges as other people but find it more difficult to receive basic services or voice their challenges. The panelists called for actions to ensure that policy changes were practical and addressed. More importantly, there was consensus on the need to guarantee for continuity of implementation plans long after the Minister’s term of office elapsed.
Guests from different agencies and department were assembled into six groups and were assigned various topics addressed in the UNSDCF. Each group presented its response and gave recommendations to the UN to effectively assist the youth. The young leaders called upon the government, in partnership with the United Nations to lead by example and shift from a vintage point of discussions to actual implementation to address pertinent people’s needs.
Recommendations were presented to the United Nations on how to effectively work with government and respond effectively to the young people’s challenges in a bid to tap into their full potential.
Ms. Beatrice Mutali, UNFPA Representative for South, closed the event with a vote of thanks for valued input by all participants during the consultation. She reaffirmed UN’s commitment to taking the outcomes and the necessary changes to implement the recommendations and track the progress.