This year’s International Youth Day under the theme ‘Safe Spaces for Youth’ which seeks to involve our teaming youth in decision-making processes is captured in the words of Mr. Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General “Young people should be at the forefront of global change and innovation. Empowered, they can be key agents for development and peace. If, however, they are left on society’s margins, all of us will be impoverished. Let us ensure that all young people have every opportunity to participate fully in the lives of their societies.”
Youth need safe spaces where they can come together, engage in activities related to their diverse needs and interests, participate in decision making processes and freely express themselves.
Furthermore, the New Urban Agenda (NUA) reiterates the need for public spaces for youth to enable them to interact with family and have constructive inter-generational dialogue.
Article ten (10) of the Africa Youth Charter declares that states must ensure every young person have the right to social, economic, political and cultural development with due regard to their freedom and identity and in equal enjoyment of the common heritage of mankind and also enjoin states to encourage youth organizations to lead youth programs and to ensure the exercise of the right to development.
As more and more youth grow in a technologically connected world, they aspire to engage deeper in political, civic and social matters and the availability and accessibility of safe spaces becomes even more crucial to make this a reality.
We urge all stakeholders to implement affirmative action including the establishment of youth parliaments at all levels, quota for youth in government and parliament and reduction of the age that qualifies one to contest for president to ensure meaningful youth inclusion and participation in decision-making processes.
The sharp rise in youth numbers in Ghana has resulted in the increased trend of youth related problems such as unemployment, poverty, alcohol, drug abuse, illegal mining, violence and crime among others.
Against these backdrops, policies and programmes for youth development have not seemed to address efficiently the needs of the majority of young people.
There seems to be a gap in properly analyzing, identifying and implementing interventions that effectively address and reflect the unique priorities and needs of the Ghanaian youth.
We at Youth Without Borders Ghana see young people as key partners of development and needs to be engaged meaningfully as we pursue our shared vision for a peaceful, prosperous nation and world.
And this can only be made possible if young people are given the needed recognition, capacity, opportunity and respect.
We, therefore, call on government to renew its commitments and social contract towards young people by providing sustainable and pragmatic interventions that have the propensity to permanently develop young people.