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UN Country Team, Ministry of Youth Affairs conclude two-day National Youth Summit

FREETOWN, 3 November 2021- The Government of Sierra Leone, under the leadership of the Ministry of Youth Affairs, with support from the UN Country Team in Sierra Leone, ended a two-day National Youth Summit held on 1 and 2 November 2021, at the Ernest Bai Koroma University of Science and Technology in Magburaka, Tonkolili district. 

 

The summit, convened on the theme ‘Harnessing the future of Sierra Leone through investment in youth’, was in commemoration of the Africa Youth Day on 1 November. The day was dedicated on the occasion of the adoption of the African Youth Charter in the Executive Council Decision of the Banjul Summit 2006 to promote the increased recognition of youth as critical agents for social change, economic growth and sustainable development in all areas of African society.

 

With over 700 young participants drawn from the country’s 16 districts, the summit ended with a declaration, dubbed the Magburaka Declaration, calling for young people to be actively involved in shaping and implementing fundamental changes across all aspects of their lives and societies. It also underscored the need for Government and stakeholders, including development partners, to actualize the African Union Roadmap on Harnessing the Demographic Dividend by prioritizing investment in youth to transform the country.

 

Officially opening the event, Vice President Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh said, “The Summit provided us with an opportunity to take stock of what we have done as a Government with regards to implementing the Africa Union Roadmap on harnessing the demographic dividend. This stock-taking is expected to inspire us further.” 

 

The Vice President said key policy action interventions of the Government on youth empowerment were demonstrated through the launch of the National Youth Policy in 2020. This document, he said, clearly outlined the key government priority areas, including increased access to livelihood opportunities through education and training, review of legal frameworks to address fundamental challenges facing the youth, including marginalization and gender-based violence, and increased youth participation in policy decision-making.

 

 

In his statement, United Nations Resident Coordinator Babatunde A. Ahonsi commended the Government for its development priorities, including investment in the sectors and areas that significantly benefit young people. He called for young people to be engaged in development activities to strengthen a sense of belonging and ‘stakeholdership’ and become active agents and beneficiaries of Sierra Leone’s quest for rapid economic growth and social transformation.

 

The UN, he said, affirms its commitment to the African Union roadmap on harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in youth. “The youth dividend, if properly harnessed, can present catalytic opportunities. For that to happen, Government and partners have to collaborate to first address the challenges youth face, such as high unemployment, inadequate competitive technical skills for the labour market, limited access to productive assets, lack of technologies and financial resources, and stigmatization and discrimination of youth with disabilities and youth-at-risk, who may be associated with cliques and gangs,” the UN Resident Coordinator emphasised. 

 

The Minister of Youth Affairs, Mohamed Orman Bangura, in his statement, said the gathering was to help celebrate the power of young people in Sierra Leone and foster social cohesion, whilst reaffirming the government’s commitment to improving the well-being of young people and in providing them with growth opportunities. “We are working to create the platform for youth to live. They should take advantage of the opportunity accorded them. Young people should take ownership of their destiny,” Minister Bangura said.

 

Also speaking were the UNDP Resident Representative Pa Lamin Beyai and UNFPA Officer-In-Charge, Jocelyn Fenard. They said the summit was meant to create an open space for young people to discuss issues affecting them. They both agreed that when young people were provided with quality education, good employment opportunity, and were in good health and enjoyed their rights, the country would be able to harness a demographic dividend.

 

Reacting to the Summit, Marian Pleasant Kargbo, CEO/Founder, Pleasant Foundation, Sierra Leone said, “It was not just a summit, it was a time to network, a time to listen to government officials make commitments, UN agencies and partners committing to support young people and youth putting together a document that the UN asked for to guide their activities for the following years. This document is coming at a time when the UN and other agencies are working on their 2021 calendar of events and budget.”

 

 

For more information, contact:

John Baimba Sesay

Web and Media Analyst

UNFPA Sierra Leone

Email: jsesay@unfpa.org 

Tel: +232 30953193

 

Osman Sankoh

Programme Communication and Advocacy Officer

UN Resident Coordinator’s Office

Email: Sankoh0@un.orgg

Tel: +23230968909