West African Youth Commit to a Better Future
30 Nov 2006
30 Nov 2006
BISSAU, Guinea Bissau — More than 80 youth representatives from 10 West African countries pledged Friday to improve the lives of their peers throughout the region by undertaking measures to improve sexual and reproductive health, encourage education, work towards poverty alleviation and promote peace.
“Young People in Action!” was the rallying cry for the Sub-Regional Meeting of the Youth Forum, which took place from 28 November to 1 December in Bissau. The aim of the forum—co-sponsored by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund—is to encourage youth to become more involved with issues of population and development in order to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
“Young people are our active partners in development. Without their leadership, we can not possibly hope to achieve the realization of the MDGs in West Africa,” says Guinea Bissau UNFPA Representative Guy De Araujo. “We are eager to offer them support in identifying challenges facing youth today and help them achieve solutions regionally, nationally and locally. These youth are taking responsibility for ensuring their own futures.”
The forum brought together representatives from 10 member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), including Benin, Burkina-Faso, Cape Verde, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Niger, Mali, Republic of Guinea and Senegal.
The youth representatives identified four key areas of concern to West African young people
“This forum allows us to bridge borders to communicate with each other and work together”, says Bagnomboe’ Bakiono, the Executive Secretary of AfriYAN, the African Youth and Adolescent Network on Population and Development, based in Burkina Faso. “Regional African integration begins with youth. We are the means of finding a solution for our problems.”
The youth-led initiative is a joint effort undertaken by AfriYAN and the National Forum of Youth and Population of Guinea Bissau (FNJP). It is supported by the Government of Guinea Bissau, UNFPA, UNICEF, ECOWAS, the European Union, the West African Peacebuilding Network, Action AIDS, the United Nations Office of the Special Representative for the Secretary-General in Guinea Bissau, as well as private sector sponsorship, including Western Union and local companies, Areeba and Areski.
“The voices of youth must be heard, not just by governments, but by our partners in development,” says Mario Martins, Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport for Guinea Bissau. Through the forum, “young people are explaining their problems, their desires. It’s up to governments and the international community to make them a reality.”
Participants reminded the UN, NGOs, the private sector, members of parliament and journalists in the population field that they are counting on their support to help achieve their objectives.
“They may need support to achieve their goals, but this forum is about youth in action,” said Lyne Godmaire, UNFPA Regional Adviser on Youth based in Dakar. “They are consolidating their recommendations, avoiding duplication and channeling their efforts to be realistic, confident in what can be achieved and committed to their goals. These young people are very engaged and know what further action to take on these issues.”
UNFPA is an international development agency that promotes the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. UNFPA supports countries in using population data for policies and programmes to reduce poverty and to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV/AIDS, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.
*** This release is also available in Portuguese.
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Guy De Araujo