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"Youth mainstreaming must be more than just talk"
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"Youth mainstreaming must be more than just talk"

Young people need to be recognized by policymakers as equal and valuable partners in decision making, not simply as subordinates, writes Meeckel Beecher, 25, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Jamaica.

Youth mainstreaming has become a buzz term in Jamaica and many other countries across the world. Possibly because of the recent youth uprising in the Middle East, Asia and more recently Europe, suddenly the term is found in many policymaking circles across the globe.

Political reformers and many other important stakeholders in development have been chanting youth mainstreaming as more important now than ever. Some have proclaimed apocalyptic warnings, saying “do this now or be doomed.”

I sat contemplating this recently, and realised that youth mainstreaming isn’t a new concept. It isn’t something that great thinkers of our generation concocted. It is an ever recurring decimal in human development.

If you’re a Christian, there are several chapters in the bible (one of the oldest books) that celebrate youth and youth importance. In 1985 the United Nations declared the first International Year of Youth, and now 26 years after we are repeating these same principles, why? I say lack of will power and commitment. If not that, then maybe the “changers” in society do not know what youth mainstreaming is really about.

UNESCO describes youth mainstreaming as a process for a “meaningful engagement and broad integration of young people into structures and activities of social development on a daily basis”. This sort of inclusion has to be consistent, with a strong commitment to include the ideas and opinions of youths at every level.

In youth mainstreaming young people are recognized as equal and valuable partners not as subordinates. They are effectively mobilized and recognized as contributing citizens to nation building. Youth mainstreaming however requires greater commitment from governments. This means that the ever repeated excuse that youth programmes take a toll on the physical and financial resources of countries must go.

The World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY) is a comprehensive policy document produced by the United Nations. It provides a framework and practical guidelines for national action and international support to improve the situation of young people. I recommend to anyone considering youth mainstreaming that they read this document.

The WPAY contains proposals for action that will engender conditions and mechanisms to promote improved well-being and livelihoods among young people. It promotes inclusive and practical actions important to strengthening a nation’s youth. These actions are intended to increase the “quality and quantity of opportunities available to young people for full, effective and constructive participation in society” (WPAY, 2010).

The International Year of Youth (IYY) 2010-2011, which ended last month, raised some of the same issues as IYY 1985. Let us work together so that we don’t have the same issues in the next IYY and that the year is more of a celebration of how involved and how important youth have been to instigating change.

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About me:

“I am a development enthusiast who believes that the effective mobilization and utilization of youths are fundamental aspects of development. I believe education is a panacea for the world’s ailments and support the notion that literacy is a human right and is one of the best tools for human development.

“Literacy is essential in eradicating poverty, reducing child mortality, achieving gender equality and ensuring sustainable development. I am an Education Outreach Officer and currently the Jamaica Youth Ambassador to the United Nations.”

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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