UNESCO-AYAB Forums on Youth Engagement in DRR in Africa

On 22nd and 23rd July 2021, the two forums brought together youth networks, policy makers and distinguished participants from across Africa to discuss different perspectives of youth engagement in disaster risk reduction (DRR). The deliberations led to the development of policy guidelines on meaningful youth engagement in DRR policy processes in Africa.

The provisions of the Africa Programme of Action (PoA) adopted by the African Union Heads of State and Government for the implementation of the Sendai Framework recognize the need for the establishment of youth platforms for meaningful youth engagement in disaster risk reduction (DRR) policy development, implementation, follow up and review. The Africa Youth Advisory Board (AYAB) on DRR was therefore instituted under the African Union Commission (AUC), with the support of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) Regional Office for Africa to meaningfully engage young people in DRR processes on the African Continent.

Apart from AYAB, it is unclear to what extent the establishment of youth platforms recommended by the PoA has been implemented in African Member States and their participation in DRR policy development processes. To this end, UNESCO collaborated with AYAB to organize virtual forums on 22nd and 23rd of July 2021 to address this knowledge gap and provide guidelines for mainstreaming youth considerations into DRR policy development.

In his opening remarks, Prof. Hubert Gijzen, the Regional Director and Representative, of the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa, highlighted the importance of young people as drivers of sustainable development in Africa. He reiterated that “UNESCO prioritizes its work with and for youth across all its programs” and that the forum was an excellent example of cross synergies between youth as a priority group for UNESCO and DRR as a priority program for the organization.

In a special address, Mr. Samuel Partey echoed the director’s remarks by saying that “young people drive solutions and must have a seat at the table including in policymaking at the local, national and global levels”. On his side, Mr. Kai Gatkuoth, Technical Coordinator of the DRR unit of the Rural Economy & Agriculture Department of the African Union Commission (AUC), emphasized that AUC is currently engaged with AYAB in its activities, and that AYAB is a game-changer for youth engagement in DRR.

Mr. Julius Kabubi, from the UNDRR Africa Regional Office in Nairobi, emphasized that young Africans are valued stakeholders in supporting risk reduction adding that UNDRR is collaborating with AYAB and young Africans to improve youth participation in DRR.

Mr. Ramasamy Jayakumar, Chief of the Executive Office of Natural Science, UNESCO also expressed happiness with the timeliness of the forum and said the outcome could stimulate high-level discussions on how youth could be engaged in DRR policies and other development priorities of Africa.

The first forum, held in English had the following panelists – Ms. Dibuseng Chabana (South African Youth Centre on Disaster Risk Reduction), Ambassador Shahira Hassan Ahmed Wahbi (League of Arab States), Dr. Thabo Ndlovu (African Science and Technology Advisory Group on DRR – AfSTAG), Mr. Walekhwa Abel Wilson (AYAB DRR), Ms. Grace Commey (Global Network of Civil Society Organizations for DRR) and Dr. Zaheer Allam (National Youth Environment Council).

The second forum, held in French had the following panelists – Mrs. Michèle Désirée Okala Abega (Network of Water, Climate and DRR), Mr. Semingar Ngaryamngaye (Economic Community of Central African States), Prof. Djillali Benouar (AfSTAG) and Mr. Schadrack Girukwishaka (AYAB DRR).

The discussions identified limited capacity of youth groups, limited integration of DRR in school curricular, limited finance and lack of strategy for youth participation in DRR policy processes and disaster management efforts as the major constraints. The panel discussions outlined a number of recommendations that will be included in a forthcoming publication that suggests guidelines on meaningful youth engagement in DRR policy processes in Africa.