A key focus of our work in Sierra Leone is giving young people the opportunity to get involved in governance. We want to see Sierra Leone’s huge youth population engaged in decision making processes, shaping national policies and consolidating peace. It’s a fundamental part of our mission to put young people at the forefront of development processes.
In Sierra Leone, we organise quarterly National Youth Dialogue Forums – one-day conferences that bring together young people and key stakeholders to discuss development issues affecting young people. Tomorrow – 23rd June – we’ll be hosting youth representatives from across the country, political party representatives, civil society organisations and parliamentarians at a forum in Freetown.
The theme is ‘Violence and Youth Participation in Politics’. With Sierra Leone due to hold national elections in 2012, it’s more important than ever that young people’s participation in the political process is substantial and meaningful. The 2007 elections were widely recognized as free and fair – representing a really important step forward for Sierra Leone towards the consolidation of peace and democratic rule. But as has been all too evident in the Ivory Coast and Burundi recently, elections can be de-stabilizing or a catalyst for political violence.
Given that at least 55% of all registered voters in Sierra Leone are young people, it’s so important that such a large section of the population is properly engaged if peace and political stability is to be consolidated. The signs are encouraging. The Sierra Leone ‘Truth and Reconciliation Report’ recognized that one of the major causes of the civil war was youth exclusion. Consequently, the Commission recommended that political parties ensure that at least 10% of candidates for all public election are young people. The 2012 elections therefore represent a fantastic opportunity to begin building the pillars for effective, constructive youth engagement.
This National Dialogue Forum will create a platform for both young people and the major stakeholders and actors in the electoral process to ensure that this opportunity is taken. As with all our work, young people are playing a leading role in organising the forum and coordinating follow-up activities.
The forum opens with a keynote address from Mr Keith Wright of the United Nations Development Programme at 11am on Thursday 23rd June. To find out more, contact Mohamed Jalloh: firstname.lastname@example.org