As part of its strategy of increasing youth civic participation, we launched in partnership with the British High Commission a research report on youth participation in local council decision-making in Sierra Leone- the successes and challenges of decentralised participatory governance from a youth perspective, at the British High Commission’s residence, Hill Station, on Thursday, 24th October, 2013.
In presenting the findings of the report, the Acting Country Director of Restless Development Sierra Leone, James S. Fofanah, highlighted that the rationale of the report was geared towards inclusion of young people noting the fact that youth disenfranchisement have often led to tragic consequences in the past. Also the ‘Youth Manifesto’ research conducted in August 2012 by Restless Development revealed that only 23% of young people felt political parties consulted effectively with youth in the run up to the election. The same study also revealed that 70% of young people are not aware of any youth specific policies being implemented by government. This research was therefore aimed at deepening understanding of the reality of youth participation in decision-making at local council level.
The report revealed that in terms of transparency and openness, involvement of youth in planning process and the receptiveness of councils to monitoring and feedback; while all councils examined declared they conduct open council and committee meetings, the result indicates that the planning and participatory process in actuality varies from council to council and depend on the amount of funding available. Indeed youth focused activities were part of most plans but in actuality only a small part and the receptiveness to monitoring and feedback varies between ideal and difficult.
The report went further to highlight key challenges in terms of council to youth and youth to council engagement including funding, narrow vision of youth needs, capacity of councillors, partisan politics, quality and calibre of youth representation, legitimacy of youth leaders, organisation and capacity of civil society structures, and the organisation and capacity of formal youth structures.
In formally presenting the report, Melvin Foray, Assistant Programme Coordinator, Restless Development, noted that while it is positive that many young people are increasingly engaged in decision-making processes at council level, it is not uniform nationwide and in some areas it is much weaker than others. He emphasised that it is their hope and belief that the research will empower youths and partners by it being used as an advocacy tool that will increase participation of young people in local government decision-making processes.
The research was conducted in Bo, Makeni and Kono with participants drawn from civil society organisations, councils and formal youth structures of the National Youth Commission and the Ministry of Youth Affairs.
The launch was witnessed by representatives of the National Youth Commission, the Western Urban District Youth Council and other Civil Society Organisations.