Request for Presidential Action to Review National Youth Policy
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1. STATUS OF PETITIONER
This petition is submitted by the Voices of Youth Coalition, a youth-led advocacy platform for youth participation in shaping the development agenda in Ghana. Given rising concerns over insufficient attention to critical issues affecting youth in Ghana, and the lack of structures for mainstreaming youth into national policy making, the Coalition provides an opportunity for youth to articulate their concerns and to make policy input. The Voices of Youth Coalition is an initiative of and is convened by Youth Empowerment Synergy, a Ghanaian youth development organisation located at No. 16 Prince of Peace School Link, Off UPSA-ATRACO Road, East Legon, Accra. More information at www.voicesofyouthgh.org
2. REQUIRED PRESIDENTIAL ACTION
On the occasion of International Youth Day, 12 August 2018, the Voices of Youth Coalition calls on the President, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, to focus his governance agenda on formulating a new National Youth Policy that would transform Ghanaian youth into productive members of society, active citizens, and drivers of socio-economic development. The Coalition recognises government efforts towards youth employment, including through initiatives such as National Entrepreneurship and Innovations Plan, Youth Employment Agency, Planting for Food and Jobs, Presidential Pitch, and the Nation Builders’ Corps. While these initiatives are well intentioned, they operate in a policy vacuum, without clear direction, and with little multi-sectoral linkages. This makes it difficult to measure the contribution of these initiatives to the national development agenda. Evidently, these uncoordinated efforts have not achieved any meaningful results, almost midway through His Excellency’s tenure of office. The Coalition believes that the matters raised in this petition are of serious public interest and are of grave public importance, especially as pertinent youth issues such as unemployment have reached crisis point. The Voices of Youth Coalition therefore urges His Excellency to urgently put in place and publish a roadmap and timelines for the formulation of a National Youth Policy, doing so in an open, all-inclusive, and youth-driven manner.
3. BACKGROUND TO THE PETITION
3.1 The Case for a National Youth Policy
Young men and women represent a significant portion of Ghana’s population, with about 60% of the population under the age of 25 and 35% between ages 15 and 35. They constitute a unique group within society. While they are often considered one of the most vulnerable groups within the social fabric, they are also regarded as the greatest source of hope for the nation’s future. Mobilising the creativity and passion of youth, and recognising the unique perspective of youth on their current and future needs have become national and international priorities.
Today, there is global acceptance of the value of committing time and resources to the formulation of national youth policies and action plans. Governments are becoming increasingly aware of the fact that adequate legislation and policies are needed to respond to young people’s concerns, aspirations and demands. According to the State of Youth Policy Report 2014, of 198 countries studied, 169 either have a national youth policy or are in the process of reviewing a previous one. This overwhelming response is attributable to efforts by various global and regional youth processes and frameworks to highlight the need for national youth policies. Among them, the United Nations World Programme of Action for Youth, the Lisbon Declaration on Youth Policies and Programmes, the Baku Commitment to Youth Policies, and the Africa Youth Charter. In Ghana, the National Youth Council Act - 1974 (NRCD 241) and its successor National Youth Authority Act 939, have mandated the Authority to formulate policies for youth development in the country.
A national youth policy is a declaration for youth development, a practical demonstration that youth are a priority, a framework for galvanising political action, and a blueprint of the status, rights, responsibilities and roles of young people. When done right, a national youth policy can empower, enable and encourage youth, thereby maximising their participation in the development process. It can serve as a realistic guideline and offer timelines and a framework for government, private sector and other partners to work together for youth development.
In the same vein, national youth policy demonstrates the distinctive and complementary roles of youth development partners and youth themselves and provides a framework of common goals and the development of a spirit of cooperation and coordination. For example, a national youth policy can stimulate opportunities to mainstream youth policies into other sectoral policies and programmes, thereby enabling all ministries and departments of government to promote youth needs and responses. Such agencies will thus be able to undertake youth-inclusive strategic planning, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes.
A national youth policy will also provide a rallying point, a much-needed means of challenge and appeal to young people to mobilise and participate effectively in national development. Youth participation in development peaks when young women and men can engage in the decision-making processes of the nation through active participation in the process of formulation and implementation the national youth policies.
In the context of growing concerns about inequality and vulnerability, a national youth policy provides the basis for the equitable distribution of government resources to meet youth needs, in pursuit of achieving the provisions of the globally accepted Sustainable Development Goals. Aside government resources, a national youth policy can serve as point of attraction for investment from the private sector and foundations towards critical areas of youth development. This exemplifies national youth policy as a framework of common goals for collective action and coordination of strategies and action for youth development across various stakeholder boundaries – be it governmental or non-governmental.
3.2 The State of Youth Policy and Programming in Ghana
Since Ghana returned to democratic rule in 1992, successive governments have paid lip service to the subject of national youth policy. Despite the rhetoric of government’s commitment to youth development in the country, it was only in 1999 that a first draft policy document emerged and soon became the basis for youth policy power play by subsequent governments. Successive governments have been quick to throw out content introduced by their predecessors but failed to complete or ratify the revised version. This situation thrived because there was and still is no legal requirement for government to present youth policy to Parliament, thus making it easy to abandon.
It was not until 2010, almost two decades into Ghana’s new era of democracy that the first national youth policy was launched. That Ghana finally had a youth policy was commendable. In fairness, the policy does correctly diagnose the structural drivers responsible for perpetuating youth poverty and inequality. It identifies the lack of genuine voice and political consciousness, the inability to access an empowering basic education and the lack of employable skills as some of the challenges facing Ghana’s youth in a modernising economy. The youth policy is also tall on rhetoric when it comes to acknowledging the potential of the youth and about fostering youth influence and access to facilitative assets such as a good education, skills and financing. Nevertheless, the policy process and implementation have not fully lived up to expectation.
Despite the generic claim that youth across the country participated in the development of the youth policy, many youth and youth-serving organisations have expressed little knowledge of how the policy was developed. At the time of launching the policy, many youth had no idea who had represented them in the formulation process or how the youth representatives were selected. To date, many youth are not familiar with the provisions of the youth policy to facilitate their access to a fair share of the national cake. This confirms the perception that youth representation in government policy processes tend to be scanty and selective, determined without broad consultation and is almost exclusively limited to young males and those in Accra. Yet, the overwhelming majority of Ghanaian youth – and especially the most impoverished – live in the rural hinterland.
It is not surprising then that there is little awareness of the youth policy and scanty evidence of its implementation. No information currently exist of how the policy is being rolled out or how effective it is proving to be. This is fuelled by the non-existence of a credible youth policy action plan from the outset. Although the youth policy was launched in 2010, an action plan for its implementation was only unveiled in 2014. Thus, four years into the life of the policy, no tangible government actions could be traced to it. The youth policy implementation plan that was launched in 2014 was meant to cover a period of four years. But in 2018, there is no evidence to suggest that much had changed regarding the important drivers of youth development anchored on the national youth policy. In short, the 2010 national youth policy did not survive beyond the fanfare that birthed it.
In recent years, government introduced a range of programmes to offer possible employment and livelihoods improvement opportunities to the youth. These include the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP), which metamorphosed into Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Agency (GYEEDA) and subsequently the Youth Employment Agency (YEA). Others include the Youth Enterprise Support (YES) which has been replaced in 2017 with the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Plan (NEIP). There is also the Nation Builders’ Corps (NABCO), Planting for Food and Jobs, and the Presidential Pitch. A general theme that runs through these programmes and interventions is an understanding of the link between training and employment. It is also generally understood that youth programmes, when properly designed and implemented, can reduce community change by addressing the vicious cycles of poverty, unemployment and other social vices such as crime, violence and destitution.
However, there has been little evidence of effectiveness of the above-mentioned programmes. In fact, the view among many active stakeholders in the youth development space is that most of these government programmes have been poorly designed and unproductive. Young people themselves have argued that the lack of consultation and involvement of youth in the formulation and design, coupled with the absence of a strong policy basis, have been major contributory factors to the failure of these interventions. In fact, these interventions have proved to be unsustainable because of flawed policy development.
The situation is worsened by the fact that different governments have embarked on their own initiatives, often without any coordination with previous interventions. Consequently, the policy landscape has become littered with scattered youth programmes that are characterised by overlapping and sometimes conflicting objectives with the consequence that no effective policy implementation is achieved.
Fortunately, the 2010 national youth policy provides for reviews, at least ones every five years. Therefore, now in its eighth year, it is only appropriate that a comprehensive review is undertaken with the view to achieving a broad-based, youth led policy framework that response to the needs and aspirations of youth in a modern Ghanaian economy.
4. PROPOSED PROCESS FOR THE FORMULATION OF NATIONAL YOUTH POLICY
The youth policy formulation process is a systematic procedure requiring careful thought and planning. While no path will be precisely the same, many countries have followed key elements outlined by the Secretary-General of the United Nations for the formulation of their National Youth Policies. These are reflected in the following ten elements proposed by the Voices of Youth Coalition.
a. The establishment of a definition of youth appropriate to national circumstances and identification of the various subcategories of youth in the country;
b. The identification of the needs and expectations of youth, the formulation of youth policies with specific indications of the required legislation and administrative measures to implement them, and the allocation of resources and identification of responsible actors;
c. The establishment of a quantitative and qualitative profile of the social, economic, cultural and political characteristics of each subcategory of youth, with special attention to demography; political, economic, social and cultural participation; education and training; employment, unemployment and underemployment; health; use of free time, sports and recreation; delinquency; and attitudes and expectations;
d. The assessment of those elements of existing national policy that constitute a general orientation for youth policy; such elements might include the constitution, legislation, overall development policy and sectoral policies, as well as the international legal instrument to which the country subscribes;
e. The identification and evaluation of various government and non-government programmes of direct or indirect concern to youth, the resources available to them (budget, infrastructure, staff, leadership, equipment, etc.) and assessment of the categories and proportion of young people affected;
f. The adoption of the policy by the government and its formal enactment by parliament;
g. The widespread diffusion of the policy and associated statements, to inform youth and all other sectors of society of the seriousness of the issues of youth, of the need to address those issues and to secure the effective participation of youth in society, and of the role of each sector of society in the achievement of these policy goals;
h. The establishment of institutional arrangements and procedures designed to secure the effective integration of youth policy into national development planning, and the coordination of all related activities;
i. The implementation of policy measures, with attention to the continuous and effective participation of young persons and the establishment of efficient programme management and operational evaluation; and
j. The regular evaluation, assessment and re-adjustment of national youth policy.
Involving all relevant stakeholders is essential for leaving no youth behind. The empowerment of youth is everyone’s business and involves the concerted efforts of a number of key stakeholders, including government, non-governmental organisations, the media, research and educational institutions, the private sector, families, kinship and community networks and, above all, young people themselves.
Youth empowerment, which is the ultimate goal of every National Youth Policy, is based on the belief that people are themselves the best resource for promoting their development, and that they must be both architects and agents in meeting the challenges and solving the problems faced in today’s society. In this case, it is indicative to emphasise that young people have a better understanding of the ramifications and realities of youth empowerment and as such have much to offer policymakers. Involving young people in policy-making initiatives that affect their lives is cost effective - designing a policy without involving one primary constituency stands less chance of success. Involving youth and other civil society groupings can also help the process of governance become more open and transparent.
5. CONCLUDING COMMENTS
It is said that the future promise of any nation can be directly measured by the current prospects of its youth. The Voices of Youth Coalition believes that current prospects of the Ghanaian youth do not make for a future of good promise. In fact, the state of youth unemployment in particular are at a boiling point, with many young people feeling a sense of frustration and hopelessness. Ghana has a chance to escape bad examples from neighbouring countries where widespread youth unemployment led to a youth revolution, with violence and insecurity. To do so, the nation needs to address the youth challenge from the ground up and the National Youth Policy provides an essential vehicle for achieving this.
To support Government’s efforts in the formulation of youth policy, members of the Voices of Youth Coalition have proactively undertaken a year-long process to collect youth input, views and perspectives. These are contained in the ‘People’s National Youth Policy’ which was unveiled in January 2018 and available online at http://voicesofyouthgh.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Peoples-National-Youth-Policy.pdf Since then, the Coalition has held a series of advocacy activities at the grassroots, regional and national levels, including engagements with national and regional offices of the National Youth Authority and mobilising youth voices for a National Youth Policy.
The Voices of Youth Coalition believes that at this point, presidential intervention is needed before a National Youth Policy can be realised. The Coalition believes that His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo is not only passionate about youth development in Ghana but also has a sacred duty to ensure a more youth-inclusive Ghanaian society. This is why the Coalition is calling on His Excellency to, as a matter of urgency, put in place a process for the review of existing policy and the formulation of a new National Youth Policy.
Signed for the Voices of Youth Coalition on this 12th day of August 2018
Convenor, Voices of Youth Coalition
Executive Director, Youth Empowerment Synergy
 2010 National Housing and Population Census - Summary Report of Final Results:
 The state of youth policy in 2014: http://www.youthpolicy.org/library/wpcontent/uploads/library/2014_State_Youth_Policy_2014_En.pdf
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