The second edition of the Youth Policy Dialogue came off at the Great Hall Conference Room, KNUST, Kumasi on April 10, 2018. The Youth Empowerment Synergy (YES-Ghana), Voices of Youth Coalition and the Commonwealth Foundation were the organisers of the dialogue, under the theme “Improving Youth Participation in Public Policy Decision-Making’’.
The dialogue sought to deepening multi-stakeholder engagement on Ghana’s youth policy, with the anticipation that the final version of the reviewed National Youth Policy will reflect some of the insights shared during the Dialogue. The dialogue saw the participation of 325 participants from academia, civil society organisations, youth groups, state agencies, private sector and tertiary institutions. Representatives of institutions such as the National Youth Authority, Youth Employment Agency, Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly, National Board of Small Scale Industries, Care International, Marie Stopes International, Young Africans for Opportunities, Enactus and the media participated in the dialogue.
The dialogue began at 2:30pm prompt with a presentation by Ms. Obaa Akua Konadu, the Policy and Advocacy Manager of YES-Ghana on an overview of the People’s National Youth Policy (PNYP). She highlighted the need for the youth to be seen as important drivers of change and not a critical mass that can be ignored. It was then imperative to have a functional youth policy that is responsive, coherent and coordinated and fairly budgeted and financed. In her presentation, she stressed the need for young people to go beyond criticising the current challenges that affect the youth but rather go a step further to provide concrete alternative policy options on the decision-making table. This, she highlighted, was the innovation of the People’s National Youth Policy, a ‘shadow’ policy prepared by the Voices of Youth Coalition, to provide alternative policy proposals to policymakers.
A panel discussion, moderated by Ultimate FM’s Patricia Bonsu was kicked into motion. On the discussion panel were Dr Edward Brenya, Governance and Public Policy Expert and Senior Lecturer at the Department of History and Political Studies, KNUST; Mrs Ama Duncan, Mandela Washington Fellow, and Founder of The Fabulous Woman Network and Corporate Training Solutions; and Dr Ronald Adamtey, Public Policy Expert and Senior Lecturer at the Department of Planning, KNUST.
The discussion centred mainly on “involving the youth in public policy decision-making” in the context of the ongoing youth policy review spearheaded by the National Youth Authority.
In her submission on the need for the youth to be involved in policy-making, Mrs Ama Duncan opined that since the youth form 60% of the country’s population, which makes them the engine of the economy, decisions made today affects the youth today and their future. She stressed the need for policy makers to use simple terms and innovative ways to teach and communicate messages to the youth in order to generate their interest on policy issues. She also entreated the youth to constantly educate themselves by the productive use of social media, and to actively seek mentorship by asking questions and seeking advice from the older generation. Mrs Duncan in conclusion, advised the youth to aim at becoming employers rather than being employees and this could be achieved by identifying opportunities and putting resources into action to achieve set goals.
Dr. Adamtey pointed out that the responsibilities that are associated with managing one’s own affairs would be taken away from the youth if decisions are made for them. This was in response to ‘why the older generation is not able to make decisions for the youth’. He also emphasized the need for the youth to be groomed now to take up the task of decision-making once the older generation phases out. Dr. Adamtey further argued that the youth of today have a lot of empowering mechanisms which include advanced educational systems as well as the internet (social media), which has made information easily accessible. He charged the youth to take the responsibility of actively seeking information and acting on it. Dr. Adamtey called on the international community to assist with the cause of getting the youth involved in public policy and decision-making.
“The policy process itself as well as inadequate education of the electorate” were some of the reasons cited by Dr. Brenya as to why only a few number of youth are interested in public policy and decision-making. He urged the youth to make themselves available so that they are heard by policymakers. This can be done by taking up every opportunity to be a part of the decision-making process no matter how difficult may seem, since such opportunities will not be handed to the youth on a silver platter. He mentioned the need for the youth to look beyond political affiliations but rather be objective and unite when advocating for policies as this would cause the politicians to respect and pay attention to them. In his closing remarks, Dr. Brenya asked the private sector as well as civil society groups to educate the youth on their rights. He also suggested that the youth use civil society organizations as channels to air their views pertaining to issues.
Participants had the opportunity to share their opinions and commented on the subject matter, in an open dialogue. Through questions and experience sharing, participants enriched the discourse on the state of national youth development and offered strategies on making the new National Youth Policy work in the interest of youth in particular, and the nation at large.
Some suggestions that arose from the open dialogue are summarized as:
- Policies are too technical; they should be more practical.
- Youth should have a unified voice as this will enable them have a stronger voice towards advocacy and demanding accountability
- Youth should develop the interest in policy and decision-making. The mandate should not be left to the politicians.
- Fundamentals for the formulation of policies should be participatory. The government should use social media platforms to solicit ideas from the youth
- Bureaucracy in government institutions should be minimized
- There should be an outline of follow-up actions to hold appropriate agencies accountable after dialogues and fora are held.
The Guest of Honour, Mr. George Orwell Amponsah, the Ashanti Regional Director of the National Youth Authority (NYA) applauded YES-Ghana and the Voices of Youth Coalition for taking the initiative to prepare the People’s National Youth Policy and organising the Youth Policy Dialogue. He also proposed that subsequent dialogues could be held in rural communities so as to make the dialogue more inclusive and participatory. He announced the ongoing review of the National Youth Policy (2010), which aims to identify gaps in the existing policy and draft a reviewed one that is more responsive in addressing the challenges facing the Ghanaian youth. He also argued the need for the youth policy to be the main catalyst and driving force for the national development agenda. He encouraged YES-Ghana to do more in ensuring an all-inclusive youth policy framework for the country.
The Voices of Youth Coalition, as their contribution to the review of the National Youth Policy, officially presented the People’s National Youth Policy to Mr. Amponsah.
In his closing remarks, Mr. Emmanuel Edudzie, the Executive Director of YES-Ghana expressed his appreciation to the panellists for a very thorough, rich, and engaging dialogue. He encouraged the youth to grasp the power they have and channel it positively to achieve endless possibilities. On a broader level, he charged the youth to get involved in public policy decision-making at every stage and this could start with their families and friends. “Do not agonize, just organize’’ were his parting words.