By Whitney Akinyi

The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), in partnership with the Horn of Africa Youth Network (HoAYN) and Save the Children, has commenced a Ministerial Meeting and concurrent technical experts gathering geared towards the adoption of the region’s Youth Policy.

The Policy is a comprehensive framework designed to champion youth rights across the IGAD region which includes Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda.

It has been developed through extensive consultations involving technical experts responsible for Youth Affairs from member states, National Youth Councils, Youth-Led Organizations, and the IGAD Secretariat, the IGAD Youth Policy aims to guide and mainstream youth priorities in policies, laws, and programs, with a focus on empowering youth and ensuring their meaningful participation in political processes.

With the two events starting on 25th September and expected to end on 27th September in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, the primary objectives of the Ministerial Meeting are centered on addressing the unique challenges faced by young people in the IGAD region, which is currently experiencing one of the highest youth population growth rates globally.

Besides the Policy, other issues to be discussed include the development of a Roadmap whereby delegates will be collaborating to create a comprehensive roadmap and action plan for implementing the IGAD Youth Policy, ensuring its practical application on the ground and engaging with stakeholders where the ministers are actively seeking the engagement and support of like-minded agencies and stakeholders to foster a collaborative approach to youth empowerment in the region.

Key participants in these landmark events include Ministers responsible for Youth Affairs from Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda; Technical Youth Experts from IGAD member states; National Youth Councils and Youth-Led Civil Society Organizations from the same countries; and Development Partners.

“The young generation serves as a dynamic catalyst for societal transformation. It is incumbent upon us, as a region, to empower them, cultivating their capacities and fostering an environment that enables them to fully realize their potential. They play a significant role in propelling us towards the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals. By harnessing their energy, innovation, and visions for a more equitable future, we can collectively advance toward a world that leaves no one behind,” noted Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu, IGAD Executive Secretary.

David Momanyi, the Horn of Africa Youth Network Executive Director, highlighted the need to harmonize existing policy documents, stating, “While there are existing policy documents that address a wide range of youth concerns, there is a need to review and harmonize them to develop a comprehensive youth policy that provides policy and strategic direction in addressing youth concerns in a holistic manner within the Horn of Africa region.”

Agnes Airo, Regional Youth Advisor for Save the Children’s East and Southern Africa Regional Office, emphasized the importance of collective efforts, saying, “The glaring reality as per the statistics is that youth are the present and the future, not only in Africa but globally. A collective effort by different actors and stakeholders is key in planning for and holistically addressing the needs of young people to thrive. Commitment by governments to revise and implement national policies will reduce these vulnerabilities for better development and stability.”