This speech was delivered by Mr. Eyob Balcha of Afroflag Youth Vision to the High-Level Panel to Review the African Union on October 24th in Addis Ababa on the African Union from a youth perspective.
As a concerned Pan-African youth activist, I want to extend my concern for the Audit review panel. My comment with this regard can be considered both as personal and organizational concern. Early in 2006, while I was participating in the first consultation meeting for the formulation of the African Youth Charter, I remember that we had also an agenda to deal with the issues of transforming the Pan African Youth Union into the Pan African Youth Federation or establishing a legitimate and functional continental youth body. The main role of this proposed continental youth body was to create a legitimate body that will allow various groups of young Africans to be recognized with decision making bodies at sub-regional and regional level, providing opportunity for young African’s ideas to be put into action. Through our discussion that time, we have agreed that the role that the current Pan African Youth Union (PYU) has been playing is valued and the acknowledgement given to it by the AUC is very appreciated (having an observer status). But the point that we all, almost, reach on consensus, was the ineffectiveness of the current system of the AU in involving the young people of the continent to the fullest.
There are many instances that can show how the young people of the continent are alienated from the decision-making process of the continental platform. And even, the attempts made by different national, sub-regional and regional youth initiatives were not organized and comprehensive, rather impeded with various structural and organizational obstacles. And the agenda of putting African youth to the center of ever socio-economic and political process of the continent is a crucial and too timely to be postponed to some other time. Taking this fact into consideration, the critical decision made by the AUC to formulate the African Youth Charter which will be used as a continental framework for any kinds of youth related activities across the continent is much appreciated. But we still need more practical and to the ground steps to be taken beyond the policy documents and decisions at the higher level. The high Pan-African spirit among many young Africans who aspire to see their continent free from the already existing natural and man-made catastrophe should be maintained through a coordinated effort from the AUC. This may be achieved through the creation of a full-fledged youth coordination office whereby the issues of young people will be entertained as a main agenda, not as a supplementary one. We should bear in mind that, when we are talking about young peoples of our continent (between 15 – 35 years of age, according to the African Youth Charter), we are talking about the majority of the continent’s population, roughly between 40% - 50% of the total population.
This is therefore a humble request to the High Level Panel to Review the African Union to consider the following:
• The creation of an institutional system (a separated responsible office for youth issues) within the AU in which the issues of African youth is mainstreamed in every process of the continental decision-making process is very crucial
• The AU should facilitate the creation of a continental youth body which will be responsible in bridging the AU with sub-regional youth initiatives across the continent
• The AU should put an obligation to its Member States to include youth representatives (a male and a female, at least) from the appropriate national structure (National Youth Council) in their national delegation to the Heads of States Summit
• The AU should take the credit for the formulation of the African Youth Charter. But appropriate methodologies should be used to ensure the practical implementation of the agreed decisions and provisions of the Charter (even its ratification at the national level)
• The High-Level Panel, to consider the Addis Ababa Declaration of Youth in its effort to address the issues of young people in its engagement
Many thanks and hope that the Panel will duly consider my reflection as part of its final output.
Afroflag Youth Vision (AYV)