Pamella Ahairwe and Claudia Rosano, ECDPM Great Insights magazine, Volume 10, Issue 1 2021
“Young people are the trailblazers of progress….they not only inspire change, they create it”, said Tijjani Muhammad-Bande on International Youth Day 2020. Global events have given rise to a wave of young people’s movements, from Black Lives Matter to Fridays for Future, and mass cries for democracy and respect for human rights. The youth are at the forefront, making headway on public dilemmas such as racial inequities, human rights abuses and climate change.
Yet, young people still lack a formal seat at the tables of power. Many institutions barely involve the youth in decision-making. COVID-19 has worsened their already frail position. In the great lockdown, governments have brushed aside critical needs of the youth. Education has come to a standstill in some countries. Youth health needs have been dismissed altogether, in the rush to handle COVID-19. Many young people have lost their jobs, with limited or no social protection.
Nevertheless, young people continue to show outstanding resilience, and their role in creating a better future can no longer be spurned. As such, international and national public, private and civil society organisations are increasingly creating platforms to enable the youth to voice their views. Think tanks are no exception. They too can boost this change. As a crossroads of policymaking, academia and civil society organisations, think tanks can create wider dialogue spaces for the youth and bring their interests to larger and more diversified audiences.
As a ‘think and do tank’, ECDPM therefore dedicates this edition of Great Insights Magazine to young people. It provides young people from Africa and Europe a podium to make their voices heard on critical topics that are dear to them. Our contributors on decolonising knowledge, for example, are working to turn the tide, perceiving this as paramount to prevent the mistakes of the past from reoccurring. Others stress climate change as a heavy legacy of our socio-economic models. The EU Green Deal could be a milestone in preventing our planet from becoming a ‘sacrificial lamb on the profit altars’.
When it comes to governance, European and African youth are ready for meaningful participation in decision-making; but public institutions remain ‘unfit for their participation’. The peace and security field seems to provide a breeding ground for change, thanks to African and European investments in youth-led peacebuilding. Young entrepreneurs are contributing, leading social impact businesses providing solutions to health, energy and climate change problems affecting their communities. Uthabiti and Itwillbe are two inspiring stories.
Overall, our young guests call on the European Union (EU) and the African Union (AU) to deliver beyond promises. Bringing youth into pole position is key to building back better. Therefore, their perspectives need to be considered in the run-up to and during the sixth AU-EU Summit, for better Europe-Africa collaboration. As one of our contributors says, “…this new normal can offer a path towards a more promising future for all, but only if young people are heard and given the space to lead this transformation from the front…”.
Pamella Ahairwe, Policy Officer, Trade, Investment and Finance
Claudia Rosano, Fundraising Officer, Institutional Relations and Partnerships