How to renew the EU-Africa Partnership through transcontinental youth networks
The African Union (AU) declared 2017 the ‘year of harnessing the demographic dividend through Investments in Youth’ and the European Union (EU) renewed its Youth Strategy; this is timely given the focus of the upcoming AU-EU Summit on ‘youth’.
The upcoming Summit on ‘youth’ is a unique opportunity to place youth integration and inclusion in policy and decision-making processes at the heart of relations between the African and European continents. Yet, the new strategy must be innovative, visionary and dedicated.
First, the renewed partnership must be innovative through the development of joint objectives to ensure young people play an active role in the decision-making and the implementation of the partnership.
Second, it must be visionary by going beyond mere strengthening of relations on a nation-to-nation or region-to-region basis, but also through horizontal and vertical cooperation with youth civil society to support the reframing of social, economic and political values.
Third, it should be dedicated to harness the already innovative initiatives that young people are implementing to empower their peers – be it on entrepreneurship, education and political engagement – to bring a transformative change to our societies, which can adequately prepare us for the global and common concerns of our generations. So, strong partnership with youth organisations, including youth civil society and youth diaspora organisations, will be key for the revitalisation of the EU-Africa partnership. A case in point is the innovation and the vision demonstrated by the youth-led and youth-owned trans-continental network ACP YPN, the African, Caribbean and Pacific Young Professionals Network in Brussels (EU).
Innovation – horizontal & vertical youth cooperation
The African, Caribbean and Pacific Young Professionals Network (ACP YPN) provides a platform for young people to have an active role in policy-making processes at the national, regional and international levels. The platform was inspired by the legally binding commitments that the EU and the ACP group of states took on youth cooperation (Article 26 Cotonou Partnership Agreement). The team used new technology to build its trans-continental “Youth Expert Database” for young people to realise their potential and to stimulate the use of this ambitious commitment on cooperation.
All of ACP YPN’s activities and advocacy contribute to ensuring ‘responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels’ (target 16.7) to provide solutions for youth and institutions globally (in line with the Sustainable Development Goal, SDG 16). In particular, with the forthcoming revision of the EU-ACP partnership, ACP YPN established horizontal and vertical cooperation to ensure the inclusion of youth in the consultation process launched by the EU. The network was the only youth-owned organisation to submit a response to the European Commission’s consultation on the future of ACP–EU Partnership.
ACP YPN carefully analysed where youth had been left out of the partnership, for more than forty years, and created the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly Youth Forum. The Forum established a formal space for young people to meet with 100+ EU and ACP parliamentarians for the first time since parliamentary meetings began in 1963 and was recognised as an official parliament by the JPA in 2016. The Network has also become member of the EU-Caribbean Forum Joint Consultative Committee that monitors the Economic Partnership Agreements. The organisation had been already monitoring trade agreements in the European Parliament for the past three years.
Vision – Co-developing a youth-centered partnership
Innovation cannot last without a vision. Horizontal and vertical cooperation shows that effective youth participation is possible but it must be accompanied by visionary institutional partnerships. In this case, efforts cannot come only from young people but also from the institutions. The AU is already engaging with youth from the diaspora, also known as the 6th region. ACP YPN is a member of the AU Youth Advisory Board (YAB) at the African Union Headquarters and a member of the AU Youth Diaspora Task Force of the AU mission to the EU. The network, inter alia, collaborates with the AU Youth Division to develop and implement activities and pilot initiatives with other African and diaspora youth organisations to foster youth employment. The network is a direct interlocutor to the AU institutions and their youth programmes.
In the run up to the AU-EU Summit, ACP YPN has been actively harnessing the interest the Institutions have in youth partnerships – through its active participation in the EU-Africa Civil Society Organisation Forum, or in its co-hosting of the S&D Africa week’s Youth Workshop at the European Parliament – to ensure that innovation is always coupled with vision. It is therefore not surprising that ACP YPN was the co-organiser of the Africa-EU Youth summit and it actively participated in a variety of different initiatives promoting young people’s issues. These include the Pan African Youth Union (PYU), The African Diaspora Youth Network in Europe (ADYNE), the European Youth Forum, the Network of International Youth organisation in Africa (NIYOAH) and the African Diaspora Youth Forum in Europe (ADYFE).
Dedication – looking to the future together
What we need to see now, is dedication. Transcontinental youth-led and youth-owned organisation like ACP YPN can offer much food for thought. It is key to keep on learning from the lessons and existing best practice: this is the only way to generate the innovation and vision that is needed in a renewed EU-Africa partnership dedicated to be with youth.