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Cameroon’s Youth Leaders Offer Advice on Reaching MDGs for Education, Gender Equality

September 9, 2010

  • Youth suffer disproportionately during the global financial crisis but can play important roles in reducing poverty
  • World Bank representatives in Cameroon are partnering with other organizations to address problems facing the country’s youth
  • Cameroon is on track to meet two of the MDGs concerning universal primary education and gender equality

YAOUNDE– Sept. 9, 2010 - Eighty-seven percent of people ages 15 to 20 worldwide live in developing countries and as the global economic crisis continues, these young people bear a disproportionate share of its negative impacts. They have lost jobs, struggled to make ends meet and have less access to education.

And as the world’s economies struggle to stabilize, the World Bank and its partners are encouraging government leaders to focus on the specific needs of these young people and embrace their potential role in reducing poverty. To highlight the importance of this group, two of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals -- those for universal primary education and gender equality -- place an emphasis on youth and women.

The central African country of Cameroon is on track to meet both of these goals by 2015. At two recent meetings in the capitol Yaoundé, sixty experts including World Bank representatives, government officials, private sector and civil society members discussed Cameroon’s progress towards these two goals and reinforced the importance of youth involvement in the country’s future.

“I am calling on decisions makers to listen to the needs of young people and respond to them. I call on government to enter meaningful dialogue with young people and to develop a mutual understanding on how to jointly address the development challenges facing us,” said Thoroya Ahmed Obaid the executive director of the United Nations Population Fund. “Let us enter a partnership across generations to fulfill the promise of the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals to create a more peaceful and just world.”

The meetings coincided with the launch of the UN’s International Year of the Youth and the International Day of Youth on Aug. 12. “Dialogue and Mutual understanding,” was the theme of the meetings in an effort to encourage communication between partners and decision makers regardless of color, religious beliefs, gender, race and political beliefs.

Representatives specializing in women and youth groups, as well as community-based organizations and NGOs from around Cameroon came to the events, held over two days at the United Nations Center of Information and the Hotel Djeuga. The acting representative of the UN system, the president of Cameroon Youths and Students Forum for Peace and the president of the National Youth Counsel gave speeches.

A representative of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also delivered a message on Mr. Ban’s behalf.

Representatives in Yaoundé outlined the following factors for Cameroon youth to reach the MDGs:

  • Empower young people to get involved in issues that affect them
  • Mobilize young people through youth groups, school programs, scout, movements, sports clubs, working children's organizations and children's, parliaments to become dialogue actors
  • Build capacity, educate skills and increase knowledge for dialogue, using the recommendations for young people of the International Youth Day to promote inter-youth dialogues and education to help reduce poverty, unemployment, end violence and rampant migration
  • Know to advocate and defend the institutional framework on youth of Cameroon and Africa
  • Share links to other education and support programs, videos, conferences, photographs, etc.
  • Encourage government collaboration with young people and their organizations to set up structures for child/youth participation
  • Value the contributions of young people in achieving positive change
  • Preserve the dignity and safety of children and young people everywhere.

The August gathering comes before a meeting later in September where partners working with the UN to reach the MDGs, including the World Bank, will come together in New York under the theme Accelerating the achievement of MDGs by 2015: Enhancing women and youth participation to address remaining Challenges.

Cameroon isn’t the only African country facing high youth unemployment the problem is graver than in other countries. According to the International Labour Organization, the youth unemployment rate in sub-Saharan Africa rose to 8.2 percent in 2009.

The youth unemployment rate in Cameroon stands at 13 percent, according to the National Institute of Statistics, as quoted by Eugine Ngalim, executive director of Cameroon Youths and Students Forum for Peace. Seventy-five percent of these live in the cities and 68 percent in rural areas. The Ministry of Employment and Vocational Training reports that in 2007, about 3 million youth were inadequately employed.

One participant asked about redesigning the national policy towards youth to overcome “the endemic poverty in the youth milieu.” For its part, the government of Cameroon is following strategies outlined in the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper as part of the national effort working towards the MDGs. It also recently revised the Strategy Document for Growth and Employment (SDGE).

Cameroon holds a different economic position than other counties, participants at the meeting stressed. Its strengths include diverse natural resources and agriculture, a large and well-educated youth population and a geostrategic location neighboring countries that hold potential to become good markets.

A group of youth drew up their own recommendations on the MDGs:

  • Youth participation is one of the guiding principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and it is a fundamental right for young people as it enables them to express their views and opinions, influence policy outcomes and involve themselves in all matters that affect their own lives.
  • Young people basically need tasks for growing, good examples to help them find their way and participate in communities.
  • A cross cutting vision of development problems should be promoted in a way that public private partnership be more used for the benefit of people at the grassroots at national, regional and global level.
  • Social dialogue has to be enhanced to enable the civil society to play a role, in a spirit of citizen’s control, by following national, regional and global agendas very closely. They should endeavor to influence legislations so as to include Human Rights.
  • Civil society youth organizations and senior organizations should build up a common working platform by putting the people’s real needs and interests at the forefront.
  • In response to competition threats from some neighboring countries, the Government should design and implement a specific strategy, directed towards the capitalization of it geo-strategic location with regard to land locked neighbors, through modern infrastructures, including a real connecting highway in addition to deep sea ports.

Sources: The Commonwealth Foundation has published “Breaking with Business as Usual: Perspective from Civil Society in the Commonwealth on the Millennium Development Goals in 2005 and “Breaking the taboo: perspective of African Civil Society in innovative sources of financing development in 2008. Policy Paper by Camyosfop, July 2010.