Through multi-stakeholder consultations, the organizers of the China-Africa Conference on Population and Development decided that young people should lead their own dialogues, foster relationships and build networks that would result in opportunities for growth and development. This was the core intention of the ‘Youth4Youth’ Forum, which sought to bring forward youth perspectives on the global development agenda in the context of Africa and China. In this regard, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) China and Ghana Country Offices organized the first Youth4Youth Forum, which was hosted by the Government of Ghana through the Ministry of Planning and the National Population Council. The Forum was held between 23 and 26 June 2019 in Accra, Ghana, as part of the 3rd Africa-China Conference. The UNFPA offices across Africa and in China mobilized youth organizations and provided financial and technical support.
The Youth4Youth Forum was aimed to:
- create a youth-led avenue for dialogue;
- improve young people’s awareness of Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs);
- provide a platform to showcase youth-led interventions and innovations;
- build networks to influence national decisions towards the realization of gender equality.
The Youth4Youth Forum attracted 345 young leaders from 17 countries in Africa, in addition to China. The Forum highlighted the aspirations of youth in order to inform national and global development policies.
The implementation process for the Forum consisted of three phases:
- Pre-Forum awareness activities;
- The Forum;
- Post Forum follow-up.
The Pre-Forum awareness activities ensured that the inputs of young people, even those who could not be in the actual Forum, would be fully reflected. The organizers utilized a participatory approach ensuring that a diverse group of Forum participants included rural youth, youth from marginalized sectors, including PWDs as well as in and out-of-school young people.
The Forum was a one-day event open to the media. Social media platforms served as key avenues to ensure continuous interactions between young people participating in the Conference and those who could not attend in person. As part of the follow-up to the Forum, a Declaration document was disseminated and used as a tool to engage relevant stakeholders.
As a lead convener, UNFPA Ghana worked with several youth groups and youth-led civil society organizations, such as the Youth Action Movement of the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana-(PPAG) and Curious Minds Ghana. At the helm of this mobilization were the Fellows of the Youth Leaders Fellowship Programme of UNFPA Ghana, whose participants were part of the planning process. The Fellows, with guidance from UNFPA and the Government, developed the content and structure of the Forum. UNFPA Ghana also facilitated additional learning event for the young Chinese participants by arranging visits to the University of Ghana and the Disability Village. It also made the necessary arrangements with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ghana for the participants’ visas.
The Forum used innovative ways to elicit the views of young people. These included a call for video submissions where young people stated problems they faced in their countries and ideas on how they could be solved. The videos were compiled into the State of the Youth Address (SoYA) that was further deliberated on during the Forum. There was also an online event prior to the Forum to create awareness. The same online platform was utilized during the Forum as an efficient way to elicit inputs from participants.
Other technology-enabled approaches included a ‘Tweet Meet’ session that utilized Twitter to engage with youth participants. Participants offered their views and answered a variety of questions via Twitter. After becoming familiar with the modality, there was an exchange of ideas on how to engage rural youth and how to exploit South-South cooperation, among other topics.
There was an exhibition session where young entrepreneurs showcased their innovations in technology, arts and crafts, among others. In order to bridge the gap in access to youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health and services, there were mobile health booths.
As a result of the Forum, youth organizations became enthusiastically involved in achieving ICPD goals. In Ghana, for example, young people’s inputs became part of Ghana’s ICPD commitments, which were presented at the Summit in Nairobi on 12–14 November 2019. Many of the youth participants also joined a youth-led national march during the observance in Ghana of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.
This initiative is sustainable and can be replicated by being held on the sidelines of future China-Africa Conferences on Population and Development as the youth component. It is equally possible to replicate this activity in other countries or regions. The forum was documented in a video and written reports are available online for reference.