The International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Global Youth Forum was held in Bali, Indonesia, from 4th -6th December 2012 in the context of the reviewing and following up to the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action beyond 2014 and development agenda beyond 2015.
The aim was to produce recommended actions for the outcome report of the review and for the post 2015 United Nations development agenda as well as to generate a new consensus on putting youth rights at the heart of development.
I attended the conference as a youth network leader in the capacities as a Malawi Representative for YPARD and African Young Scientists Initiative in Climate Change and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (AYSICCIKS), an initiative spearheaded by NEPAD-AU.
The major themes for the GYF were rather obscure to me at first as a young agricultural researcher. The themes included staying healthy; comprehensive education; families, youth-rights and well being, including sexuality; transition to decent work; and leadership and meaningful participation.
My immediate reaction was like, where is agriculture here? During the conference, I tried to meet lots of young people to find if the agenda for agriculture would be advanced in any of the world café. But it was all futile.
I then waited for the Bali Global Youth Forum Declaration, but alas!! a simple content analysis did not find any this buzzword agriculture. The gathering was organized under the auspices of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) not Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as such the priorities immediately shifted towards health, sexuality, family planning and so on. Should young peoples discourses be based on who is funding the events? This is a question we have to grapple with as we engage in these development discourses.
Where does Agriculture stand?
Nonetheless, I managed to draw parallels between what an agricultural research and development practitioner considers his/her tool kit and the Global Youth Forum discussions.
If we narrowly expound on the major themes of the GYF, the discussions that took place and the outcomes, we will discover many hidden issues for which young agricultural researchers and development practitioners become key players.
Firstly, on staying health; we will immediately get to the never ending egg and chicken dilemma. Without food which is a product of agriculture, we cannot stay healthy. At the same time, we need to stay healthy in order to produce the food. Thus, the nexus between health and agriculture is rather too important to be ignored in our discourses as agricultural researchers. One of the recommended actions for this thematic session was data. Without diluting the gist of the recommendation, it is copied in its original form:
"Governments should develop and strengthen multi-stakeholder partnerships with private sector, civil society and young people, in collecting, analyzing, using and disseminating periodic, reliable, qualitative and quantitative output and outcomes-oriented youth health (it can also be agricultural, Maxwell) data, which is disaggregated by age (10-14,15-19,20-24), gender, sex and other factors and supports evidence-based policies and programmes.
Invest in building the capacity of young people to collect and validate data, ensuring youth-led and youth-friendly monitoring and evaluation mechanisms in the design, planning and implementation of national policies and programmes."
I feel all stakeholders need to consider this recommendation in the agricultural sector as well if we are actively engage young people development initiatives.
Secondly on comprehensive education; we will immediately ask ourselves, what is education if it does not prepare one for real life i.e. that which that defines his/her identity? Education that is relevant should prepare one not only for work but also for life.
As YPARD we have exclusively done research and shared ideas on how our education systems should change or otherwise incorporate skill oriented, practical and relevant aspects that are delivered using tools that are youth friendly (use of ICT). The Bali declaration was in line with these views as we can see from this recommendation on relevant education.
"Governments and other stakeholders, with the active and meaningful participation of adolescents and youth, should develop and implement effective systems for appropriate curriculum development and periodic review to empower young people to gain relevant skills for employment and livelihoods, including promoting vocational educational programs and involvement of the private sector."
Thirdly on families, youth rights, wellbeing and sexuality; I immediately switched off. I went to the world cafés to hear what the experts would say only to be caught up in the discussions as I found some interesting issues that as agricultural researchers and development practitioners we can learn from. Lets consider youth rights in agriculture.
The youth in agriculture lack access to the following just because they are young; (i) access to credit (because they do not have collateral such as land) (ii) access to land (because they are still young). With the fashion word of rights based approach, I would say we need to consider youths access to these economic units as a human rights issue.
Fourthly on promotion of transitions to decent work; we/I immediately see agriculture being at the core of job creation particularly in developing and largely rural countries. As the population of young people increases at an increasing rate, we will either be banking on a demographic dividend or a demographic bomb.
While policies are necessary and to which our governments are very good at drafting for them to remain as such for the next 10 years, we need to deliberatively have budget lines for youth job creation activities.
Otherwise rhetoric will be the order of the day while young, hard working and equally qualified agricultural researchers and workers are still being relegated to being interns (not really bad but should not be the focus), volunteers, support staff and so on.
Leadership and youth participation
Finally, on leadership and meaningful youth participation; we immediately see ourselves being Senior Scientists in CGIARs, Principal Secretaries in agriculture-related ministries, large commercial farmers, and so on. But this is only a dream. Nonetheless in dreams we see the reality and reality is but someones dream.
Meaningful youth participation is not merely attending workshops and conferences like the GYF, it is rather the equal partnership with shared decision making and control over resources. When we work hard to get these, we will be on the verge of achieving meaningful youth participation.
In the opening and closing sessions, Agnes Monica (a well known actress and musician in Indonesia) gave the opening and closing motivational speeches. I wish we had a famous young farmer or agricultural researcher/worker in our countries to share his/her story one day. But as Agnes Monica said during the conference, miracles are called miracles because they were once not believed.