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My participation to Pan African Youth Conference on Learning for Sustainability

Pan African Youth Conference on Learning for Sustainability was held at Silver Springs Hotel, in Nairobi, Kenya on January 30 to 31, 2013The Conference brought together ‘young’ minds involved in sustainable development (SD) and green economy (GE) throughout Africa. The Conference theme was “Empowering Youths for Sustainable Development”. It was organised by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) programme offices in Africa (WWF ESARPO, WWF CARPO and WWF MWIOPO) on the development of a Pan African Youth Strategy on Learning for Sustainability.For two days this was a chance to network, share experiences, and learn from each other. I was invited to present a paper on “Youth Involvement in Sustainable Development and Contribution towards a Green Economy in Zimbabwe”. Sustainable development is “the development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (World Conference on Environment and Development, 1987).Generally, presentations were from over 50 male and female representatives from English, French, and Portuguese speaking countries all over Africa. The majority of these were youths with various portfolios in home countries.In his welcome remarks, Niall O’ Connor (WWF) tackled the question why youths are important. He observed the following: youths had a different way of thinking, we don’t yet know the solutions, and that given the energy, innovativeness, and creativity of youths can create a different economy going forward.Some of the expectations from participants were:“Learn from the pool of African young intellectuals”“Voice of the youths to be considered in the Pan African Draft strategy”“Produce information that will be helpful in influencing policies in Africa”“For everyone to learn something from the conference”“To develop action plans specific to the countries represented”“Join the youths in Africa into one team under one leadership”“Consider the rights of women and indigenous peoples”Key youth messages from the Conference:
  • Stop underestimating African youths (Sahkri Khalil, Algerian representative)
  • Young people offer the best hope (UN HABITAT representative)
  • Promote the discussions on SD and GE in Africa. Developing countries can share their best practices, i.e. North-North, North-South, and South-South (UN HABITAT representative)
  • Future lies in innovations that embrace sustainability (Keynote address by Hon. Ababu Namwamba, Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports, Kenya)  
  • Youths are leaders of today and tomorrow (Keynote address by Hon. Ababu Namwamba, Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports, Kenya)  
  • Craft ways of getting youth concerns to policy makers (Ghana representatives)
  • Decisions made in the past and those made now are shaping your future (Karl Morrison, NewCourse - Canada)
  • Sustainable development has got 3 dimensions: equity, environmental, and economic. The economic dimension, under which agriculture fits into, was of interest to me. Scholars agree that agriculture; in particular smallholder agriculture is a primer for economic development in Africa. As such, it demands equal attention on the SD and GE agenda.
The major highlights of the Conference were:
  • Key documents and paper presentations for use in SD and GE, for example, “Africa Ecological Footprint Report: Green Infrastructure for Africa’s Ecological Security (2012) – World Wide Fund for Nature and African Development Bank”
  • A declaration on Pan African Youths
  • A summary of participants commitments
  • A Pan African Youth Strategy yet to be finalised by the WWF
How do we move forward after the declaration?
  • Update from WWF on the official launch of the Pan African Youth Strategy. This step is critical to the implementation of the actions contained in the document and sharing with stakeholders as well
  • Organise activities in Zimbabwe on the theme “Youth Involvement in Sustainable Development and Contribution towards a Green Economy”
  • Share the outcomes of the conferences with stakeholders
  • Revisit the Zimbabwe National Youth Policy to see where the outcomes are addressed
  • Use of Internet based technologies – Participants created a Face book page---African youths in Sustainable Development. This page will be used to further discussions in SD and GE.
At the closing remarks, Dr. Taye Teferi (WWF) urged youths to: stay in touch, stay engaged,and stay energised. Also, as a charge to African youths, he quoted from John F. Kennedy U.S. Inaugural President Address of Friday, January 20, 1961 to fellow Americans, “ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country”.Additional information  Twitter: @WWF_ESACampaigns: #killthetradeWeb: book: WWF Eastern & Southern Africa