All Eyes on the Goals: Creating youth partnerships to achieve the Millennium Development Goals
Between Mombasa and Cape Town, young activists from countries in sub-Saharan Africa joined the 68th Global Voyage to discuss the development needs of the continent from a youth perspective. Keeping in mind the 2015 deadline to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), project organizers – Peace Boat and the United Nations Millennium Campaign (UNMC) – aimed to create a network between development-oriented organizations and design an action agenda to present to governments and policymakers in Africa and Japan. Above and beyond the creation of a final document, for the activists it was a chance to strengthen connections between their organizations and to share the advocacy strategies each use in their home countries. The nine participants represented organizations that promote themes such as gender equality, vocational training and decent work, particularly for young people.
Mwaura Kaara, who represented the UNMC office in Kenya during the six-day forum, said the concept of decent work is one of the main issues that needs to be addressed in order to lift Africa out of poverty. Decent work is not just a matter of earning the bare minimum to survive; it’s about ensuring everyone can have sustainable and dignified employment, in their own country. According to the most recent MDGs progress report, 51 per cent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa lives on less than $1.25 USD a day, which is down from the percentage in 1990 – 58 per cent – but not nearly close to the goal of halving that number by 2015. The report goes on to say, “More than half of those employed in (the sub-Saharan) region were among the extreme working poor, and more than three quarters of workers were engaged in vulnerable employment.”
After nearly a week of plenary and exchange sessions, the African Youth participants prepared what they titled a consensus statement on the theme “Working out of poverty: A decent work approach to development.” Emmanuel Edudzie, of Ghana, presented the document at an onboard press conference in Cape Town, and spoke on behalf of the group. He highlighted recommendations brought up during the forum, including eliminating the need to migrate overseas to find employment, investing in skill-training programmes for young woman and providing government incentives to keep children in school and out of forced labour.
Mr Obed Bapela, Member of Parliament and House Chairperson of the National Assembly of South Africa, welcomed Peace Boat to the country and spoke about the importance of Goal #2 – universal primary education – in the fight against poverty and hunger. “Thirty-eight million children in Africa are still not at school,” Mr Bapela told the crowd. “Without education you will always have dependency.” Education, he added, empowers people to identify opportunities and lift themselves out of poverty, not wait for someone else – governments or aid organizations – to do it for them. He expressed his gratitude to countries such as Kenya, Uganda and Mozambique, where governments have eliminated fees and seen an increase in school enrolment.
While that is a remarkable success, governments around the continent, and the globe, still have much more to do in the next five years. “We’ve got so much to cover in terms of achieving the (Millennium Development) Goals in Africa,” says Thato Letho, a South African participant who works with the ruling African National Congress. Not enough people are aware of or understand the MDGs and in developed countries, including Japan, she says, there isn’t the same level of poverty which makes it difficult to understand the struggles faced by people living in Africa. “I feel that they should make it their duty to go out and see what’s out there and how they can make a difference; that’s if they believe in unity and working together and assisting the people who can’t help themselves.”
Peace Boat has made the MDGs campaign a focal point of the 68th Global Voyage with the African Youth Forum and the MDGs Dance Project. Under the direction of Kim Heechon, the troupe interprets the eight goals through original dances: For many of the team members, being a part of the project was the first time to learn about and discuss the MDGs.
Click here to view the consensus statement, “Working out of poverty: A decent work approach to development.”