Involving young people in policy dialogue

Young people are rarely engaged in planning and policy processes that affect their lives. This is often a result of negative misconceptions about their skills and a failure to value their potential contribution to such processes. Young people from rural areas are particularly marginalized due to lack of visibility and geographical distance from the centres of power. An important issue is the lack of comprehensive data on rural youth as a distinct group, resulting in policies that do not respond to the real challenges faced by young rural people. Another issue is the lack of organization among rural youth to have their voice and interests represented. In many developing countries, young women's participation in policy-making is also challenging as a result of traditional beliefs about the suitability of women to hold decision-making positions and the persistence of gender inequalities at household level.

 

Including the youth perspective

The absence of young people from discussions about the future of rural areas means that policy and planning debates lose their unique perspectives and ideas on their own situation. Policy-makers need to exchange ideas and share experiences with all stakeholders interested in promoting development of the younger generations and in giving a voice to young representatives in policy processes. Proactive measures are needed to enable active participation by girls and young women as well as boys and young men in policymaking and planning at all levels.

In recent years, IFAD has initiated several meetings and workshops to engage young people in policy dialogues and decision-making processes. During IFAD's Cartagena workshop on rural youth entrepreneurship in November 2010, participants discussed ideas for connecting young people to enable them to share innovations, experiences and ideas and to more effectively participate in key decision-making processes. One of the thematic areas was non-inclusion of young rural people in government development plans and strategies. An outcome of the Cartagena workshop was the creation of the Global Youth Innovation Network (GYIN), a dynamic platform inspired and led, owned and driven by youth and open to rural youth with the passion to inspire their communities and become agents of change.

 

Youth participation in focus

In 2011, the IFAD Governing Council addressed the issue of rural youth under the topic of "Feeding Future Generations: Young rural people today – prosperous, productive farmers tomorrow". The discussions focused on how to initiate an environment and incentives that will create attractive livelihood opportunities for young rural women and men in agriculture and how to involve young people in decision-making and employment generating policies at local and national levels. During the event, youth organizations were invited to discuss the issues affecting their lives in rural areas as farmers and off farm entrepreneurs.

Building on the momentum from the Governing Council, the 2012 Farmers' Forum also put youth perspectives on agriculture and life in rural areas in the spotlight. The Farmers' Forum adopted a Youth Declaration which advocated for stronger youth representation, particularly in farmers' organizations, and for young people to be more involved in policy-making processes, from design to implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

IFAD-supported projects focus on strengthening the participation of young rural people in policy dialogues. In Latin America, an IFAD grant supported the training of 40 young leaders from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay to strengthen their role as representatives of the family farming sub-sector and as direct participants in an on-going dialogue on rural and agricultural development. In West and Central Africa, young professionals from the region are hired by IFAD for design and supervision missions and the Fund partners with youth-led organizations both to learn more about young people and to give them a stronger voice at the national level. An example is the collaboration between IFAD projects in the region and the Global Youth Innovation Network (GYIN) where members of GYIN participate in design and supervision missions.