Building peace in the minds of men and women

UNESCO supports the creation of a National Youth Parliament in Ghana

On 27 and 28 February 2013, a workshop was held in Accra, with the support of UNESCO, to reflect on how young Ghanaians could become more active in politics. It has opened the way for the creation of a National Youth Parliament, which could be established by 2014 if the roadmap adopted at the workshop is duly followed.

Over a two day period at the end of February 2013, representatives of youth organizations and Ghanaian civil society, along with officials of the National Youth Authority met in Accra to explore the possibility of establishing, at the earliest, a National Youth Parliament in Ghana.

The workshop was organized by the Youth Bridge Foundation and supported by UNESCO as part of its Strategy for African Youth promoting youth participation in political governance.

Welcoming the youth’s initiative, Ghana’s new Minister of Youth and Sports, Hon. Mr Elvis Afriyie Ankrah urged the young people to "take their responsibilities seriously", while expressing his conviction that young Ghanaians would eventually take "leadership" in Ghana, even much faster than they themselves can imagine.

At the opening ceremony, Minister Ankrah  reiterated the commitment of his government to work closely with young people, noting that the country's policy on youth  ̶  officially launched in 2010 by the then Vice President, today the President of Ghana, H.E. Mr John Dramani Mahama  ̶  called for the establishment of  a National Youth Parliament.

The coordinator of the National Youth Authority , Ms Sedina Tamakloe Attinou, traced the genesis of the efforts required to establish such a platform of youth expression and consultation on matters that concern them and affect their well-being. She recognized that this project was prior to 2010,  but however noted that the idea, in fact, probably reached its peak during the same year, with  the adoption of a national youth policy.

As the agency responsible for coordination activities related to youth within the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Ghana, the National Youth Authority  remains fully committed to the realization of a National Youth Parliament in Ghana. Ms Tamakloe Attinou noted that since the adoption of the country's youth policy, several important steps have already been taken, including the convening of a National Consultative Assembly – shortly after the policy was adopted in 2010 – to start removing structural and legal challenges that could potentially hinder the initiative.

According to the coordinator of the National Youth Authority , the workshop convened by the Youth Bridge Foundation with the support of UNESCO was the second major event since 2010. It has contributed to advance towards the creation of this Parliament and brought together, for the first time, all stakeholders who could turn this idea into reality.

Also participating in the workshop, the Chairman of the Special Parliamentary Committee on Youth and Sports of Ghana, Hon. Kobena Woyome, called for closer cooperation between youth organizations and the national parliament, as the process evolves.  For the Chairman, there is no doubt that the introduction of "parliamentary simulations" in higher education institutions across the world is a step in the right direction for young people.

After two days of discussions, which included a series of working groups and plenary discussions, the workshop participants adopted a roadmap which will be implemented between March, 2013 and May 2014 by which time it is hoped that the National Youth Parliament would have been established.

Several issues related to the problem of representation remained to be resolved to make the Parliament work, including the issue of capacity of parliamentary youth and the relationship between the National Parliament and the National Youth Parliament.

On these points, the exchanges greatly benefited from the participation of Dishon Kirima, President Emeritus of the National Youth Parliament of Kenya, who invited workshop participants to reflect on the experience of Kenya, sharing best practices with Ghanaian youth.

In his closing remarks, Seth Oteng, Executive Director of the Youth Bridge Foundation, stressed the need for young Ghanaians to "take advantage of their democratic force" and make sure they are fully represented at all levels of government. Affirming its "total commitment to push" for a Ghanaian Youth Parliament, Mr Oteng was convinced that "this is a great opportunity that should not pass". He invited all youth representatives to relay the message to their respective communities to generate broad support for this initiative at the national level and create the condition for fully implementing the roadmap adopted at the workshop.

Abdul Rahman Lamin
Programme Specialist, Social and Human Sciences
UNESCO Office in Accra