On the occasion of International Youth Day 2020, the Voices of Youth Coalition calls on all political parties and candidates to focus their campaign strategies on outlining measurable policies and programmes for helping young people to succeed in becoming productive members of society, active citizens, and drivers of socio-economic development.
We want the 2020 elections agenda to focus on youth for many reasons. Firstly, the demographics of young people provide a compelling justification for focusing on ways to improve their economic and social wellbeing. Young people aged 15 to 35 years account for about 35 per cent of Ghana’s population and failure to respond to the education, health, employment and other needs of this large share of our nation’s population continues to entrench poverty for current and future generations.
Secondly, young people are central to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Progress towards achieving the SDGs in Ghana will be determined, in part, by the situation of young people and bridging the gap between their present realities and the SDGs targets.
Also, focusing on youth will be in fulfilment of the Constitution of Ghana, the African Youth Charter, the United Nations World Programme of Action for Youth, and several other national, regional and international commitments. And there are many more reasons – including the human rights of young people to participation in policy formulation, decision-making, leadership, freedom of expression, and protection from all forms of abuse and violence.
In line with the theme of the International Youth Day 2020 – Youth Engagement for Global Action – we also call on all those contesting for political power to partner with youth at all levels towards a more inclusive and sustainable development process. As we draw close to the December 7 elections, youth voters will be watching out for candidates whose proposed development agenda focuses on young people’s hopes and aspirations as reflected in the Ghana Youth Manifesto and the People’s National Youth Policy both compiled  by the Voices of Youth Coalition in 2012 and 2016 respectively.
The Convenor of the Voices of Youth Coalition, Emmanuel Edudzie, reiterates:
“We no longer want our elections to be about which party can mobilise the most numbers of youth with a few Ghana Cedis here and there. We want to see concrete policies and programmes, we want assurances of space on the decision-making table, and we want a comprehensive national youth policy that shapes youth development in Ghana. After all, making youth the pivot of our national development agenda will have direct dividends for current and future generations”.
Given that young people remain largely at the periphery of socio-economic processes and development structures, with little recognition as social stakeholders, any effort to build a youth-inclusive Ghanaian society must first take a look at the architecture for youth development in the country. This should be done with the view of repositioning youth at the centre of the broader governance and development agenda. To succeed, the following actions are imperative:
Ghana needs a youth law that encompasses the National Youth Authority and sets the legislative framework for youth development in the country, including the institutional and technical frameworks for the promotion of youth rights, responsibilities, and structures.
It is time for Ghana to consider creating a dedicated Ministry of Youth Affairs and sufficiently resource it to oversee the many components of the national youth development agenda, including arrangements for effective consultations with young people.
As a matter of urgency, Ghana needs a new National Youth Policy that is properly researched and evidence-based, democratic and participatory, cross-sectional and transversal, coherent and coordinated, fairly budgeted and financed, monitored and evaluated, open and freely accessible.
The creation of an independent national umbrella body of youth-led organisations, groups and associations is long overdue! This will serve as the fulcrum for youth voices and youth input into national decision-making processes.
The Ghanaian youth will vote on issues in the 2020 elections. Making youth issues the focus of the elections agenda is therefore a wise thing to do. Political parties and candidates must demonstrate, beyond rhetoric, that they are committed to effective youth participation and development; doing so on the basis of a sound and comprehensive agenda for youth in the next government.
Happy International Youth Day!
About Voices of Youth Coalition:
The Voices of Youth Coalition is a youth-led platform for advocacy and action for youth participation in shaping the development agenda in Ghana. Formed in January 2012 as the main mechanism through which the flagship Ghana Youth Manifesto was developed, the Voices of Youth Coalition comprises young people and their organisations from all sixteen regions of the country, including local groups, student associations, and youth NGOs. The Coalition also benefits from the support of other stakeholders, including United Nations and international development agencies, civil society organisations, and the private sector.
The Voices of Youth Coalition is an initiative of youth-based NGO Youth Empowerment Synergy (YES-Ghana). In 2020, YES-Ghana is implementing two flagship projects focused on the general elections: the Young Peace Ambassadors project which aims to contribute to achieving a peaceful elections season in conflict-prone regions through capacity building, collaboration and youth-led activism; and the My Voice My Vote project which is improving the ability of young people in Ghana to articulate their issues, perspectives and recommendations in contributing to a more youth-inclusive agenda for the 2020 general elections.
 The Ghana Youth Manifesto and the Peoples National Youth Policy are available at http://www.yesghana.org/resources/publications/