Post-2015 Development Agenda and Youth, the Vision of Dutch cyclists

09 June 2015

The imminent end to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the end of 2015 has generated the question, “What next?” which has also elicited the response, “Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) being a component of the ‘Post-2015 Agenda”. The SDGs are “structured to build on the achievements of the MDGs while strengthening some other aspects. The momentum of the MDGs must be doubled and sustained under the Post-2015 Agenda. One of the ways is to sufficiently equip the youth through sensitisation and awareness of their roles and opportunities inherent in the framework of development as captured in the Post-2015 Agenda. 

It was in the light of the above that the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI) New York, in January this year, organised a sensitisation video conference for a number of UN Information Centres (UNICs) including UNIC Lagos. Briefing the UNICs at the conference were the Youth Ambassador of The Netherlands to the UN General Assembly, Mr Jilt van Schayik and his partner, Mr Teun Meulepas, representing the Building Bridges Project. They had decided to ride a bicycle across two continents to promote youth development within the framework of the UN Post-2015 Agenda. 

In February 2015, the two Dutch Cyclists, van Schayik, and Meulepas, took off from Amsterdam, The Netherlands and would ride a distance of 17,000 kilometres over a period of six months to arrive in Cape Town, South Africa in August. By that time, they would have ridden their bicycles across 22 countries in two continents. The two young cyclists are members of the “Building Bridges Project”, an international youth initiative, which pictures the United Nations post-2015 agenda from a youth perspective, focusing on the priorities of young people and women at the grassroots level and their vision of the world in 2030. 

Interestingly, as they move from one country to the other seeking to improve the relationship between young people on the ground and decision makers at the United Nations, they are engaging and inspiring the youths they meet to aspire to greatness by participating in UN activities in their neighbourhoods and by contributing to their nation’s development. On each occasion the youths were engaged, the cyclists are leaving a footprint of excitement and a group of young people fired up to excel in life and support their communities. This is probably one of the reasons that when scores of young Togolese welcomed van Schayik, and Meulepas to Togo, one of them, Mr Julio Atti, opted to accompany the two Dutch cyclists to Lagos, Nigeria.

Stopping over in Lagos, the cycling team, now three, two Dutch and one Togolese, were received by the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Lagos and the Embassy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands. Of course, fifteen Nigerian cyclists and over sixty other youths from three higher educational institutions and a secondary school were also on hand to welcome the ‘cross-continent’ cyclists whose triumphant entry to UNIC premises received a spontaneous applause by the waiting audience. No doubt, the young cyclists have conquered weather elements, from snowy Europe to around 47 degree Celsius in the Sahel region of Africa.

In his welcome remarks, the Director of UNIC Lagos, Mr. Ronald Kayanja, acknowledged the resilience and commitment of van Schayik and Meulepas, for channeling their youthful energies into constructive engagement of other youths in Europe and Africa, as well as building bridges between and amongst youths across the continents through cycling.  He called on Nigerian youths to reposition themselves for the Post-2015 development even as the global community transits from MDGs to the SDGs. “Towards this end”, he continued, “youths need to acquaint themselves with the seventeen drafted SDGs and the scores of associated result areas”. Kayanja added that “In September this year in New York, member states of the United Nations will meet to agree on the goals (SDGs) we shall use as our target for the coming 15 years.

In his remarks, the Trade Advisor, Embassy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands in Lagos, Taco Westerhuis, commended the cyclists for the courage to undertake the journey; and their Nigerian counterparts for their team spirits and for daring to ride bicycles on the busy Lagos roads.  He urged Nigerian youths to connect with every developmental initiative in their neighbourhoods.

Explaining the rationale behind the journey during the interactive session, van Schayik pointed out that his team sought to involve young people in policy making and bridging the gap between young people and policy makers. The Building Bridges project, he continued, “connects, shares and inspires youths in Africa and Europe through youth consultations, debates and conferences to raise awareness for the urgent challenges that exist around the United Nations’ post-2015 development agenda and gender equality”.

Responding to the National President of the All Nigeria United Nation Students Association (ANUNSA), Ms Elizabeth Ukoha’s question on mobilising youth for development, Meulepas, started “But what we have realised is that, in all these things, young people are either not interested or are not well informed about what is going on. So their participation is minimal”.

There is so much in the UN Post-2015 Agenda for youth that it will amount to socio-economic suicide for any young person not to be involved. Nigerian youth must key into global scheme of things and draw inspiration for personal and national development. The laid-back ones cannot excel. Only the hard-working ones will reach the top. The two Dutch cyclists are worthy of emulation by all the youth around the world. Key into Post-2015 Agenda, develop yourself and do something for others.

Human Rights and the Culture of Peace at IRIC

24 April 2015

The 49th edition of National Youth Day in Cameroon was celebrated on 11 February 2015, under the theme "Youth and the Preservation of Peace for an Emergent Cameroon". 

As part of commemorative activities, the UN System in collaboration with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Civic Education (MINJEC) carried out a series of events in February. In prolongation, the UN System with UNIC Yaounde as lead, organized a conference-debate on “Human Rights and the Culture of Peace” at the International Relations Institute of Cameroon (IRIC) in Yaounde, last 24 April on the theme: “Role of Youths in the Culture of Peace”. 

The debate was moderated by Professor Alain Didier Olinga of International Relations Institute of Cameroon (IRIC) and recorded interventions from Mrs Dorothée Oungene from the UN Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa, Mr Loïtéohin Félix Ye, Resident Representative of UNESCO, and Jean Pierre Loic Nkulu Atangana, President of “Conseil Communal de la Jeunesse de Yaoundé III”, and Executive Director of the Association “Children's Rights Cameroon”. 

Mrs Dorothée Oungene situated Human Rights in the context of peace, highlighting the attributes of Human Rights, link between Human Rights and Peace and limits of Human Rights in this context of a culture of Peace. 

Using Powerpoint, Mr. Loïtéohin Félix Ye of UNESCO presents the concept of the Culture of Peace, situates its relevance in an Africa plagued by civil unrests and terrorist attacks such as those perpetrated by the Boko Haram group in Nigeria and Cameroon. Mr Nkulu focused on concrete activities carried out by his Association to promote a culture of Peace in Africa and beyond. 

Both panelists and participants concluded that only a sustained culture of peace, built on the respect for human rights can enhance the relative economic growth rate currently being witnessed in Africa. This event had about 150 youths, students, members of Youth Associations, President of the Cameroon National Youth Council, MINJEC, UN colleagues (UNDP, WHO, UNCHRD, UNIC, UNAIDS, UNESCO). 

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Use social media wisely and positively – UNIC tells youths as Social Media Week Lagos holds

26 February 2015
Group photo

Nigerian youths have been urged to use the various social media platforms wisely and positively to enhance their self-development and that of the society. ‘Your social media activities could add value to you or devalue you, use social media wisely and positively’, the National Information Officer of the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Lagos, Oluseyi Soremekun, had told an audience of predominantly youths during the Social Media Week Lagos.

The Social Media Week Lagos organized by UNIC and a Non-Governmental Organisation, DoTheDream Initiative, was held at the Library Auditorium of the UN Information Centre (UNIC) Ikoyi Lagos.

The National Information Officer warned the youths to be careful of what they do in the cyber space, explaining that from their social media posts, comments and tweets, opinions could be formed about their character and disposition to issues and people.

‘You are what you like on Facebook; your tweets mirror your personality and what you stand for; your social media posts are reflections of your character,’ Soremekun explained, ‘therefore, keep your activities clean and positive as you are accountable for your action and must be ready to bear the consequences of your actions.’

The National Information Officer who spoke on ‘Using Social media wisely’, also urged the youths to always cross-checked their contents very well before posting for public view. He added that contents, including photographs and videos that were not created by them should be credited to the copyright owners.

In his presentation on ‘Social media, the Game changer’, a social media expert and family therapist, Olutayo Olushola, underscored the capability of the social media to transform businesses and lives. He charged the youths to always nurture positive thoughts and harness the power of social networking to transform lives.

The Founder and Director of Programmes of DoTheDream Initiative, Olutayo Olumadewa had earlier welcomed the participants and enjoined them to make the best use of the opportunity to learn more about optimizing the benefits of the social media.

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Youth Outreach Event on the “Role of Youths in the Post 2015 Development Agenda”

09 February 2015

The UN System in Cameroon in partnership with the Cameroon National Youth Council organized a Youth Outreach event on the “Role of Youths in the Post 2015 Development Agenda” on Tuesday 17 February 2015 at the UNIC Conference Room. This was chaired by the Resident Representative of UNFPA; Ms. Barbara M. Sow and the President of the National Youth Council, Mr. Jean-Marc Mbafor, as second panelist.

The discussion was a forum for exchange with youths on the “future we want”, and geared towards giving answers to the question “What is the role of youth in the post-2015 agenda?” 

Ms Barbara Sow urged the more than 45 youths present to focus on their roles as individuals, citizens, and as youth in making the world a better one. Ms Sow called on youths to be constructively engaged in burning issues in Cameroon and the world. She presented her own role by stressing that «J'ai la responsabilité des vous inciter d'être les leaders d'ici 2030, les leaders qui vérifieront si le monde aura atteint les Objectives du développement durable.»

Mr. Jean-Marc Mbafor deplored the huge youth apathy observed, as youths have resigned from issues which are supposed to be theirs. Youth mobilisation is thus greatly weakened. "We need to set up institutions that enable youth to be part of the implementation of the Post-2015 agenda and institution to hold our governments accountable. But the state will never give us everything that we demand, so we need to take over some responsibilities ourselves", he emphasises.

Both panellists and the participants agreed that entry points for youth participation in governance have to be created, and that youth need to participate actively in the development of Cameroon also, in order to be taken seriously as a counterpart with whom the government can work. 

At both the Open day exposition and the Youth Outreach event, Ms. Paula Hogrebe drummed support for the “MyWorld Campaign” and invited Youths to vote either on the spot or online by selecting 6 top priorities of ‘how they want the world to be’, from a list of 16 objectives. 

As contribution, Youth participants stated the need of a quota of ministerial and leadership positions to be attributed to youth, and recommended that "through a youth civil service, youth should contribute to development projects in rural and disadvantaged areas. Even if service is not institutionalized, youths should go out and get engaged! Support digging a well or something alike!" These discussions which once again proved the dynamism of the Cameroonian youth were moderated by UNIC’s Jean Njita. In attendance were colleagues from UNDP/UNV, UNAIDS, WHO, ILO, UNFPA, and UNESCO.

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