22 December 2017 -  Over 400 youth selected based on their contributions to peacebuilding and development initiatives, from across Somalia, came together to celebrate what can be achieved when youth are active agents of change and peace in their societies, as the second National Youth Conference was held in Somalia.

The conference aimed at identifying emerging issues faced by young people, agreeing on priority areas for intervention and strengthening Somali youth networks and organizations by creating a safe platform for them to meet and collaborate. It also sought to foster intergenerational dialogue and cooperation while facilitating the avenues for young women and men to meet with decision-makers.

Jointly organized by the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports and in collaboration with various agencies of the United Nations, including UN-Habitat Somalia, the conference also presented a prime opportunity for the Director of Programmes Division of UN-Habitat to engage with the Prime Minister of the Federal Government of Somalia on the various challenges around the urban planning capacity of cities in light of the massive influx of internally displaced people and to look at approaches for achieving urban growth and improved sustainability through planning and design at all levels.

Promoting youth as community stakeholders

Active in the Somalia urban sector for more than 25 years, UN-Habitat has been at the forefront of promoting socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities ensuring that inclusive processes are in place that support and collectively empower youth as key stakeholders in their communities. One of the key outcomes of the conference was the launch of the National Youth Policy endorsed by the government in November 2017. The policy is a critical milestone towards cultivating an enabling environment in which the success of young people are placed at the centre of development.

As underscored by the UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, at the conference “…the youth policy comes at a crucial moment for the young people of Somalia.” This was a point that was reiterated in a round table session on youth-led solutions chaired by the Envoy with representatives from youth-led organizations.

Highlighting the challenges they face including high levels of unemployment; perilous migration journeys in search of better opportunities, lack of access to basic urban services such as health and education as well as a lack of inclusion in governance processes shaping their lives at the local and federal level, the conference provided the space for youth to raise their voices and interact with political leaders and international representatives on mechanisms for delineating policies that directly impact them.

The policy provides a broad framework within which youth-led development can flourish and provides the political tool that will enable them to be at the helm of integrating youth-led solutions into the development process particularly in the development of cities