By far there is no real disagreement surrounding the fact that current national and international development frameworks have wretchedly failed young people the world over. This reality is affirmed in reports and official positions of several esteemed multilateral agencies, governments and civil society organizations, these include: United Nations (UN) via respective ‘UN World Youth Report’ chapters, Commonwealth of Nations via the ‘Commonwealth Youth Development Index’ founding background, African Union (AU) via a series of the ‘State of the African youth reports’ and the ‘African Youth Charter’ (AYC), Southern African Development Community (SADC) via the SADC ‘Ministers for Youth Development Communiqué (2013)’. Though differing in semantics and scope the documents underscore corresponding appalling sentiments on the development of young people. This year, MDGs are officially expiring. MDGs were adopted by the UN family in 2000; they were an outcome of international conferences thought out the 1990s. MDGs expressed widespread public concern about poverty, hunger, diseases, unmet schooling, gender inequality and environmental degradation. These priority areas are packaged into easily understandable set of eight (8) goals with established time bound objectives (Sachs; 2002). MDGs were and are genuinely a noble and welcome intervention; their profound impact against poverty, hunger, and diseases are notable and commendable.
However, strategically or maybe coincidentally, the shortfalls of MDGs are relatively less documented and publicized compared to their probable success scenarios. But, here and there one is guaranteed to treasure trove several in-depth and critical examinations of MDGs shortfalls. These include an infamous yet enlightening critic by Prof. Amir Attaran, titled "An Immeasurable Crisis? A Criticism of the Millennium Development Goals and Why They Cannot Be Measured". Prof. Attaran’s publication rebuttal from a tripartite of distinguished academics and UN acquaintances, titled “Response to Amir Attaran”. Though this open theoretical crossfire was essentially meant to approve or disapprove feasibility of MDGs or lack thereof, it has helped global citizens appreciate the genuine successes and most importantly the somewhat ambiguous MDGs shortfalls. One of the identified shortfalls is the fact that MDGs were nothing more than a technocratic creation, aimed at increasing and focusing aid flows, and produced without public consultation or ownership. In one of his penning’s UN distinct tactician Prof. Jeffery Sachs affirms while expressing disappointment that; “promises of official development assistance by rich countries, for example, have not been kept”. MDGs were rolled out in a ‘top-down approach’. MGDs perceived citizens as mere ‘beneficiaries’ than ‘partners’ in the development process. Consequently it erroneously focused on the role of governments and regrettably overlooked the key role of citizens and private sector. The shortfalls of this reality were later empirically affirmed by Prof. Jeffery Sachs and his team after setting up Millennium Development Villages (MDVs) in several developing countries. MDVs were initiated as yardsticks to investigate the shortfalls of the ‘Top-Down Approach’ compared to ‘Bottom-Up Approach’ in development interventions. This exercise also highlighted the indisputable significance of community engagement, ownership and ‘Social Inclusion’ in the development process.
For those of us that concurrently deal with grassroots and policy matters, we approach the slip away of UN MDGs with great ‘relief’ and ‘hope’. ‘Relief’ that the monumental and now outdated MDGs are finally coming to an end, ‘Hope’ that the new framework will usher in the indispensable much needed element of ‘Social Justice’ and ‘Social Inclusion’. The good news this far is, elementary discussions on the feasible Post-2015 agenda are gravely centered on a modern-day principle known as Sustainable Development (SD). SD is a principle is centered on a triple bottom-line, thus; Economic Growth, Environmental Sustainability and Social Inclusion. Quite frankly, Economic Growth and Environmental Sustainably are very fundamental for national and multinational prosperity, but, from a youth advocacy, civil society and grassroots standpoint, ‘Social Inclusion’ and ‘Social Justice’ are the more anticipated and needed element(s). In simpler terms the principle of ‘Social Inclusion’; is a development model which upholds that each and every development approach should be needs based, the needs should be informed and guided by the targeted cohorts themselves. It simply emphasizes that nothing should be done or recommended for the people without the people. Like many socially excluded and marginalized cohorts, Youth in our continent have been hard-hit by severe exclusion, majority if not all Youth targeted interventions and legislations are habitually discussed and legitimized in the absence of Youth, and no one finds it bizarre.
Consequently this tendency has resulted in:
- Irrelevant/misplaced policies and programs that do not address the primary (sometimes any) challenges of youth.
- Establishment of polices and initiatives that lack legitimacy and ownership among the young cartel.
- Generalized youth policies and programs that disregard the key realities, experiences, location and aspirations of various cohorts of young people.
Alarmed by this escalating indecent trend the 7th UN Secretary General and Nobel Laureate, Kofi Atta Annan, cautioned and reminded governments that, “Normally when we need to know about something we go to the experts, but we tend to forget that when we want to know about youth and what they feel and what they want, for that we should talk to them”. Correspondently there is a Swahili proverb that reminds us that, “you cannot shave a man’s head in his absence”. Though the matter of ‘Social Inclusion’ and ‘Social Justice’ is taking center stage in recent times, it is important to acknowledge this principle has long been advanced by many staunch Pan-Africanists, for instance; visionary unsung revolutionist, Thomas Sankara, favored this principle for Burkina Faso’s development before his untimely assassination, Thabo Mbeki advanced the same principle in South Africa and Africa before the ‘dream was differed’, Zambian-born author and international economist, Dambisa Moyo, in her renowned book titled “Dead Aid” proposed and recommended the same principle, distinguished academic, Manyozo Linje, endorsed the same principle in a widely debated journal article titled “The Day Development Dies”. In light of this background, many youth advocates and activists enthusiastically look forward to the Post-2015 agenda with extraordinary hope and relief.
Image Credit: http://gesci.org/