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Youth Engagement by Embassies

Programme Management Tool

Purpose

In order to align to the strategic priority of working not only for but with youth, programmes and development engagements should, when appropriate and feasible, include support to youth participation and mobilisation. This involves providing support to and opportunities for young people to be actively engaged; i.e. creating an enabling environment for their participation, building their voice, providing them with leadership skills and enhancing their representation in governance structures.

Please note that the country context, as well as the scope of the specific programme or development engagement, determines the extent to which an explicit youth focus is appropriate and feasible. The Youth Situational Analysis provides guidance to determining the relevance of applying a youth focus in a specific programme or development engagement.

Proposed Actions

The following list of selected youth-focused activities may serve as an inspiration for how to incorporate a youth focus, either directly by an embassy or through an implementing CSO or private consultancy company.

  • Conduct a youth review of youth-related activities within the overall country portfolio. This will provide information on the scope of the embassy’s youth engagement, expected results and available resources and form the basis for a mainstreamed commitment to youth development.
  • Establish a youth sounding board with a group of youth representatives with whom the embassy can discuss and validate context and programme-related youth issues. A youth sounding board will help strengthen young people’s voice and perspective in relation to policy and programme formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, and it will provide a platform for direct and possibly continuous youth consultation. The selection of members for the youth sounding board should carefully consider a diverse and relevant representation of youth.
  • Include youth representatives in context analysis, reviews and evaluations. This will serve to maintain focus on the overall youth agenda, provide a critical “youth lens” and youth input to the overall exercise, ensure that achievements are assessed from a youth perspective and finally contribute to building young people’s agency while also ensuring the validity of data collected. 
  • Work with young interns. Embassies could consider national and/or Danish interns, i.e. university students or recent graduates, who can help promote a youth focus in development programmes and ensure a young perspective and – in the case of the national interns – a local youth voice in relation to implementation and monitoring of programmes.
  • Engage with CSOs that are actively engaged with youth and youth-led organisations (YLOs). The Danish CSOs especially the Danish Youth Council and those holding a Strategic Partnership Agreement with Danida provide an entry point to youth and YLOs, not only in terms of outreach, but also in terms of access to youth-related knowledge. The embassy could tap into the knowledge and network of the CSOs.

  • Engage in youth-focused policy dialoguewith the aim of influencing change or enforcement of legislation, promotion of youth rights or changes of practices in terms of human resources and youth participation. This may involve international, national or local-level dialogue partners, e.g. government institutions, line ministries, the national youth council, civil society platforms or organisations, local government institutions, private sector actors.

  • Establish specific youth windows” in (existing) funding mechanisms to ensure that youth, including youth organised in minor, less formalised youth organisations or social movements, may access funding. Youth involvement in selection processes can ensure a young perspective and enhanced transparency. However, when engaging informal organisations and networks, it is important to consider the issue of accountability, and it may be necessary to link the funding mechanism to an existing youth organisation or council that can monitor and build the capacity of the young grantees.

  • Promote the idea of national youth delegates to the UN. Denmark is a pioneer country in appointing youth delegates to the UN and other multilateral forums. Danish embassies can therefore, with significant weight, promote the idea andpave the way for more youth delegates who are able to influence regional and international agendas with a youth perspective. Embassies can also link up with the Danish youth delegates to the UN, who can convey youth-related issues to multilateral forums.

  • Promote networking and coalition building among YLOs and the wider development or academic world, including funding of selected key events designed and organised with or by youth, as appropriate in the context, and convening linkages to international and national CSOs that are willing to act as mentors for new and small YLOs, helping them build their capacity in areas such as advocacy, management and fundraising. These activities can be incorporated in (existing) CSO support programmes.

Typology of Youth Organisations

A young persons’ legitimacy is reinforced when tapping into structures where youth are organised and represent a broader and consolidated voice of youth. When promoting youth inclusion and participation, it is important to support and engage with the youths’ own organisations.

Youth organisations are broadly defined as “those social organisations (associations, clubs or movements) that are set up to serve young people and where young people are in charge of the organisational structure and which are democratic, non-governmental and not for profit”.3The specific characteristics of youth organisations will vary from country to country and are influenced by the social, political and economic context, as well as the ethnic composition and historical legacy of the country.

The most common types of youth organisations are listed below. A mapping of youth organisations, undertaken as part of the Youth Situational Analysis, may help identify the most relevant actors and potential partner organisations, as well as the impartiality and legitimacy in terms of a genuine constituency of these organisations.

Local youth groups

 

Often informal groups where the members are young people from the local area, brought together by a common social, cultural, political or economic interest.

 

Examples are expressive purposes (sport, music, theatre, art, hobby clubs); youth per se (youth groups, clubs); the common good as the unifying principle (environmental, peace groups); deliberative (political party, citizen assemblies); and religious and/or ethnic organisations.4

Youth movements

 

Social movements are loosely organised groups with a common course and value-based goals, often mobilised as a reaction against or in favour of something as a campaign. Social movements are often short-lived and may dissolve once the goal is reached or abandoned.

 

Examples of social movements are often found around issues related to human rights, women’s rights, LGBTI rights, environmental/climate and land issues, students, consumers or other interest groups.

Youth Led Youth organisations (YLO)

 

Youth-led organisations are established, controlled and led by young people, often on a voluntary basis. The YLOs normally have an age limit for membership, ensuring that they truly represent young people.

 

Examples are student organisations, party political youth organisations, Red Cross Youth, issue-based youth foundations etc. that are all characterised by a self-defined agenda, purpose and rules.

Youth-oriented organisations and youth-focused networks, associations and coalitions

 

CSOs, networks, associations and coalitions which operate with a particular focus on youth and youth-related issues.

 

Examples are national and international organisations and networks working with for example SRHR, early marriage and pregnancy, youth empowerment, entrepreneurship etc.

National youth councils

 

National youth councils exist in most countries, but their characteristics and legitimacy vary substantially. In some countries, the national youth council functions as an important intermediary that provides assistance to youth and ensures meaningful youth participation in political decision-making processes. In other countries, the youth councils have strong links to the ruling party and act as a mobilisation vehicle for political parties. Thus, the presence of functioning internal democratic structures, broad inclusion and representativeness of youth and political autonomy are key characteristics of legitimate youth councils.

 

Further Reading and Inspiration on Youth Engagement

1 Among the Strategic Partners (2018 2021) especially Sex & Samfund, PlanBørnefonden, Red Barnet, MS ActionAid and Oxfam IBIS have as strong a focus on youth as change agents, entrepreneurs and active citizens.

2 Interviews with MFA staff in Copenhagen and at selected embassies in September-October 2018 called attention to the fact that policy dialogue is less prominent than previously, due to the changes in the overall aid architecture. It is, however, considered a very important instrument in promoting youth policies and influencing the national, political context and enhancing an enabling environment for youth in terms of adherence to international conventions, national legislation and practice.

3 Study of the Social Value of Youth Organisations, European Youth Forum, 2016, 13 Appendix: Definition of a youth organisation, p.64

4 Ibid., p.8

Danida

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Danida

2 Asiatisk Plads

DK-1448 Copenhagen K

Denmark

Tel. +45 33 92 00 00

amg@um.dk

CONTACT:

In case of questions, please contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Global Youth Advisor, Thomas Rudebeck Eilertzen (thorei@um.dk)