Lifting the voice of Youth in Sierra Leone
With an estimated 80 per cent of the population under the age of 34, Sierra Leone is among the youngest countries in the world. Harnessing the potential of this demographic and ensuring their voices are integrated into decision-making, advocacy and development policy has been a key passion for Babatunde Ahonsi, the UN Resident Coordinator in Sierra Leone.
- Under his leadership, the UN country team has helped Sierra Leone become one of the 10 fast-track countries to implement the Youth2030 Agenda, the first ever UN Youth Strategy designed to engage, support, and empower young people to help deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
- Advancing progress towards the Youth2030 Agenda requires the coordinated effort of all 21 UN agencies that make up the UN team in Sierra Leone – 20 percent of them not physically present in the country. Through these joint efforts, the UN team expanded youth entrepreneurship opportunities, implemented the Global Programme to End Child Marriage and launched Generation Unlimited, a public-private initiative which connects young people to nurture skills and mindsets for future employment.
- The success of the UN’s joint efforts to empower young people and expand their employment opportunities across Sierra Leone depends on open and direct dialogue with young people themselves. The Resident Coordinator has helped amplify the UN’s systematic advocacy and engagement to influence the integration of youth perspectives in decision-making processes, with Youth Advisory Panels embedded into a range of government, NGO and UN structures.
- The Resident Coordinator also led UN efforts to co-convene Sierra Leone’s first-ever National Youth Summit in 2021, a landmark moment which brought together over 700 young people from across the country to discuss ways of investing in youth and harnessing the potential of this ‘demographic dividend.’ The Summit concluded with the adoption of the Magburaka Declaration, calling for the active involvement of young people in the all the decisions and policies shaping their lives.
- Together with Heads of UN Agencies, the Resident Coordinator embarked on a series of outreach efforts to promote the Sustainable Development Goals in universities, schools, workers' unions, and civil society organisations. As a complement to the Government's National Youth Service scheme, which organizes work placements for young graduates across Sierra Leone, the Resident Coordinator has mobilized funding to place two young people on the staff of his office over the last two years, encouraging other UN entities to do same.