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The United Nations Tanzania, led by UNFPA, in collaboration with the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania and other stakeholders, joined the international community to celebrate International Youth Day on 12 August 2017 in Dodoma, the Capital city of Tanzania. Each year on 12 August the UN, stakeholders and governments observe International Youth Day by raising awareness about issues that young people face. This year International Youth Day is dedicated to celebrating young people’s contributions to conflict prevention and transformation as well as inclusion, social justice, and sustainable peace. It reaffirms and recognizes the central role that young people play in promoting the well-being of their families, communities and nations under the theme: “Youth Building Peace”.

Young people must be given the tools to empower them to become more influential and productive actors in society. To achieve this, countries need to end all forms of discrimination against young people.  Central to these efforts is the promotion of access to education and health services, including sexual and reproductive health and family planning. These combined interventions are critical to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty, strengthen the resilience of populations in the face of challenges, and to seize the opportunity for a new economy.

Dr. Hashina Begum, Deputy Representative, UNFPA said: “Young people have the potential to act as greater forces for positive social change and to build the foundation for a just and peaceful world. Todays generation of youth has come of age in an era of crisis, conflict and disaster. Yet, it has largely been excluded from national and global efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts.”

Since the adoption of Security Council Resolution 2250 in 2015, there is a growing recognition that as agents of change, young people are critical actors in conflict prevention and sustaining peace. The current generation of youth are the largest in history and young people often make up the majority of the population in countries affected by armed conflict or unrest.  Considering the needs and aspirations of youth in issues of peace and security are a demographic imperative.

According to Hon. Jenista Mhagama, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office responsible for Policy, Parliamentary Affairs, Labour, Employment, Youth and the Disabled: “Peace and development go together. There has been a breakdown in peace in some countries affected by conflict due to the absence of optimal patriotism and the lack of unity among citizens. In any country affected by conflict, development cannot be achieved without solidarity and nationality.”

Another Security Council Resolution, Resolution 2282 (2016) recognizes that the scale and challenges of sustaining peace require partnerships between stakeholders, including youth organizations. It also reaffirms the important role youth can play in deterring and resolving conflicts, and as key constituents in ensuring the success of both peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts.

In 2015, the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that committed to fostering peaceful and inclusive societies and affirmed that “sustainable development cannot be realized without peace and security.” Sustainable Development Goal 16 aims to ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels. The World Programme of Action for Youth, which provides a policy framework and practical guidelines to improve the situation of young people, also encourages “promoting the active involvement of youth in maintaining peace and security.”

Young people’s inclusion in the peace and security agenda, and in society more broadly, is key to building and sustaining peace. The process of social inclusion for youth, including participation in decision-making as well as access to quality education, healthcare and basic services promotes their role as active contributors in society and provides young people with the opportunity to realize their potential and achieve their goals. When youth are excluded from political, economic and social spheres and processes, it can be a risk factor for violence and violent forms of conflict. Therefore, identifying and addressing the social exclusion of young people is a precondition for sustaining peace.

To achieve these goals, a fundamental shift is needed.  Decisions on the allocation of resources should be made bearing in mind the interests of future generations. Investments should be made in social sectors that improve the resilience of individuals and communities. And the fulfilment of human rights should be at the centre of development. 

Dr. Hashina Begum, UNFPA Tanzania Deputy Representative said: Building peaceful, cohesive and resilient societies requires the full and meaningful participation of young people. Investing in them in ways that build their capabilities and creates opportunities that will enable them to realize their full potential in life are a prerequisite for their engagement in civic affairs. If we want a more peaceful world, we can no longer afford to leave young people behind. We must listen to and work with them.”

According to Hon. Jenista Mhagama, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office responsible for Policy, Parliamentary Affairs, Labour, Employment, Youth and the Disabled: “To have a nation with strong and healthy young people, the government will continue its efforts to ensure that healthcare services are improved, including access to reproductive healthcare services for young people to address the challenges of early pregnancy and HIV and AIDS among teenagers. Life skills education will continue to be provided to empower young people to develop self-awareness and to build their confidence so that they can deal with the risks that lead to these challenges. We will also continue to encourage young people to avoid drug abuse that significantly affects the national labour force.” 

From the 2017 UNAIDS Global AIDS Update, Tanzania is on track to achieve the 90-90-90 treatment targets by 2020 and end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Tanzania's 2016 HIV estimates show, however, that young people between the ages of 15 to 24 years account for 40 per cent of new HIV infections of whom 70 per cent are young women.

A multi-stakeholder approach is key to address the specific challenges faced by young people living with HIV. According to Dr Leo Zekeng, UNAIDS Country Director and Representative for Tanzania: "Facilitating access to youth-friendly HIV and reproductive and sexual health related information and services and investing in capabilities and leadership of youth to engage in public policy are needed to prevent HIV among youth and ensure young people living with HIV access quality treatment and care."

Globally, large youth populations represent a historic opportunity to adopt innovative solutions to ignite change. Essential to this is the realization of young people’s rights to participate in the political, economic and social life of their communities and countries, and to freely make informed choices regarding their bodies, sexuality, and reproduction without discrimination, violence or coercion.

The United Nations Tanzania calls on the government, development partners and other influencers to enact policies that promote young people’s development, and to measure progress against the SDGs that relate to adolescents and youth. Young people must be engaged as partners to achieve these goals, as they are the generation that will inherit the planet.

The celebrations for International Youth Day climaxed in an event where more than 800 students and representatives from government and local NGOs gathered. The festival, with performances, speeches and campaigns for peace, provided youth with the opportunity to meet local leaders and demonstrate their support and commitment to peacebuilding initiatives in the region.

Volunteers and speakers for International Youth Day included the Government of Tanzania, the United Nations Tanzania, local schools and several NGOs. Partners included the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Youth and Disabled, UN Tanzania, VSO Tanzania, Raleigh Tanzania, Restless Development Tanzania, Save the Children, and Roots and Shoots.