Engage in politics for lasting peace, UN envoy tells Somalia youths

Lasting peace in Somalia will be achieved when youths are represented and participate in politics, UN envoy James Swan has said.

“We think prospects for lasting peace Somalia will be improved if young people feel represented. If they participate in political life, and if they have a say in the national dialogue they can ultimately show their stake and involvement in the country’s future,” Swan said at a youth event in Mogadishu on Tuesday.

He said the United Nations in Somalia will continue to help youths develop initiatives to ensure their active participation in the country’s ongoing political processes.

The UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Somalia was speaking with young activists at a two-day youth empowerment and engagement dialogue, where they discussed how best to help youth participate actively in political processes, including the ongoing constitutional review process, national reconciliation dialogue and preparations for national elections in 2020.

The review of Somalia’s constitution was launched in May last year at a national convention in Mogadishu and attended by more than 350 representatives from the federal government, federal member states, civil society and the diaspora.

The process is meant to lead to a permanent constitution, which will replace the provisional one, adopted in 2012.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia and other UN agencies are advocating for youth and women participation in the process to ensure the final document reflects the views of all Somalis.

“We keep hearing that Somali youth are the voice of the future – but in a country where 80 per cent of the population is younger than 35, Somalia’s youth are very much the voice of today,” George Conway, who also serves as the UN’s Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, said.

“Your participation in these processes is fundamental to ensure that they are credible and that they are seen by the people to be legitimate,” he added.

Somalia has one of the youngest populations in the world. Experts believe that the active participation of youth in decision-making processes is vital for Somalia’s stability.

“We are already participating in politics in some ways, like through our own organisations and local initiatives, but we also want to participate in the formal political processes,” 22-year-old Sahra, a leader of a local young women’s organisation, said.

Conway said the UN, in support of the federal government, will step-up efforts to advocate for the involvement of youth in formal decision-making processes related to political benchmarks.

He also noted that youth more generally should be engaged informally through advocacy, community mobilisation and raising public awareness on critical issues around the country.

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