Douglas Imaralu is a communications and international development professional. He is presently a Partnerships and Communication Fellow with Restless Development, USA and a Fellow of the White House/Atlas Corps Emerging Global Leaders Initiative (EGLI) program from Nigeria. He writes from New York.
‘A society that cuts off from its youth severs its lifeline, but a society that engages their interests, enlists their talents and liberates their energies brings hope to the world’, says former UN Sec-Gen Kofi Annan. But don’t you find it odd that the same society that encourages you to follow your dreams as a kid is somehow offended by your demand to be involved in decisions that may affect the realization of those very dreams?
How are young people supposed to live their dreams if they’re not involved in today’s decisions? Growing up in Africa, I’ve witnessed reactive and tokenistic action to involve young people in governance and other spheres of public administration. Not to say that this only happens in Africa – the tilt towards youth-led development approach is less than a decade old – but the point is: things have to change. Young people need to take responsibility for their own future, but it is the duty of leaders to ease the transition process – as in life and business the ability to transition quickly and effectively into a new role is a crucial. It is even a more critical skill for young leaders.
According to a Harvard Business Review study, every successful career is a series of successful assignments, and every successful assignment is launched with a successful transition. So how do you guarantee proper transition in terms of development without giving young leaders assignments today? For example, a colleague in Nigeria shared this with me on Facebook:
I believe the only limit to running for office should be competence and capacity. This is a critical stage; the role of youth in national and international development is becoming the core approach to delivering on the commitment of governments to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). At this point, limiting the role young people can play in national development would hinder the achievement of the SDGs. There is growing evidence that youth as an agency can drive development, influence societal change and lead, when it matters most.
So, in the first year of the SDGs, I reemphasize that young people have the power to lead, deliver development, and break barriers. Yes, we need more capacity as we cannot confuse competence with capacity. Yes, we need to be empowered with the necessary tools to generate data that will inform policy change. But we are also the most connected generation ever. We are young, innovative, energetic and eager to learn. And by collaborating with youths globally, we leverage networks to overcome challenges. Indeed, there is #NoFutureWithoutUs, but that future is now!