Francis Ametepey, a youth advocate from Ghana represented Restless Development at the Open Government Partnership Global Summit (OGP) in Tbilisi, Georgia. Read about his reflections from the event and about how summits can act as springboards for youth involvement in policy-making.
Last month I went to the OGP Summit in Georgia, alongside Restless youth advocates from Kenya, Sierra Leone and the Philippines.
Firstly, let me brief you on what OGP is all about. OGP stands for Open Government Partnership which is a multi-stakeholder initiative focused on improving government transparency, accountability, and responsiveness to citizens.
The long-term aim is to help governments become accountable and, ultimately, eradicate poverty.
The summit brings together 78 national and 20 local governments, ensuring that they are more accountable to civil society groups. We led a workshop on Youth and the Future of Open Government, an event which brought together 15 young and passionate youth advocates from across the globe.
Sat alongside government ministers, civil society advocates, we shared how we are tackling the biggest issues our communities face. From gender inequality, to lack of youth participation and youth-friendly services we shared our own experiences.
We explained how we are tracking the progress of the SDGs in our own communities and holding our governments to account.
We were very enthused to represent our issues at the summit. Young people are a dynamic force for change. We must be placed front and centre, ensuring transparency, accountability and youth inclusion in government. Together we can achieve the UN’s SDGs in our local communities.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development established a set of global priorities to help eradicate extreme poverty. It shifts all countries toward inclusive, sustainable development and ensures that no one is left behind.
Open government principles are explicitly addressed in several targets across several SDGs. Many are found in Goal 16, which aims to “build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.” There are targets provide a strong framework of what governments and their citizens need to do to step forward open government and improved governance.
Overlapping a lot of these goals is good governance. From the universal provision of basic services, to the rule of law to peace and security to inclusive and participatory decision-making, good governance is crucial.
65 out of the 169 SDG targets reference young people explicitly or implicitly, focusing especially on empowerment, participation and well-being of young people. But young people are still not fairly represented in decision-making processes globally or even at the local level.
It is always surprising to hear that there are over 1.8 billion young people worldwide. Us young people are brimming with creativity, and always have the most innovative and long-lasting solutions that to the world most pressing challenges. But often we’re left out in decision making process.
This shows the power of young people in creating and making the world a safer place for all. The OGP secretariat supported 15 dynamic youth advocates across the globe to participate in its first open government youth workshop. It was vital to them, to ensure that young people are not left behind in such important, global decisions.
History will record that young people were vital in creating a sustainable planet for all. Summits like OGP are only effective and credible if they open their doors to the input of civil society and youth advocates. They are only as effective as youth involvement in policy-making over the longer term.
These positive actions taken by OGP will not only enhance our already strong capacity but build communities and the generations to come in achieving sustainable development.
In an interview I spoke about the importance of placing youth leadership at the front and centre of policy-making
“There are 1.8 billion young people in the world and so how do we ensure that they are engaged and empowered?”
The fight towards achieving the SDGs, including goal 16, must not fall solely on the governments’ shoulders. As drivers of sustainable development, we are not interested in just participating. We want full involvement at all level to ensure that we are the ones leading change.
We got the chance to directly engage and connect to decision-makers at all levels to accelerate development. We’re making sure that we capture the energy we created as youth advocates at the event. We’ve started our own OGP Youth Network which we will use to champion young people.
We strongly believe that youth voices are the only actionable tool of change the world can ever rely. By raising our voices, we can compel our leaders to prioritise youth voices change.
Given the importance of the role of youth within development, we highly recommend that OGP and other state institutions as well as civil society organisations provide young people with the needed opportunities and platforms to operate.