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Youth to lead Sierra Leone’s post-Ebola recovery!

Commonwealth believes young people are key to a prosperous and equitable future

May 6, 2015 By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk)

A special delegation from the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Youth Division (YTH) is in Freetown on a mission to push for investment in young people as drivers of the post-Ebola recovery efforts, and long term national development for Sierra Leone.

Looking at recent trends Sierra Leone is expected to follow Liberia in getting free of Ebola as the country continues on a bumpy ride to zero cases across its 14 Districts. The Commonwealth mission aims to support Sierra Leone rebound from the Ebola scourge through support for youth structures and youth-led recovery projects.

The mission looks to strengthen and connect the Sierra Leone Youth Council and Student Union structures to create an effective and resilient youth platform that is able to more effectively mobilise young people to design and deliver community projects, and to strengthen a youth vision for Sierra Leone.

Another objective is to support the Government of Sierra Leone to develop a national Sport for Development and Peace (SDP) strategy and action plan, using the framework provided by the Commonwealth SDP Guidelines, to contribute to the overall development goals of the country; as well as with post-Ebola community rebuilding.

The Government has demonstrated commitment to the development of youth by establishing a separate Ministry for Youth Affairs as well as a National Youth Commission. The Commonwealth is working closely with these two institutions, as well as the Ministry of Sports, the Ministry of Education, District Youth Councils, National Union of Students and other youth-led organizations to roll out this project.

Over the next five days the Commonwealth delegation is expected to meet with His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma and will hold a number of meetings with Government officials and key stakeholders, and multi-stakeholder roundtable consultations and workshops with youth and student leaders to build support for this initiative.

In 2013 the Commonwealth Heads of Government agreed that: “Investment in young people today will form the foundation for a prosperous and equitable future”.

The Heads of Government Meeting further resolved: “We, the Commonwealth Heads of Government, recognise the vital role that young people can and must play at the centre of sustainable and inclusive development. Investing in young people today is the foundation for a prosperous and equitable tomorrow. We commit unequivocally to investing in young people and placing them at the centre of sustainable and inclusive development, thus harnessing their creativity, leadership and social capital towards the progress and resilience of Commonwealth countries, and a more democratic and prosperous Commonwealth.”

Sierra Leone is experiencing a major crisis due to the impact of the Ebola epidemic, and the associated damage to communities and livelihoods. Young people have been hit the hardest, with school closures and rising youth unemployment further devastating a country that had also emerged from a decade of civil conflict.

But as Sierra Leone shifts from disaster mode to recovery mode, the Commonwealth believes strong recognition of young people’s capabilities and needs in the post Ebola development framework will be crucial. This should also include development of a long-term strategy to bring the country’s youth development agenda back on track.

The Commonwealth has had a dedicated focus on youth development and empowerment for over 40 years, contributing significantly to the building of a strong youth sector at community, national, regional and international levels.

This project follows recommendations from the Commonwealth supported Chatham House meeting on Post Ebola held in London in January 2015 and subsequent consultations with the Sierra Leone delegation at the Africa Region Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting (AR-CYMM) in Cameroon in February 2015 (specifically the Sierra Leone Minister for Youth, senior officials from the Ministry of Youth and National Youth Commission, and representatives of the District Youth Council). Further informal discussions have continued with officials, youth leaders and other stakeholders, and also with members of the diaspora community in the United Kingdom.

At the AR-CYMM, Ministers “expressed their support for, and solidarity with, Sierra Leone, and commended the remarkable work being done by young people there in the face of the Ebola crisis”. Further, Ministers also “resolved to support young people to take a key role in disaster relief and recovery in times of crisis and natural disaster”.

The Commonwealth Youth Development Index (YDI) places Sierra Leone top in terms of youth civic participation, and the youth-led mobilisation to address Ebola is testament to this ranking.  This momentum needs to be accelerated to help the young people of Sierra Leone make a greater contribution to the future they see for their country.

Meanwhile, the Secretariat will also support the Government of Sierra Leone to develop a national Sport for Development and Peace (SDP) strategy and action plan, which will contribute to the overall development goals of the country.

SDP is the use of sport as a tool to achieve the delivery of development outcomes, in areas such as health, education, gender equality, and community building.

This support will be provided by the Commonwealth Secretariat’s SDP team within the Youth Division (YTH). The Sierra Leone Ministry for Sport will take the lead for the national SDP strategy and action plan, with involvement of other Ministries with responsibilities for areas such as youth, education, and health and other key stakeholders.

In 2012, the Commonwealth Secretariat produced ‘The Commonwealth Guide to Advancing Development through Sport’ (SDP Guidelines), as a resource for policy-makers and public officials to assist them in strengthening the contribution of sports-based approaches to development and peace work. The 6th Commonwealth Sports Ministers Meeting endorsed these SDP Guidelines and “requested that the Secretariat work with member countries to initiate pilot projects to confirm the suitability of this framework’. During 2013, pilot projects were conducted in Barbados, Rwanda and Sri Lanka.

The 7th Commonwealth Sports Ministers Meeting in July 2014 noted Rwanda and Sri Lanka’s reports of the success of these pilots and “requested the Commonwealth Secretariat to extend technical support for the development of SDP National Action Plans to additional member states”.

The National Sports Policy of Sierra Leone includes the use of “sports as a cost effective means for development and peace initiatives”, as one of 15 main objectives. The Government of Sierra Leone has supported the creation of an SDP Sierra Leone organisation, and engagement with the International Working Group on Sport for Development and Peace.

The outbreak of Ebola in Sierra Leone in 2014 has had a significant impact on the country. Sporting activity has been largely suspended from the national football league to informal activity in local communities. As the country recovers from this Ebola outbreak, there is a need to rebuild communities. The Commonwealth SDP Guidelines outline a number of ways in which sport could potentially be used to support this objective.

YTH will undertake a follow-up mission after 3-6 months to provide further capacity building, youth network connection and strengthening, and to assess progress in Commonwealth-funded post-Ebola recovery projects.

The delegation includes Ms. Katherine, Director, Youth Division (head of delegation); Mr. Malcolm Dingwall-Smith, Sport for Development and Peace Programme Manager, YTH; Mr. Messeh Leone, Programme Officer, YTH (a Sierra Leone national), and Mr. Pete Beeley, Programme Consultant, Fight for Peace International.

Credit: Development and Economic Journalists Association-Sierra Leone (DEJA-SL)

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