Dialogue between youth organisations and state institutions from the Sahel region

Given the generational gap threatening social and political cohesion in the Sahel region, HD is supporting a dialogue between Sahelian youth organisations and state institutions. Co-funded by the European Union (through the IUTF for African and the DG DEVCO) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, this dialogue initiative seeks to facilitate the involvement of young people in the design of social and economic policies at the local, regional, national and international levels.

Background

50 million young people under the age of 30 live in the Sahel region today. They make up approximately 65% of the G5 Sahel countries’ (Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mauritania) population. However, their future prospects are limited in view of the low levels of education owing to an educational system clogged by the demographic boom, freedom of movement which is being restricted by insecurity, a slack job market, and creeping impoverishment. The young generation’s prospects are further hindered by the growing generational gap resulting from the contrast between the impact of globalization on youth and the conservative beliefs of the elderly, as well as the youth’s sense of exclusion from political decision-making processes. As a result, young people are increasingly tempted by violence, organised crime and migration.

While Sahel youth organisations do engage in social and political action in their country, their capacity to express their needs and grievances in a constructive and consensual manner needs to be reinforced. Mechanisms for structured dialogue need to be set up in a way that allows for the design of policies that young people are able to identify themselves to, support, and witness the impact of. As the Sahel countries enter into a new election period, the issue of youth is becoming a major political challenge.

Activities

In 2017, HD helped set up and structure a dialogue process between youth organisations and state institutions from the Sahel region to facilitate the involvement of young people in designing social and economic policies at the local, national, regional and international levels.

In that vein, a network consisting of 1’250 representatives of youth organisations from Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mauritania was set up. The network represents more than 1’000 organisations which themselves represent thousands of young people from the Sahel region. In setting up the network, particular attention was paid to ensuring a balanced representation between women and men, rural and urban youth, elites and vulnerable communities, as well as tribal majority and minority groups.

Dialogue frameworks were then established in May 2017 in all five countries around key thematic issues, namely academic and professional training, access to the job market, youth civic engagement, as well as the temptations of migration and religious radicalization. The dialogue process has involved representatives of 50 ministries and state institutions (for example national employment agencies) as well as national youth councils and their regional branches.

Participants in La voix de la jeunesse du Sahel (The voice of the Sahel youth) in Bamako, June 2017 ©HD 2017 

Rounds of discussions were subsequently held at four distinct levels: between youth organisations at the local and national levels; between these organisations and local, traditional, civilian as well as religious authorities; between ministries involved in managing policies in favour of young people; and between the representatives of youth organisations and their respective governments.

The conclusions and recommendations stemming from these dialogues have in turn been fuelling the development process of an Integrated Strategy for Youth from the G5 Sahel countries. The outcomes of the dialogue process will also feed into a dialogue between the Sahelian governments and international partners on the development of North-South co-operation programmes better suited to the needs of young people.

Since May 2017, the dialogue process has generated momentum through simultaneous action at all levels:

  • 25 local dialogue frameworks have been set up across all G5 Sahel countries. Meetings were organised within each local dialogue framework and a total of 39 meetings have taken place so far.
  • Five national dialogue frameworks were set up as part of which meetings were facilitated in each of the five countries’ capital. So far, a total of 12 meetings have taken place.
  • A regional dialogue framework was set up under the auspices of the G5 Sahel countries, and two regional meetings have taken place up to now in Nouakchott and Bamako respectively.
  • A meeting between 75 representatives of youth organisations from the Sahel, the Maghreb, Europe and the Sahelian diaspora, as well as the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the five Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the G5 Sahel countries took place in June in Bamako, Mali, in the margins of a high-level meeting between the European Union and the G5 Sahel countries.
  • A forum gathering 50 young people from the Sahel diaspora living in Europe was also organised in Brussels in November 2017. It allowed them to share their views with African ambassadors based in Brussels on the thematic issues discussed as part of the overall process as well as discuss their role in the development of their countries of origin.

In 2018, the project will keep up the momentum of the dialogue process and support those participating in addressing the challenges identified in discussion forums in 2017.

Impact

Since it was launched in May 2017, the dialogue process between youth organisations and state institutions has produced the following outcomes:

  • Youth organisations have been able to formulate clear and structured messages to their respective authorities.
  • Local mediation mechanisms to prevent and manage intergenerational conflicts have been set up.
  • A dialogue framework between emerging youth organisations as well as regional and national youth councils has been set up.
  • The dialogue process has fuelled an ongoing inter-ministerial dialogue between Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad on youth policies.
  • The G5 Sahel countries have been associated to the national dialogue frameworks in order to contribute to the development of the G5 Sahel countries’ future regional strategy in favour of young people.
  • A dialogue with 50 young people from the Sahel diaspora in Europe was initiated to allow them to share their views and put forward proposals to help respond to the challenges identified in each of the five countries. 
  • An online discussion forum was launched to allow a greater number of Sahelian young people to contribute to the dialogue process.

Donor support

This project is co-funded by the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF for Africa), the European Union Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO) and to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, to which HD wishes to express its gratitude.

Fact sheets

On the project La voix des jeunes du Sahel (French)

Sahel youth on migration (French)

Sahel youth on economic opportunities (French)

Sahel youth on education and professional formation (French)

Sahel youth on the phenomenon of radicalisation (French)

Video gallery

Meeting of the Sahel youth in Brussels, Belgium on 11-13 November, 2017 (French)

Meeting of the Sahel youth in Bamako, Mali on 3-6 June, 2017 (French)

Sahel youth on migration (French)

Sahel youth on economic opportunities (French)

Sahel youth on education and professional formation (French)

Sahel youth on the phenomenon of radicalisation (French)