Making space for youth in development co-operation

Editor’s note: Read the Nairobi Youth Statement from the Second High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership here.

Six months after the Second High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation (HLM2), the youth that gathered and met in Nairobi have continued their work on making youth an active stakeholder in effective development co-operation. We come from all continents, and we represent civil society, grassroots organisations and government institutions. We are women, migrants, farmers and workers. We are members of faith-based organisations as well as indigenous communities. We are active members of the CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE). We are cross-sectional, and we have created space for representation in state bureaucracy and parliament at national, regional and international levels.

The first step towards our goal was made possible by the government of Kenya, which hosted HLM2. Kenya granted the time and space to hold a Youth Forum, taking place alongside a Women’s Forum during the preparatory days preceding HLM2’s official two-day agenda. Much was discussed about the role of youth in development co-operation and, in consequence, about the role of youth in the Global Partnership. There was common agreement on two political and methodological issues of the Partnership:

  • There are no specific mechanisms within the Global Partnership’s multi-stakeholder platform that guarantee active youth participation
  • There are no specific indicators or tools that address or facilitate the gathering of information regarding youth involvement and participation in development co-operation

During the HLM2 formal discussions, many stakeholders spoke about the importance of investing in youth. But crucial questions remained unaddressed: Who should invest in youth? And how? As youth representatives, we have the answers to these questions. Yet, it seems that the youth message is not fully heard, despite our ostensible engagement in various fora and meetings.

We are real, concrete, active actors in development. We represent the largest youth population in the history of humanity. The implications of our size alone, in terms of workforce and consumption, but also regarding innovation and sustainability, among other things, is a simple and clear illustration of the importance of our role in society. Conversations around sustainable development and effective development co-operation must make space for youth advocacy, and must prioritise the collection of data on youth participation in the development and sustainability agendas.

The Youth Declaration drafted in Nairobi is our stand on youth engagement in development co-operation. It is time youth are no longer seen as passive recipients of development co-operation, but rather actively incorporated in the development discourse.

Join Youth Entrepreneurs on the Road to Nairobi

The Road to Nairobi 2016, an initiative supporting youth entrepreneurs, was launched today, on International Youth Day. The initiative builds momentum towards the upcoming Second High-Level Meeting (HLM2) of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation to be held in Nairobi, Kenya on 28 November – 1 December 2016.

The Road to Nairobi complements one of the seven themes of the HLM2 plenary sessions – economic empowerment of women and youth – to highlight the importance of youth-led solutions through entrepreneurship to battle unemployment. In-line with the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA), the HLM2 plenary session on women and youth will address the challenges and identify opportunities to invest in youth in order to achieve more inclusive, equitable and sustainable growth.

Youth Ambassadors are taking a bus to travel the road from Johannesburg to Nairobi. There will be a series of local and national events meeting 80 inspirational entrepreneurs along the way, to come up with innovative solutions towards achieving the SDGs. When arriving in Nairobi, a group of youth entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to present their ideas and business solutions at the HLM2.

The Road to Nairobi was launched by the Building Bridges Foundation with support from H.E. Lilianne Ploumen, Co-Chair of the Global Partnership Steering Committee and Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation.

To follow the journey of the youth entrepreneurs to Nairobi, visit the website at

To find out more about the HLM2 plenary sessions focus, visit our HLM2 page here.

Leaders of Today, Not Tomorrow

“Young people are the leaders of tomorrow.” How often do you hear that phrase? Here at Restless Development, we hear it constantly, from all angles of society. It’s great that so much attention is currently focused on the importance of investing in our futures. But the thing is, too often young people are overlooked in the creation, implementation and monitoring of exactly those key decisions that will ultimately affect us – because we are seen as the leaders of ‘tomorrow,’ not today. To be honest, it’s a saying we’re getting pretty tired of by now.

In fact, what the evidence is telling us is that young people are already the leaders of today. It’s just that our key role in building truly effective development cooperation is yet to be fully recognised.

Young people have an incredible amount of energy, passion and desire. Harnessed in the right way, we can bring about a new era of successful global development cooperation where citizens and their governments are connected like never before. Young people have the energy, skills and ambition to bring about real change, ensuring positive rhetoric becomes effective action. It’s what we at Restless Development call Youth Power.

This will mean tackling some of the toughest obstacles in our path. One of the biggest challenges young people face today is the lack of employment opportunities available, stifling their potential to lead their communities and societies out of poverty. Restless Development’s vision for ensuring young people have the life skills and opportunities to fulfill their potential, is grounded in evidence. Our ground-breaking youth-led research project in Uganda, ‘Strength, Creativity and Livelihoods of Karimojong Youth,’ demonstrated the power of bringing marginalised young people into the heart of our work, ensuring real and lasting impact which directly benefits those who we serve. The Case for Space initiative’s research, centred around 18 global young researchers, investigated the significant opportunities and challenges that young people face, both in terms of accessing their rights and in building their livelihoods

In 2015, we saw young people leading the way in some of the biggest development and humanitarian challenges the world faced. In Sierra Leone, young people led a community mobilisation model which helped end the Ebola outbreak. Over 350 young volunteers signed up overnight to help lead the fight, with over 2000 volunteering to empower their communities to protect themselves from the virus, helping Sierra Leone reach zero cases of Ebola. We also saw the strength and resilience of young people in Nepal, in the face of two devastating earthquakes, using their networks to lead disaster relief efforts.

Ultimately, it is young people and their networks, at the centre of their communities, who will ensure the successful implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Our Big Idea is at the heart of this, empowering young people with the data, knowledge and skills they need to hold their leaders to account at the local,national and global levels. From Uganda to Malawi and from Nepal to the UK, young people are coming together to form their own networks, designed to monitor successful implementation of the Global Goals. Our Accountability Advocates are the perfect example – 20 young people from seven countries who are driving forward this movement, calling for greater accountability from world leaders.


The Global Partnership has a history of involving young people in its processes, which we welcome. But we believe you can do more. Let’s be ambitious. Young people want to show the Global Partnership that there is a powerful new model for youth-led development, which is already producing incredible results on the ground in countries around the world. We believe that the Global Partnership, with its global influence and convening power, can become a true champion for the role of young people in implementing and monitoring the Global Goals, thus ensuring that the promises made last September in New York are fulfilled.

We are calling on the Global Partnership to place young people at the heart of your work. With our energy, ideas, passion and desire for change, young people are ready for this role at the centre of the Global Partnership; ready to provide the resources, trainings, networks and more to make this idea a reality. To encapsulate all of this, we believe that the next high-level meeting of the Global Partnership should host a Youth Forum, where vibrant, intelligent youth delegates, who are already leaders in their communities, can tell you exactly why you need young people at the heart of the Global Partnership.

Author Jack McQuibban

About the Author

Jack McQuibban, 23, is the Advocacy & Networks Coordinator at Restless Development, the international development agency which places young people at the forefront of change.