The most active segment of the population (15-44 years) which constitutes a large majority of the labor force has been hit the hardest by this crisis. This has had a multiplier effect with an already severe humanitarian crisis further impacted by a sharp downturn in economic activity and a destruction of livelihoods. The Ebola crisis also weakened community ties and eroded trust in public services and in the communities. As the active phase of the epidemic is tampering off, the affected states require a coordinated and comprehensive support to plan and implement their recovery programmes
The Mano River Union in collaboration with the UNFPA and three affected States organized an interactive discussion on the catalytic role of Youth Empowerment in the Ebola Recovery Process, highlighting key interventions required for building resilience, supporting recovery and reaping a longer term demographic bonus.
Participants to the High Level Dinner highlighted the fact that:
- Young people make up a substantial – and growing – percentage of the population in these countries;
- Young people in the affected States had been challenged by a range of social and economic issues well ahead of the Ebola virus disease epidemic;
- Young people, particularly girls, have been affected quite severely by the EVD, further compromising their capacity to resist the current and forthcoming challenges;
- Young people remained however resilient in the face of the EVD and were mobilized into a potent force in the implementation of the national responses to address the disease;
The interactive discussions concluded that young people continue to remain a critical component in the delivery of results of the national recovery plans. Therefore key recommendations included that;
- The opportunity of implementing the national recovery plans should be explored for positioning each country to reap a demographic bonus working in synergy through the Mano River Union while fully engaging youth at national level;
- Determined and sustained investments in institutional reform and strengthening to address youth issues must be undertaken as an integral regional strategy in the operationalization of the national recovery plans;
- Policies and programmes that address the socio-economic challenges of young people, especially sexual and reproductive health and rights of young girls must be implemented to scale up access to services and information;
- Overall the rights of young people, especially young women and girls must be guaranteed by the duty bearers to facilitate sustained progress in national recovery and equitable societies;
The session ended with a call from the Ebola affected States to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and other UN agencies as well as the development partners to collaborate with them through the Mano River Union, in a well-coordinated regional approach to deliver on the above recommendations.
MOVING FORWARD: In consultation with the participating senior members of government present the following were agreed as the immediate next steps:
- The three countries will move and work together as a block to continue to advocate for the promotion of the course of the Youth as the cynosure in the ensuing Ebola Recovery Plan of the governments;
- Under the leadership of the Youth Ministry (and support by UNFPA Country Office), each country will develop a detailed concept Note by end of August 2015. The SWEDD project document will be shared as a reference to guide the development of Country Concept Note. Each country will also refer to the Economic Stabilization and Recovery Plan to ensure the required fit for the Youth in the document;
- Countries will expand partnership to relevant Ministries, civil society, donor agencies and the private sector;
- The Concept Note will be shared and UNFPA Regional Office will assist the government of the three countries to convene a sub-regional meeting in one of the Countries by early September along with relevant partners in attendance. The date and place will be determined later communicated to all.
- By Monday, UNFPA Regional Director will establish a core team to support and provide the required inter-country expertise. In this regard, the Mano River Union secretariat will be an integral component of the overall sub-regional lead.
- UNFPA is glad to continue to serve as the convener, a glue, technical lead and resource mobilizer on behalf of the sub-regional effort.