Official launch of the National Youth Commission - Ms. Mia Seppo, UNDP Sierra Leone Country Director

25 Nov 2011

Statement by Ms. Mia Seppo, UNDP Sierra Leone Country Director on behalf of the Executive Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations

Mr. Chairman,

Your Excellency the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone,

Your Excellency the Vice President of the Republic of Sierra Leone,

Honorable Ministers and Deputy Ministers,

Members of Parliament,

Commissioners of the National Youth Commission,

My Colleague Development Partners,

Youth Organizations and the youth present here today,

I am presenting this statement on behalf of the Executive Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations, who is out of the country at this time.

I would like to start by recognizing the youth.  It is for you and the future of Sierra Leone that we are here today.  I am very happy to see so many of you here today and I’m looking forward to learning more about your ideas and vision for how you will be working with the Youth Commission. I hope that you will share with your friends the messages that are made here today.  

It is wonderful that this facility combines the offices of the Youth Commission with a Youth Information and Resource Centre.  This complex will thus be a centre for-the-youth and by-the-youth.   

I would like to thank the Minister of Youth Employment and Sports for his vision in the development of this facility and his driving force for youth employment and youth empowerment.

There has been a gradual development of the government structures that can address the wide range of issues related to youth. 

In the process, a number of lessons have been learned and best practice identified which ensures that MDAs, development partners and non government actors are today thinking along the same lines:

For example, there is a recognition that the macro-economic policies, private sector development and investment negotiations need to give specific consideration to job creation. 

There is recognition that MDAs and NGOs have specific roles to play to facilitate an increase in employment opportunities and the participation of youth in decision-making; and that they should be encouraged to play their roles to the full.

We have moved from thinking that employment can be created through a limited number of ad hoc projects.  Employment is created by linking actors working on ensuring that economic growth is not job-less, that investment negotiations encourage employing and developing a national work force, that young graduates have the relevant skills for the labor market and employment services are in place that help match available skills with demand.

A skilled workforce makes Sierra Leone more competitive and attractive for international investment. Low standards of skills will not be sufficient in the highly competitive world that we now live in.

The National Youth Commission will play an important role, especially in the planning and coordination and most importantly, to enable the participation of youths in decision-making.

The United Nations has, for several years, supported the Youth Employment Secretariat and now the Youth Commission.  It has seen, in particular, the gradual strengthening of planning and coordination.

We are delighted to see the development of the National Employment Policy which will bring a structured way to strengthen coherence in all that needs to be done.  The roll-out of the policy will be coordinated by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security but it will be a shared responsibility across many MDAs to turn words into jobs.

There are many examples where we will be stronger by working together rather than working alone.  For example,  data, information and ideas, which is the lifeblood for employment planning, can be provided by two ministries - the Ministry of Labour and Social Security for employment-data and labour-force planning; and the Ministry of Youth Employment and Sports and the Youth Commission for data on youth.

And youth themselves should be active contributors of ideas and drive. Youth-data can be collected and analyzed by the youth themselves through the Youth Councils at the Chiefdom and District levels.  

A recent inventory conducted by SLANGO on behalf of the Youth Commission found that there are over 1,800 NGOs and CBOs that state that they are working with youth on employment and /or empowerment activities.    This, we suspect, is only part of the many youth-led initiatives. The youth are best placed to collect the data on what they are doing, their needs and how best those needs can be addressed by the youth working in partnership with government and NGO services.

Your Excellency Mr. President, the United Nations considers youth employment and youth empowerment to be high priority globally and in Sierra Leone.  I am encouraged to know that there will be clear priorities for action set by your government.

We welcome the GoSL counterpart contribution to capacity building for technical and vocational education, rehabilitation of Njala University and the Youth Employment Support project as presented by the Hon. Minister of Finance to the Parliament earlier today.

The United Nations, together with other Development Partners, is looking forward to a continued engagement and to providing your government with support that is coherent and consistent. In this context we welcome the Youth Commission to lead and coordinate a multi partner response to a complex challenge.

I would like to end this statement with where I started; talking directly to the youth.  You have rights and expectations of a better future and the government has the responsibility to help you fulfill your aspirations. 

You are the face of what Sierra Leone will be tomorrow. This can be a picture of drugs, teen age pregnancies, violence on campus and on the streets. Or it can be a picture of youth getting organized, committed to learn and be leaders in their chosen fields, starting businesses and building a positive future for themselves and the country. A picture of leaders in the waiting that gives hope for tomorrow.

Do not wait only for others to take action on your behalf, take control of your life and do what you can do by yourself.  

Together we can make the difference.

Thank you very much for your kind attention.