On 7 September, 120 young people from 22 countries across Africa, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas came together to close a four-day summit they were attending in Farmington, Margibi County, Liberia.
The conference site was the location where the Farmington Declaration, committing political parties to peaceful elections, was signed earlier in the year under the auspices of the regional body ECOWAS. The UNDP and partners, including the European Union, Sweden, Canada and Ireland, supported the event organized by young people from the Youth Coalition for Education Liberia (YOCEL) and Volunteers Hub Liberia.
Aimed to strengthen ties between youths in the region, particularly in respect to peacebuilding and elections, the event highlighted the need for young people to participate more in public life, shape public agendas and play a key role in building the future. The executive director of YOCEL Beyan Flomo Pewe stressed the importance of these themes of the conference:
“These elections are crucial for the consolidation of our democracy here in Liberia. It will be the first time in our country’s history there will be universal suffrage and a transfer of power from one incumbent to a new one. Young people are very excited and key to who wins. With so many new voters, we will be a decisive influence. And this conference was aimed to highlight the responsibility we have as young people. The youth are citizens, voters and peacebuilders as much as anyone else, and we are the future of our countries.”
Promise Gborweah a Liberian delegate attending the event added:
“Young people have particular needs that are not always recognized by elected politicians. We are also in the majority today in Liberia and that makes us a very important section of the voting population. What I have learnt from engaging with my peers over the past four days is that mainstreaming the priorities of youth groups in the public domain and in policymaking spheres is essential. Not only do youth groups have their own priorities, they are also the next generation of politicians, public figures and role models for future generations.”
Nearly 53% of the 2.1 million registered voters for the forthcoming 10 October 2017 general elections in Liberia are below 33 years of age.
UNDP supported young people in its voter education campaign in Liberia that has now reached over 1 million people. One of the key target groups for the campaign is youth and first time voters, to ensure they are able to equally enjoy their rights at polling stations on election day.