The European Union (EU) Delegation to Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African (ECOWAS) on Monday inaugurated a 25-member Youth Sounding Board in Abuja.
The Board is a body of young Nigerians that will help in shaping and implementing EU programmes and strategies in the country for more inclusiveness.
The inauguration is part of the EU’s commitment to incorporating young Nigerians in its decision-making process.
Members of the EU Youth Sounding Board (EU-YSB) will have an unpaid mandate of two years. The Board serve as a bridge between young Nigerians and the delegation.
Speaking at the ceremony, the Charge d’Affaires at the EU Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Mr Alexandre Borges Gomes stated that, “the Youth Sounding Board will allow young people to have an influence on the policy and programmes of the EU in Nigeria, thereby contributing to making EU action more participatory, relevant and effective for the large young population in Nigeria.”
He said that members of the Board were selected out of hundreds of applications of young and motivated Nigerians from across the country.
According to him, “Specifically, you were selected based on your knowledge and experience in one or more of the areas that are of key interest to the EU, including gender equality, youth inclusion, climate change, and culture.”
Mr Borges Gomes said the 25 youths had proven track record of playing outstanding roles in their communities, both online and online or offline, and had setup and participated in creative and innovative initiatives to empower youth at the grassroots level.
According to him, “with over 60 percent of the population below the age of 25 years, youth in Nigeria are a huge driver for change and innovation. In ongoing EU programmes, youth is already engaged in different subjects ranging from peace and security, to vocational training, and eradication of gender-based violence. A key lesson learnt in these engagements, is that lasting change and innovation lies with youth.
“The EU, therefore, believes that the future of Nigeria will largely depend on the ability to provide young Nigerians with opportunities for employment, education, health and access to decision-making processes
“In Nigeria, the EUD is working on its new programme for EU’s support to Nigeria 2021 – 2027. In this programme, youth is a central feature across all priority areas. The role of the EU-YSB will, therefore, be instrumental in ensuring that the voices of youth are taken into account in the shaping and implementation of this new programme for Nigeria
“Your role will also be key to ensure the youth leads on implementation of EU programmes as true drivers of change and to monitor and provide structural feedback on whether the objectives of youth engagement in EU policy and implementation are being met”.
The EU Charge d’Affaires commended the Nigerian government for its youth-oriented initiatives, and promised the EU would work with the government in the areas of policy-making.
According to him, “We are pleased with the participation of the Nigerian government today. With their support, we hope the YSB will play a critical role as bridge builders between the youth population and government by influencing policies and legislation towards ensuring that local needs are not missed out within the national conversation.”
Speaking on behalf of the first set of young Nigerians enrolled on the programme, Mr. Ismail Bello said he was excited to be selected amongst beneficiaries of the initiative even as he urged the EU to sustain the initiative as a way of creating opportunities for young people and youth organisations to express their views, connect and exchange ideas.
According to him, “I’m excited to be picked as one of the beneficiaries of this important initiative. Being part of this group will give me the opportunity to make my voice heard on issues of youth participation and empowerment. Getting selected is a stepping stone to my career as I will network with other young people and youth organizations” Bello said.
Another beneficiary, Ms. Abimbola Abileoye said young people have the capacity to contribute meaningfully while participating in nation building, noting that the YSB presents an opportunity for the less represented in decision-making and policy formulation processes to help solve global challenges.
“The Youth Sounding Board presents an opportunity to fully represent young people and their interest to help build the EU system from a youth perspective.
Being a member of the Youth Sounding Board is an opportunity to represent vulnerable people, and to influence policies and actions that are impactful,” Abileoye said.
In his remarks, the Minister of Youths Dvelopment Chief Sunday Dare appreciated the roles of EU in the development of the Nation’s Youths and unfolded the Federal Government’s plan to hold the ever Natiional Youths Conference in the country next month.
Chief said that the Confab which hold in Abuja would be attended by 10 Representatives from the each state of the Federation during which the Youths would formulate dwvelopmental programmes for themselves which would later be presented to the federal Government for full implementation.
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