On Friday, 24 August 2012, Flavia Pansieri, Executive Coordinator of the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme, and Jean-Pierre Ezin, Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology with the African Union Commission (AUC), signed a letter of understanding in which the two organizations agree to harmonize their efforts to promote the concept of youth volunteerism as a means to advance socio-economic growth and development in Africa.
The letter was signed following a productive working session at UNV headquarters in Bonn, Germany, during which UNV and AUC (the secretariat for the African Union) agree to collaborate in policy and advocacy on youth volunteering and infrastructures at national and regional levels.
The two organizations agree to research and document the impact of youth volunteering in peace and development in Africa, share knowledge and training expertise in volunteering, and to explore joint efforts in technical support and resource mobilization for youth volunteerism on the continent.
Ms Pansieri said, The cooperation outlined in this letter of understanding is part of our response to the UN Secretary-Generals Five-Year Action Agenda which identifies youth, specifically youth volunteerism, as a key to achieving sustainable development.
The African Union (AU) launched its Youth Volunteer Corps in December 2010. UNVs support as a technical partner to the AU in this endeavor dates back to 2006. The Commission has received 2,000 applications from prospective volunteers since the launch and drawn up a short list of 300 volunteer nominees. Candidates will receive two weeks of training in volunteerism as well as an in-person assessment before being deployed throughout Africa.
The African Union Youth Volunteer Corps was established as a direct response for ensuring greater involvement of the youth in the socio-economic development of the African continent based on the shared values and principles of Pan-Africanism, said Prof. Ezin. In fact, we can say it is a development programme that seeks to unleash the potential of young people in Africa as key participants in the delivery of human development.
He added that the programme brings together young people from the AU's 54 member states to share their skills, knowledge and creativity while they build a more integrated continent and by implication strengthen Africas relevance in a globalized world.
The deployment of the volunteers outside their home countries will result in international exchange and provide opportunities for cross-cultural connections that will contribute to the emergence of Pan-African leadership, said Daniel Adugna, the AU Youth Officer with the Division for Human Resources and Youth Development with the Commissions Human Resources, Science and Technology Directorate.
With some 65 per cent of the African continents population under the age of 35, the programmes designers envision youth empowerment through voluntary and effective participation of young people as the architecture of human capacity development across Africa.
Our business plan, based on the idea of Africa for Africans , means having African youth serve in Africa, along with traditional development partners, in performance-driven deployments in the areas of health, peace and education, among others, said Mr. Adugna.
For the youth going through the programme, it will be an empowering experience, he added.
Volunteers will receive an endorsement from the hosting agencies. Volunteerism will provide the answer to youth who are always being asked about the experience they have when they apply for jobs, said Raymonde A. Agossou, Head of the Human Resources and Youth Division with the Commissions Human Resources, Science and Technology Directorate.
UNV has collaborated with the African Union since November 2006, following an invitation to the Fifth Africa Development Forum (ADF-V), held in Ethiopia. UNV partnered with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in organizing a workshop on youth and volunteerism as a side event. At the conclusion of the conference, a recommendation was made for the establishment of an African Union Youth Volunteer Corps within the context of the African Youth Charter.
The successful August 2012 meetings between UNV and AUC enjoyed a convivial atmosphere, reflecting both organizations' common interest to strengthen youth volunteering across the African continent.