COTONOU, Benin — On the eve of the Africa Regional Youth Forum in Benin, UNFPA's Executive Director was awarded the highest National Honor from the Republic of Benin for his dedication to Africa's development and his commitment to prioritizing the issues of youth and women. The award was presented by the President of the Republic of Benin and current Chairman of the African Union, Mr. Thomas Boni Yayi.
At the Africa Youth Forum the next day, the Executive Director called on Africa to invest in its youth to develop human capital as a key factor for development. "What we need to do is to make sure youth feel they are engaged, they participate, and they have a real future in this continent," said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin. "At UNFPA, we will also invest more to ensure African youth have a brighter future."
The President of Benin told the participants that the African Union is committed to overcoming challenges African youth are facing: "I am here today to reassure you and to revive hopes. Be proud to be Africans. The time has come for us, African leaders, to address your aspirations and provide you with the appropriate training that will enable you to participate in the creation of national wealth."
Carrying the voices of African youth to the Bali Global Youth Forum
|The Executive Director meets with Benin's Minister of Healt, left, and UNFPA representative.|
The Executive Director also urged participants to agree on a common position to make Africa's voice heard at the upcoming Global Youth Forum in Bali next month.
Recommendations from the Youth Forum, which will be taken to Bali, include the call on governments to adopt national development frameworks that include the rights of youth to sexual and reproductive health, the empowerment of marginalized youth and young girls, and access to better jobs for youth. They also called on the UN to make these issues part of the post-2014 development agenda.
Organized by the Beninese Ministry of Development and the Ministry of Youth with the support of UNFPA, the three-day Regional Youth Forum was opened on 12 November by UNFPA's Executive Director and the President of Benin in the presence of Ministers and 150 participants from 23 African countries, United Nations agencies including ILO, UNDP and UNICEF and other partners.
The forum engaged the African youth in the review of the ICPD Programme of Action beyond 2014 and the MDGs beyond 2015. It also served as an advocacy platform to ensure that the specific needs of young people and adolescents are reflected in policies around health, employment and sustainable economic development across the African continent.
New push for CARMMA
During his visit to Benin, the Executive Director also successfully advocated for increased involvement and leadership of the national authorities in CARMMA (Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa) and to give a new impetus to this initiative at the continental level. CARMMA was launched by the African Union in 2009, with the support of UNFPA as major partner.
In his opening speech at the Youth Forum, the President of Benin, and current Chairman of the African Union promised to lead CARMMA during the next African Union Heads of State Meeting scheduled for Addis Ababa in January 2013.
Through CARMMA, significant progress has been won in reducing maternal mortality and morbidity. There are successes to celebrate. These show how, with focus and commitment, Africa is transforming, making great strides for the health and wellbeing of women and the new born.
Already every African country has committed to reduce maternal mortality in line with MDG5, which calls for improving maternal health. Thirty-seven African countries have launched specific initiatives for this purpose under the banner of CARMMA.
During his busy mission, the Executive Director also visited a UNFPA-supported health centre, met with Benin's Minister of Health, Dorothee Kinde Gazard and with UNFPA Representative Diene Keita (see inset photograph). He also found time for an interview about youth issues with Youthhub Africa.