The necessity to support youth development was recognized in the African Union Strategic Plan 2004-2007, and was thereby set out as the next step to undertake. In July 2006, the African Union (AU) approved the African Youth Charter (AYC) which entered into force in August 2009. The Charter is both a political and legal document which supports policies, programs and action for youth development in Africa. The AYC is the first legal document to really enshrine the participation power of the youth, their political representation,and their rights, freedoms and obligations within the continent, their country and even their region. The charter also takes into account more specific fields such as:
- Education, skills and competence development
- Employment and sustainable livelihoods
- Health and welfare
- Girls and young women
- Cultural activities
Although the Charter is very ambitious, its role is very clear and specific goals have been prepared. So far, 28 Member States have ratified the Charter; 39 States have signed and 6 more are yet to sign and ratify the agreement.
In order to facilitate the implementation of the Charter, the AU labelled 2009 “the African Youth Decade”. The African Youth Decade Plan of Action 2009-2018 (DPoA), part of the AYC, increases the capacity to integrate the objectives of the Charter. What is noticeable is that both the AYC and the DPoA have been drafted with a human right and multi-cultural approach for the government. Objectives and goals are further set in the form of a roadmap and agenda.
The implementation of new legislation brought by the input of the DPoA is positive; however, with regards to Africa, it may seem optimistic. Furthermore, the Action Plan relies on NGOs to promote its ratification and implementation, but also to help achieve the goals. For instance, the dissemination and understanding of the charter within the population mostly depends on organizations. In addition, regarding the monitoring and control of actions by Member States, the African Youth Decade Alliance (AYDA) was set up in 2011. It is an independent platform, gathering various organizations which are involved in projects throughout Africa. The AYDA acknowledged the need for an independent body and the fact that such an organization enables progress.
Both the Charter and the Alliance are examples of Cultural Diplomacy. Despite that the documents fail to take into account political struggles and other factors that can prevent its implementation, a problem felt throughout Africa was tackled with cooperation. The legal documents directed towards governments have been drafted to act on different levels and include cultural exchange per se. Also, it encourages organizations to work together and coordinate their efforts.
A lot of work remains to be done. Though the Charter imposes specific duties and objectives on the State Parties, it also allows for flexible implementation. This implementation must be further encouraged and monitored if significant progress is to be made.
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