Towards Integrated Youth Development

I had the most amazing birthday discussion of my life (well with the exception of 23: 24 day in 2005!) on April 23, 2012, thanks to Ms. Hilda Dokubo and the Centre for Creative Arts Education. The theme of the discussion was ‘towards integrated youth development framework, financing and programming.’

In a very stimulating and thought-provoking intervention which spotlighted the 2011 budget of the Rivers State Ministry of Youth Development, one of the speakers highlighted the core sections of the budget. Capacity building and skills training constituted a substantial portion of the 218 million budget – totalling around 78 million (over 30 per cent of the budget); conferences and workshops around 48 million; the state youth council/ parliament around 45 million (with 18 million budgeted for the state youth parliament, including the State’s representative at the national youth parliament in Abuja); international youth day 23 million; consultancy costs for youth centres 15 million; and international tours and ‘world youth leadership congress’ 22 million.

The nature of the budget shows the challenge of identifying areas for intervention for a sectoral youth ministry that do not overlap with the work of other ministries, particularly as many of the components of ‘youth policy’ are the statutory responsibilities of other ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs). While the suggestion here is not necessarily to scrap ministries of youth, there needs to be serious discussion about the statutory role of the such ministries. There was consensus at the discussion that the current institutional architecture does not allow for the optimum utilisation of and derivation of value for resources expended, especially as a result of the likelihood of duplication of efforts across responsible MDAs. Addressing the situation requires serious discussion around convergence, main-streaming and integration.

Integrated youth development is an emerging concept which draws on ecological paradigms such as those proposed by Russian American psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner. Its emphasis is on convergence, synchronisation, rationalisation and efficiency, concepts which resonate in part with the neoliberal orthodoxy which informs many development and investment policies (for example privatisation) across Nigeria. The adoption of an integrated youth policy outlook, positions youth development as a holistic enterprise, and institutions responsible for youth programmes are better positioned to recognise their complimentarity across the board. Integration provides the advantage of ensuring that resources are maximally utilised and could yield better rates of return on investment at individual and social levels, in education and adolescent reproductive health for example.

Given that some States, and particularly those in the Niger Delta, could be considered as post conflict areas (although not strictly speaking), an integrated youth development framework provides an important contribution to effective delivery of youth development programmes. Indeed, Erin Baines and her colleagues at Mac-Arthur Foundation emphasised this in a 2006 report on war affected youth in Northern Uganda. With a strong emphasis on young people’s: education, skills development, employment, reintegration, sexually transmitted infections, HIV/AIDS, drug use, the overall well-being of youth, safe spaces for play, and their full participation in development processes, there is a need interrogate and possibly adopt the concept of integrated youth development to youth policy across Nigeria, as a means to ensuring that youth development programming produces the best possible results.

In addition, an inclusive ground-up approach that embraces young people’s values, views and voices should be adopted, in order to ensure that policies and their implementation align with the values and needs of young people. This includes participatory budgeting, which has been successfully implemented in Porto Alegre, Brazil. This takes the idea of convergence, propagated by enthusiasts of integration, forward by highlighting the links between young people’s identified needs, public policy priorities, resource allocation and expenditure. Like I said in my earlier article, I am for integration because I believe it will facilitate the optimum utilisation of public funds, if diligently and carefully implemented.

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