The atmosphere was electrifying; over 1400 youths attended; two youth-led panel sessions held; ‘Youth civic engagement’ was the theme; it was stimulating and inspiring, the 2015 International Youth Day, that is. Organised by the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Lagos and Strategy for Mentoring Initiative and Leadership Empowerment (SMILE), the observance of the Day held at the University of Lagos main auditorium, featured film show, knowledge sharing by youth, musicals and engaging interactive sessions.
In his message on the occasion, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, called on young people
to speak out and leaders to listen. According to him, ‘Young people are proving to be invaluable partners who can advance meaningful solutions. Young leaders have contributed fresh ideas, taken proactive measures, and mobilized through social media as never before.’
The message, delivered by the Director of UNIC Lagos, Mr Ronald Kayanja, further noted that the engagement of youth was more valuable than ever as leaders prepare to adopt a bold new vision for sustainable development. ‘Youth’, the UN Secretary General added, ‘can also join forces with the United Nations as we move from forging the new sustainable development goals to implementing them.’
In his keynote address, the Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Dr Idiat Oluranti Adebule pledged to involve youths in decision making process, building their skills to encourage entrepreneurial initiatives and creating opportunities for them to contribute positively to their communities.
Represented by the Director of Administration and Human Resource at the Office of the Deputy Governor, Mrs Yetunde Odejayi, the Deputy Governor disclosed that the recent creation of the Office of Civic Engagement by the Lagos State Government was an indication of the importance the State government placed on citizen engagement in developmental programmes and policies.
In her closing remarks, the President of SMILE, Mrs Bimpe Bamgbose-Martins noted that the discussion of ‘Youth Civic Engagement’ as it affects political, economic and social issues was not exhaustive and would therefore be further explored by the organisation with active participation by the youth.
She observed that the vision of developing an environment where youth could thrive and realise their full potential was work in progress, ‘but we are convinced that the recommendations contained in the communiques issued at the end of the programme will go a long way in addressing the issue of youth and development,’ Mrs Bamgbose-Martins added.