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Enhancing youth leadership and participation in devolution

by Jane Murutu

National Youth Forum on Devolution

The one day forum brought together youth leaders-from all the 47 counties, youth serving organizations, government, development partners, civil society organizations private sector, media and organizations implementing programs on devolution. With more than 80 participants, the forum included a series of presentations, plenary discussions and group work.

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The long term goal of the national youth forum on devolution was to influence policy and governance and ensure that youth and youth issues are placed at the core of decision making at the national and county levels. The short term goal was to identify, strengthen and coordinate youth and youth networks to engage more effectively in the in the implementation of the Constitution particularly devolution.

The forum managed to get decision makers on issues of devolution in Kenya, experts on devolved system of governance, policy makers, development partners, private sector and leaders of youth serving organizations. In that case, the nation youth forum was a real engagement between youth and main actors in devolution. The forum was a profound step towards influencing policy and governance and ensure that youth and youth issues are placed at the core of decision making at the national and county levels.

The forum brought together over 80 youth representatives from all the 47 counties in Kenya. The youth representatives were selected based on their dedication and commitment to youth development in their respective counties and in the country. All participants were required to submit information about their engagement with the youth and plans after the forum.

The national youth forum on devolution received endorsement from the Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Devolution and planning that also host’s the Youth Directorate.

In the area of Commissions and Authorities, the forum benefited from the presence of representatives from the Constitution Implementation Commission (CIC), and Transition Authority (TA). The forum was also attended by the top leaders of the Council of Governors. In the case of legislatures, the following institutions and representatives were present; Members of the County Assemblies from different parts of the country, Kenya Young Parliamentarian Association and the Senate.

Key note address from the Principal Secretary, Ministry of Devolution and Planning was read by Mr. Hassan Noor who also opened the forum officially.

The speakers pointed out that youth were among the large groups that were historically excluded in development and access to services due to lack of proper governance policies. They argued that youth development is an integral part of devolution. As such, and in keeping with the requirements of the new law, both national and county government have a critical role to play in youth development, enterprise development and job creation.

Most important, youth were challenged to actively take part in governance and hold their leaders accountable-as youth have the capacity and energy to create a sustainable democracy, and prosperous and accountable counties.

The panelists said that for the gains in the constitution to be realized, institutions including parliament and commissions must work together and uphold the rule of law. The speakers attributed the confusion and slow realization of the objectives of devolution to political fights between Senators, Governors and members of parliament.

All the speakers emphasized the need for accountability by all leaders especially in the implementation of devolution. Questions have been raised on reports that resources channeled to the County governments have been grossly mismanaged. The session provided the speakers with a platform to explain to the youth the challenges and opportunities in the implementation of devolution.

Explaining how Kenya can achieve the goals of devolution, all the presenters were clear that without accountability and public participation in the implementation of devolution, Kenyans will not realize the gains of the new law and especially devolution.

The forum advised the youth not to sit back and wait for opportunities and instead use their creativity and talents to ensure that constitution especially devolution worked for them. Concerns were raised about the attitude of entitlement without responsibility that has contributed to apathy among the youth. Young people were encouraged to be proactive and to realize that their active participation in governance was in their best interest and of paramount importance to their development.

Although emphasis was on the use of innovative and creative ways of reaching out to youth, it was noted that engagement with youth at the grassroot through community dialogue circles and forums should not be overlooked. The speakers said that face to face engagement with the youth was important to avoid marginalization of already marginalized youth especially those who have no access to internet.

Participants at the forum and the Youth Congress identified three issues which require to be tackled immediately to advance youth causes and ensure that young people benefit from devolution.

  1. Formation and consolidation of a National Youth Network to follow up the implementation of the constitution especially devolution

  2. Conduct County Forums and Initiatives on devolution

  3. Develop a mechanism for youth engagement with various partners on devolution.

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