UN World Youth Report



WYR 2013 Chapter Five

Youth Engagement in Migration Policy and Programme Development

The value of youth engagement in migration policy and programme development

Young immigrants (internal and international) and other youth affected by migration possess valuable experiential knowledge. In some countries, Governments and relevant development partners recognize the importance of engaging young people in the process of developing national planning strategies and policies.

A number of national youth commissions, youth-led organizations and other youth civil society networks have been directly involved in official decision-making structures at the highest levels. Studies have shown that public policies and organizational policies are more effective when young people are involved in the planning and design. Youth engaged in migration and development policy processes can share the perspectives and life experiences of young people and articulate their needs (see box 5.3). Genuine consideration and integration of their input can increase young people’s trust in development mechanisms. Political participation among young people can be effective if youth share in decision-making and are recognized as partners in migration policy and programme development.


Box 5.3 National youth dialogue on migration

The exodus of trained, experienced professionals from Zimbabwe is a growing national concern, as it is affecting the country’s ability to achieve its development goals. The Government of Zimbabwe, in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration, organized a dialogue with Zimbabwean youth between the ages of 10 and 30 in order to explore ways to strengthen migration management and diaspora engagement in national development.

The event sensitised children and youth to the risks of human trafficking and irregular migration and the benefits of safe migration. The organizers solicited the young participants’ views on migration policy and practice with the aim of formulating and endorsing an action plan (or recommendations) on youth migration issues that would be integrated into the broader national migration and development strategy. The dialogue produced priority areas for consideration in the national strategy, including employment and economic development, education and skills training, facilitating safe migration, and expanding the contribution of diaspora youth to the development of Zimbabwe.

Source: International Organization for Migration (2010a; 2010b).


Youth-led organizations are at the forefront

Youth organizations can be the mechanism through which such knowledge is marshalled and mobilized. These organizations are an effective avenue for building the capacity of youth migrants and youth civil society to engage in public debate over migration and development (see box 5.4). A number of organizations involve youth in the design, implementation and evaluation of youth-centred programmes. This approach needs to be followed for advocacy campaigns in the area of migration and development. Youth engaged in the initial stages of an initiative can provide valuable insights and perspectives that can inform the development of policies and programmes. They can help attract a broader constituency of young people to build an organic advocacy network and make communication more youth-friendly—and therefore more effective and efficient.


Box 5.4 A training programme for youth leaders of the African diaspora living in Europe

Since 2009 the African Diaspora Youth Network in Europe has organized a number of training events for African diaspora youth living on the continent. The training programme is being carried out in partnership with the North-South Centre of the Council of Europe. This initiative is aimed at strengthening the role of leading African diaspora youth groups and movements and of youth leaders and youth workers active in youth organizations in European host societies. It focuses on empowering youth by fostering political participation and active citizenship, promoting their capacity to organize and take action within the framework of Africa-Europe youth cooperation and global youth initiatives. More than 400 youth leaders have developed their competencies and strengthened their role in Euro-African cooperation while developing the capacity of their organizations as well. Priorities for future action include facilitating the exchange of youth experiences and empowering the young African community living in Europe to take local action relevant to the Millennium Development Goals and other international development objectives.

Source: North-South Centre of the Council of Europe (2013).


Engagement must include disadvantaged youth

Within the migration framework, certain categories of youth such as girls and young women, youth left behind by migrant parents, and forced migrants (including refugees) are especially vulnerable to the risks of exploitation and abuse. Others who also may be susceptible to such risks include rural youth, out-of-school youth, and informal workers. Some programmes target these groups; however, many fail to classify them as groups at special risk and therefore make little effort to understand their experiences and the special challenges they face in their daily lives as migrants or as individuals affected by migration. In programme design and delivery, it is important to consider background characteristics such as age, gender and socio-economic status, and to identify the unique needs of each group based on their shared experiences. To achieve the latter, efforts need to be made to engage vulnerable youth in dialogue and to facilitate their participation in migration-support activities and policy development. Box 5.5 illustrates how refugee youth in Uganda are beginning to make their voices heard.

Young people can support local, national and global efforts to mitigate the risks associated with migration through short-term and long-term interventions, and at the same time enhance the development impact of youth migration. Youth-led interventions should concentrate on the needs of the marginalized and most vulnerable young migrants (including irregular migrants, domestic workers, female migrants, forced migrants and refugees).


Box 5.5 Giving forced migrants a ‘voice’ through photography

PhotoVoice is an initiative designed to help marginalized groups gain control over the creation of their individual and collective narratives. The PhotoVoice project implemented in northern Uganda targeted young refugees who had been displaced as a result of the country’s internal conflict. Through this project, young people were provided with the opportunity to photograph their daily lives, to develop their leadership, communication and decision-making skills, and to improve their individual well-being and that of their community. The primary goal of the initiative was to give participants the chance to reflect on their experiences and the needs of their community and to become advocates for social change.

Source: Green and Kloos (2009).

Figure 5.1 presents some ideas young people have identified as entry points for youth-led organizations in addressing various trajectories of the migration process. The nature of the intervention to be developed for a particular aspect of the migration process will depend on the context and the expected outcome.



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The UN Focal Point on Youth aims to build awareness of the global situation of young people, as well as promote their rights and aspirations, working toward greater participation of young people in decision-making as a means for achieving peace and development.

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