The future of Somalia and well-being of its people rest significantly on empowering the country's large and mostly jobless youth population,says a new United Nations Development Program (UNDP)
The Somalia Human Development Report 2012: Empowering youth for peace and development is the first report of its kind on this war-torn Horn of Africa country in more than a decade.
"As witnessed in the Arab region and elsewhere, young people can serve as potent drivers of political, social and economic transformation," Sima Bahous, UNDP's Regional Director of the Regional Bureau for the Arab States, told a news conference here.
"We can no longer afford to overlook the potential gains from placing youth at the center of Somalia's development," she said, adding that more than 70 percent of Somalia's population is under the age of 30.
The launch follows the Somalia mini-Summit this week during the UN General Assembly, where the country's newly elected president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, joined the UN Secretary-General and key Somali policymakers via video conference from Mogadishu to discuss a vision for Somalia's future that focuses on peace-building and economic recovery.
The report, based on surveys conducted in more than 3,000 households in south-central Somalia, Puntland, and Somaliland, finds that although most Somali youth believe they have a right to be educated (82 percent) and a right to decent work (71 percent), they feel disempowered by multiple barriers built into the family, institutions, local government, and society at-large.
This lack of viable education and job opportunities, along with clan and cultural prejudices, has created a high level of frustration and discontent among young people. Radical shifts in policies and attitudes are needed in order to empower and place them at the core of the development agenda.
"What young Somalis really want is a different future for themselves, one in which they can make a decent living in peace, and weigh in on the decisions that affect their lives," said Mark Bowden, UNDP's Resident Representative in Somalia, adding that two-thirds of Somalia's youth are unemployed--one of the highest rates of joblessness in the world.
"The danger is that when institutions and labor markets fail to respond to the needs of young people, marginalized youth can gravitate towards violence as a means to an end."
The report contains a Youth Charter, developed by youth representatives from Somaliland, Puntland and south-central Somalia, with inputs from a wider group within Somalia and in the diaspora.
The charter underlines the aspirations, perceptions, and needs of young Somalis, such as free and compulsory basic education and greater representation of youth in Parliament. It also offers a guiding set of principles by which government, development agencies, and civil society should abide to engage youth and ensure inclusion of their needs in development policies.
As part of the solution, the report recommends putting the empowerment of excluded groups such as youth and women at the center of Somalia's national development agenda, and calls for a broadening of the current clan-based electoral system to include marginalized groups.
Job creation and improved educational opportunities for all social groups, including those that have already missed out on such opportunities, will also help pave the way towards a more stable nation.
There is also a need for a platform for young Somalis to express themselves freely at all levels, while strengthening the capacity of local authorities to support youth programs.
· Somali development and humanitarian indicators are among the lowest in the world;
· Over 70 percent of Somalia's population is under 30;
· The youth population in Somalia may continue to swell due to high fertility rates, estimated at 6.2 births per woman between 2010 and 2015;
· Overall unemployment among people aged 15-64 is estimated at 54 percent, up from 47 percent in 2002;
· The jobless rate for youth aged 14-29 is 67 percent--one of the highest rates in the world; women lose out more, with unemployment rates at 74 percent, compared to men at 61 percent;
· Life expectancy in Somalia is 50 years, up from 47 in 2001;
· Over 60 percent of youth have intentions to leave the country for better livelihood opportunities;
· Somalia ranks as one of the worst countries worldwide for women. Gender-based violence and discrimination against Somali women are widespread.