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In Nairobi, youth are talking about corruption, crime prevention and good governance

11 December 2018: Preparing today's youth to become tomorrow's leaders rests in large part on giving them solid educational pillars, including not only the necessary range of formal academics but also strong ethical foundations and essential life skills. Many of these aspirations are contained in the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals; these are entrenched in Member States' national curricula as they strive to empower youth, with rule of law and a culture of lawfulness becoming increasingly fundamental factors.

Sustainable Development Goal 16, to which much of UNODC's activities are dedicated, caters to peace, justice and strong institutions, all of which can falter and even crumble when crime and corruption creeps unopposed. This is all the more crucial when funds are diverted away from where they are most needed, ultimately weakening governance. Corruption is such a strong impediment to development and democracy that the African Union declared 2018 as the African Anti-Corruption Year, with the aim to spread awareness about the effects of corruption and to strengthen those combatting it.

With almost half of its population currently under the age of 25, and three-quarters under the age of 35, Africa is the youngest of all continents. It is clear that challenges such as socio-economic inequalities, social exclusion and unemployment, besides being risk factors for crime and corruption, prevent youth from reaching their full potential.

To keep the dialogue open with this most important of resources, its young people, UNODC's Regional Office for Eastern Africa, with support from the Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration, organized the National Youth Workshop on Promoting Good Governance and Integrity. With the participation of some 500 Kenyan youth, representing all segments of society, including vulnerable communities from across the country, these young voices joined important stakeholders from the office of the President of Kenya, Government ministries, parliamentarians, the judiciary, academia and the private sector.

Describing the Government of Kenya's aspirations on the matter and its efforts to fight corruption in line with the Kenya Vision 2030 development programme, Elizabeth Mueni Kimulu, Director of Youth and Social Affairs Director in the Office of the President, stressed the necessity of a continuous dialogue with youth - as well as the tangible impact on people's opportunities. "Corruption costs Kenya some 300,000 jobs every year," she informed an amazed audience.

This inter-generational dialogue tackled the role of youth in countering crime and corruption. In this context, youth reflected on challenges that their communities face when it comes to organized crime (including trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants), effective prevention of crime and violence in urban settings, as well as challenges concerning health and substance use. In addition, the forum considered the role of educators in strengthening the next generation's ability to counter corruption and crime.

At the opening of the event, HE Ambassador Jabr bin Ali Al-Dosari of the State of Qatar spoke on the importance of youth empowerment and his country's support towards this through the Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration. "In cooperation with UNODC, we have been able to implement a number of programmes at regional and international levels through teaching youth basic life skills. These are proven to strengthen their resilience - and society's resilience - against crime, terrorism and corruption, particularly in marginalized communities." As all speakers put at the forefront, Ambassador Al-Dosari also flagged youth ownership: "Youth have an important role in development and ensuring safety (but) we must provide them with the necessary tools to achieve this by including them in decision making."

In a heartfelt address to the youth gathered, the Director-General of the UN in Nairobi, Hanna Tetteh, spoke on the importance of these consultations. "What is the Africa that you want?" she asked. "I am sure that it is one where corruption does not impact your dreams. A decade ago we did not have UNODC consulting with you - the youth - on building a youth programme. You now have what it takes to make a difference!"

This was echoed by UNODC's Regional Representative, Amado Philip de Andrés, who reflected on the need to step up efforts to promote a culture of lawfulness. "This means working with ministries of education, academic institutions, educators, sports coaches, youth and children worldwide to support the next generation to change society for the better by fostering socially responsible global citizens with a sound moral and ethical compass who are prepared to tackle the world's most serious crime problems."

The Regional Representative also spoke on the role of UNODC's Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration and its ability to guide young people in their understanding of the rule of law, in particular Line Up, Live Up, which promotes youth crime prevention through sports activities, and the Education for Justice (E4J) initiative.

It was through the latter of these that discussions on the role of education was held at the workshop. E4J's support to preparing the world's youth in this respect is given by providing educators at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels the resources needed to teach the younger generation about the essential issues which together contribute to a culture of lawfulness, and to better understand and address problems that can undermine the rule of law. In this vein, UNODC Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer, Bianca Kopp, briefed a wide-range of academic policymakers as well as primary, secondary and tertiary-level educators at the event, flagging E4J's ready-to-use, freely available tools: "In achieving our collective goal of building a better tomorrow, it is imperative that we work together. Through UNODC's unique set of materials, and your ability as educators to roll these out, we are in a prime position to join forces in promoting the rule of law and building a more peaceful society." This, she explained, is not only helping achieve the UN's Sustainable Development Goals on education (4), and peace, security and strong institutions (16), but ever-more important in rolling out E4J, on partnerships (17).

Complementing this educational contribution to the fight against corruption and the wider issue of building a culture of lawfulness, UNODC pays close attention to strengthening youth resilience to crime and violence in local communities and urban settings. As UNODC Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer Johannes De Haan elaborated in his lively and suggestion-filled discussions with youth, "if we want to reduce crime, it is crucial to not only address the needs of young people in crime prevention and criminal justice, but also to engage them in the design and implementation of prevention policies and programmes." He subsequently presented UNODC's latest youth crime prevention initiative that uses sport to engage at-risk young people and promotes life skills and enhances their awareness about the risks associated with crime, violence and drug use.   

Efforts to ensure youth have a voice in their future were not underappreciated. Over the course of the three days - in the plenary, in breakout sessions, and in informal settings - a large number of attendees expressed their want to be a part of the solution. Reflecting their thoughts and ideas in various creative forms, the gathered youth also expressed themselves through the arts. Kenyan spoken word artist, Teardrops, shared a number of his impassioned poems on life as a youth and the challenges that crime corruption poses for him and his peers. Young painters joined the event, developing their pieces in-person to depict corruption and society: one painting, for instance, features some 100 quotes on corruption, with death symbolized in the centre of all this to showcase the all too real impact of this crime. Creative dance was also used, with a very active troupe providing edutainment on the theme.

Bringing together the multiple ideas and suggestions raised by the participants, the workshop concluded with the adoption of a youth declaration. This will form part of UNODC's upcoming youth work in Kenya and beyond, and critically is set to feed into the country's national youth approach in tackling corruption. In this regard, the declaration was handed over to Elizabeth Mueni Kimulu, Director of Youth and Social Affairs in the Kenyan Presidency, who issued her congratulations and pledged to present this to the President of Kenya.

Additional information:

Education for Justice

UNODC Regional Office for East Africa

Youth Crime Prevention through Sports