Youth are the main actors in shaping a sustainable food system transformation and rural youth employment has direct links to a broad spectrum of thematic areas in development cooperation. This makes it one of the keys to achieving the SDGs, and in particular SDG2. Co-Chairs Frank Bertelmann and Sven Braulik from GIZ, and Anna Befus and Peter Wobst from FAO, explain the issue and illustrate how diverse members come together to unlock the topic’s equally diverse potentials.

Frank Bertelmann

Project Director, Global Project “Rural Employment with Focus on Youth”, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH

Sven Braulik

Advisor, Global Project ‘Rural Employment with Focus on Youth’, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH

Anna Befus

Rural Youth Employment Specialist, Decent Rural Employment Team, Economic and Social Development Stream (ES), Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN

Peter Wobst

Team Leader, Decent Rural Employment/Senior Economist, Economic and Social Development Stream, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN

An Interview with the Co-Chairs of the Thematic Working Group on Rural Youth Employment

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Frank, why are the issues around rural youth employment important to the donor community?

Rural youth employment is one of the most crucial and important issues in our partner countries, especially in Africa. With a rising youth population and the need to create 20-25 million jobs per year, there’s no doubt about its relevance.

It is also crucial to many thematic areas in development cooperation because of its direct links to education and skills development, economic and sectoral policies, and entrepreneurship, innovation, and technology.

Why is there the need to dedicate a working group to this now?

Rural youth employment is a topic at the interface of rural development and economic development. These topics are often forgotten, which is why the existence of our group is especially important.

It is about providing enough food, jobs and income for a growing population, and youth being key actors in food systems transformation. This became clear at the UN Food System Summit (UN FSS) and in a digital and interconnected world.

What are the main goals of the group?

An exchange of information and knowledge with a broad range of stakeholders. Varied perspectives from civil society, research, the private sector, political partners, the African Union Commission, and partners at the country level. This contributes to better projects and donor coordination, with collective influence and engagement in policy processes, such as the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) or the UN FSS.

“We aim to be a community of practice committed to the importance of rural youth employment, a reference point for good practices and approaches and a partnership for youth. There are not only potentials for youth, but rural youth can actually create an economy with a vibrant development space.”

Anna, how do you see the potential of this working group in boosting coordination on rural youth employment – among donors but also going beyond donors?

By providing a joint space to exchange evidence-based approaches, develop ideas, get updates on current issues and major trends, share information and opportunities, and organize webinars and contributions to international processes.

The group is committed to increase youth engagement. Platform members can participate, but we also welcome youth organizations, the private sector, producer organizations, think tanks and research institutes.

How can coordination benefit the work that you do as individual donors and organizations?

Our respective organizations benefit from the coordination promoted by the group. FAO, for instance, seeks to build synergies while avoiding overlaps, so this group is a great platform to join forces and build long term collaborations and share networks and resources. This helps each member make a more significant impact.

Sven, what have been the main achievements of the group in the past year?

The group was established in 2018 and has helped put rural youth employment high on the international agenda. In the past year, the group has engaged more intensively partly thanks to the GDPRD secretariat’s support. We attracted a broader range of members, not only donors but also implementing organizations and policymakers like the African Union, European Union, research networks, and civil society organizations. We are especially happy to include the voices of youth organizations and networks in our discussions.

What are some current projects you are working towards together?

The group focused on two policy processes. First is the UNFSS to develop game changer propositions that became solution clusters and coalitions. We organized an independent dialogue to promote rural youth employment in food systems with donors, development practitioners, and youth representatives.

Second is the development of CFS policy recommendations for youth engagement and employment. A policy convergence process has started to focus our inputs.

Joint webinars including one on creating more inclusive pathways of structural transformation and a joint session with the Platform’s Thematic Working Group on Land Governance on improving youth access to land. We are also compiling an overview of proven tools and member experiences from the ground.

Peter, what are the potentials for this working group?

The group follows simple principles that start with continuity. The approach to rural youth employment over the last decade is best described as hit and run, with international initiatives but under a general context of youth employment. Rural youth employment is a specific issue for development and stability. This is the first time in 15 years that, through this group, I’m engaging in a permanent platform for exchange specifically on rural youth employment issues.

With coherence, we aim for consistency across donor interventions and in international processes even if we are not joining forces in funding. We use this for advocacy, to demonstrate what can be done.

We are working more with youth for youth. This third principle will guide the group beyond the current hype to continue international focus on the issue and generate results.

What is your vision for its future?

Peter: We aim to be a community of practice committed to the importance of rural youth employment, a reference point for good practices and approaches and a partnership for youth. There are not only potentials for youth, but rural youth can actually create an economy with a vibrant development space.

Frank: With food systems transformation now a global focus, the topic is even more universal, more than in previous contexts like smallholder productivity and a rising youth population in Africa.

Anna: COVID-19 caused governments to refocus on migration and youth. Emphasizing the agri-food system can help make it more appealing and equitable to fill this untapped reservoir of employment opportunities.

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Maurizio Navarra

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