On 30 June 2021, the Thematic Working Group (TWG) on Rural Youth Employment (RYE) organised an Independent Dialogue to the United Nation Food System Summit (UNFSS). The event was centred around two game-changing solutions proposed to the UNFSS by Nourishing Africa (launch of a coalition for youth in African Agriculture) and FAO (empowering youth as innovators and change makers for sustainable food systems), that were chosen based on their focus on youth as drivers for food system change.

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Speakers

The event began with an opening session summoning dedicated speakers from the working group and beyond. Representing the TWG, Peter Wobst from FAO and Sven Braulik from GIZ, set the scene for the topic of Rural Youth Employment and how this dialogue feeds into the UNFSS process. Lindsay Katchika-Jere from the Network for Youth Development in Malawi brought in a youth perspective on the challenges for young people in agriculture and emphasised the importance of avoiding one-size-fits-all solutions. Dr Janet Edeme from the African Union Commission pointed to how youth’s aspirations for engaging in agriculture needs to be accounted for in the transformation of the agricultural sector. Christine Campeau, the Deputy Chair of the UNFSS Action Track 4 on Advancing Equitable Livelihoods gave an inspiring speech about the potential for food system transformation through partnership and cooperation and the grand engagement that the Summit has fostered.

Dialogue Discussions

The main stages for discussion were the three dialogue sessions with different topics for debate. The first group discussed youth agency and capacities and was facilitated by Anna Befus from FAO. Ji-Yeun Rim from OECD facilitated the second discussion group, where the discussion was focused on the potential of local food systems and the role of youth. The last discussion was centred around decent and more jobs for youth in rural areas, led by Elisenda Estruch-Puertas from ILO. During the discussion, inputs from all different stakeholders were gathered, focusing on exchanging experiences, gathering best practice examples and concrete recommendations as input for the presented Game Changers.

In his closing remarks, Frank Bertelmann from GIZ pointed to the combined power of the two game-changers that framed the dialogue. A coalition that can strengthen the capacities of youth to transform food systems must be combined with approaches to create food systems that are inclusive of youth to provide them with opportunities as agripreneurs or by entering jobs in the food system that offer decent wages. Both game-changers promote the empowerment of youth in the food system through partnerships and cooperation.

The main aim of the TWG is to facilitate collaboration and knowledge exchange. The dialogue was a great scene for this, but also to look forward and use the momentum of the UNFSS to build stronger ties and coalitions on the topic of Rural Youth Employment. The interventions from the dialogue will be provided as feedback to the official UNFSS system. In addition, the take-aways from the discussion, in combination with the soon to be published stocktaking report on ‘Donors’ contribution to food systems’ of the GDPRD, will feed into the development of a white paper (to be launched in 2022) on donor coordination that will provide a framework for re-thinking the food systems agenda by the donor community.

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