International Youth Day: a glance at youth refugees participation in times of Covid-19

The “International Youth Day” is commemorated every 12th August to recognise youth participation in development and youth contributions to global advancements. Several themes have been selected by the United Nations to celebrate the date since it was adopted in 1999, ranging from addressing issues that directly affect youths, or issues in which youth are key actors, such as education, peacebuilding and political inclusion. This year’s theme is “Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health” and emphasises the need to move together in tackling the global issue of equity and sustenance in food systems. It is also a day when we join other youths to redefine what is next and adapt to these unprecedented times.

According to the United Nations, youth aged 15-27 years stand for 27% of Uganda’s 1.4 million refugees. The current pandemic has severely impacted on youth livelihoods in Uganda in general and refugee youths in particular, but there is an unexplored avenue in terms of recognising the contributions of refugee youth volunteers in this context. Last year, the RYVU team joined the webinar “Youth Volunteering: participation in times of COVID-19”, organised as a collaboration between the Institute for Volunteering Research at the University of East Anglia and the School of Political Science and Public Administration, East China University of Political Science and Law.

The webinar brought together an international panel to share thoughts and initiatives on youth volunteer responses and challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. The panel discussed how youth volunteers not only ‘fill the gap’ in provisions but also take on roles as leaders, activists and mediators – claiming centre stage in responses aimed at those most marginalised and at risk in their communities. Drawing upon experiences learned from RYVU research, Prof Matt Baillie Smith and Dr Moses Okech have discussed this theme in relation to trust, livelihoods and skills. You can watch the recording of their presentation in the video below and access the full webinar discussion in this link.

*The RYVU team would like to thank Reine Suzanne Kadia, currently undertaking a professional internship at the Centre for International Development of Northumbria University, for her support in preparing this article.

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