Position PaperSADC Youth

Introduction and Background Context
The concept of natural resources governance gained popularity in recent decades at the back of the age-old practice of environmentalism, which generally directs attention to the preservation of the environment and to the relationship between environmental issues and development (Pepper 1986). By ‘natural resources’ is meant the “natural assets (raw materials) occurring in nature that can be used for economic production or consumption” (OECD 2022). Natural resources are in four categories, that is, mineral and energy resources, soil resources, water resources, and biological resources. They are also broken down into renewable and non-renewable resources (IDEA 2017). The concept of ‘natural resources governance’ is defined as “the formal and informal arrangements by which decisions over natural resources are being made, how powers, responsibilities and rights over natural resources are exerted, and how populations can access and benefit from natural resources” (IUCN 2017). From this definition, formal arrangements refer to the whole array of legislative frameworks, rules, regulations and policies that are found at the local, regional and international levels. Informal arrangements refer to the processes, norms, and practices found in local communities. In this paper, focus is directed to the role and place of the youth in the governance of natural resources. In the African context, youths are of interest for two main reasons: first, the continent has the most youthful population in the world, with 400 million estimated to be in the 15-35 years age bracket (AU2023). Second, Africa is the wealthiest region by measure of mineral resource endowments in the soil. However, generally, there is poor participation of groups such as the youth, women, and the disabled in natural resources governance (Bukar 2013). The African Union acknowledges the existence of several barriers militating against the inclusion and active participation of the youth and minority groups in public programmes, governance and decision making (AU 2020).

Policy Gaps on Youth Participation in Natural Resources Governance in Africa
At the AU level, ‘youth development’ is a key thematic area underpinned by several policies, instruments and strategies including the African Youth Charter, Youth Decade Plan of Action, the Malabo Decision on Youth Empowerment, TVET Continental Strategy, African Mining Vision (AMV), and APAYE: African Plan of Action for Youth Empowerment 2019-2023. In the African Youth Charter, interest is on its provision for the prevention of discrimination against the youth as well as promotion of ownership of property and participation of the youth in society. It does not explicitly cover the participation of the youth in natural resources governance in their respective countries. In the Youth Decade Plan of Action two of its five pillars are of relevance to the role of the youth in governance issues, that is, the governance, peace and security pillar and the agriculture, climate change and environment pillar. The African Mining Vision obliges African countries to improve the governance of natural resources and ensure the equitable distribution of economic benefits from mining activities. The TVET Continental Strategy provides for the development of policies and strategies for the creation of national wealth through youth empowerment strategies. APAYE, in addition, guides youth development programmes in Africa and seeks to drive a continental youth empowerment agenda. An evaluation of all these instruments and policies reveals that besides their obvious lack of direct provisions for youth participation in natural resources governance, they are invariably affected by challenges at the implementation level in individual member countries (AU 2020). Often, the operationalisation of continental programmes is affected by the limited engagement of young people, meaning most of the programmes are not genuinely youth-driven. In a number of cases, a disconnect exists between the continentally-determined programmes and their implementation at country level. Youth programmes further suffer poor coordination, weak synergies, and programme design dysfunctions.

SAYoF Position Paper on the Role of Youth in Natural Resource Governance