28 April 2022, New York: The South-South Cities Pilot on “Advancing Youth Volunteerism in Banjul City of The Gambia, through South-South and Triangular Cooperation, in the context of COVID-19 Response and Recovery” was launched by the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), the Permanent Mission of the Gambia to the UN, Banjul City Council, UNDP Country Office in the Gambia, and the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB).
The youth community of Banjul, capital of the Gambia, have been actively participating and volunteering with civil society organizations in providing local response to COVID-19, including in the areas of sanitization, mask distribution, cleaning of streets and public places, among others. They have also been volunteering in various climate action and environmental protection efforts, such as tree plantation drives and beach cleanups.
With funding support from IsDB and UNOSSC, through its South-South Cities Project, as well as implementation support by the UNDP Country Office in the Gambia, in close coordination with the Banjul City Council, this pilot project aims to advance and support youth volunteerism frameworks, capacities and activities in Banjul city through leveraging expertise and resources and facilitating exchanges and mutual learning with other cities in the global South to scale-up youth empowerment, skills development, volunteerism and entrepreneurship, as well as support the youth in playing an important role in COVID-19 response and recovery.
The kick-off launch meeting was moderated by Ms. Dingding Sun, Programme Coordination Specialist, UNOSSC, and it was joined by H.E. Ambasador Lang Yabou, Permanent Representative of the Gambia to the United Nations; Madam Rohey Malick Lowe, Lord Mayor of Banjul, the Gambia; Ms. Xiaojun Grace Wang, Deputy Director, UNOSSC; and Madam Aissata De, Resident Representative, UNDP The Gambia.
Ms. Xiaojun Grace Wang, Deputy Director, UNOSSC made the welcome remarks and shared that South-South cooperation embraces mutual support and collective actions, based on solidarity and shared experience. She mentioned that women and young people have been deeply impacted by COVID-19 but they have also served as change-makers. Through volunteerism, there is an opportunity to engage with young people and share examples from the ground. This initiative serves as a concrete example, of demand-driven initiative, supporting development areas in Banjul by leveraging the comparative advantages, resources, and expertise of various partners from different countries and sectors. It represents, indeed, South-South cooperation in Action.
During the meeting, H.E. Ambassador Lang Yabou commended the Islamic Development Bank, UNOSSC and UNDP for their commitment and South-South solidarity to support youth and volunteerism in Banjul city and the Gambia. He shared that South-South and triangular cooperation plays a critical role in strengthening countries’ capacities, exchanging information and good practices, and promoting coordinated action. He also stated that this multistakeholder pilot project will serve an example of how to effectively utilize the SSTC approaches and contribute towards practices of youth volunteerism in Banjul, The Gambia.
Madam Rohey Malick Lowe, Mayor of Banjul thanked UNOSSC and UNDP for their support to the city of Banjul, especially during their response to COVID-19 pandemic. She said, “Youth are the future of the world and showcase sustainable leadership. This pilot initiative will serve as an inspiration to the youth of Banjul”. She also stressed that the initiative is very important to the city of Banjul, and that she looks forward to its implementation and the fruitful results it support of the local youth.
Madam Aissata De, Resident Representative of UNDP Gambia, spoke on the importance of the initiative, highlighting that volunteerism offers an opportunity for young people to contribute to the good of society, apply critical and innovative thinking, find new solutions and improve their skills sets. She said, “Youth are the generation’s change-makers and can contribute towards all 17 SDGs”. She also highlighted that, given the fact that more than 50% of the youth in Banjul is currently unemployed, this pilot initiative is very important and timely to support youth in developing new skills, build confidence, contribute to the development of a conducive entrepreneurship ecosystem at the local, community, and national levels.
Ms. Dingding Sun from UNOSSC highlighted that this pilot initiative also aims to inspire and engage more cities and partners from developing countries who faced this common challenge to join. They can benefit from this learning process by connecting policy makers, experts and local development practitioners to exchange knowledge from their counterparts, identifying workable development solutions and policies, and sharing innovative good practices and tools.
This pilot project will be under the South-South Cooperation Cities Project, a global initiative by UNOSSC, with funding support from the Government of China. It aims to promote South-South and triangular cooperation at the local level in order to advance sustainable development globally. Following a demand-driven, participatory approach engaging local authorities and stakeholders, the Cities Project provides streamlined support and services which include needs assessment, capacity development, advisory and advocacy support, technology and expertise exchanges, and implementation and co-financing support.
South-South Galaxy hosts the South-South Cities Clusters, a virtual community space dedicated to facilitating information sharing, knowledge exchange, and networking among cities in developing countries, UN agencies and financing mechanisms. In response to cities’ needs and interests, seven thematic clusters have been proposed, topics including COVID-19 response and recovery; disaster risk reduction; sustainable tourism; sustainable agriculture; E-commerce; environmental sustainability, sustainable transport & air quality, and waste management.