Young people represent a significant—and often under-recognized—resource for their communities. As the next generation of involved citizens and leaders, they have a role to play in building the community’s future. But, particularly in conflict-prone areas, they may leave home to seek opportunities elsewhere or succumb to pressure to join radical groups that do not contribute productively to the social order.
In Afghanistan and in Central America, ICMA has incorporated initiatives to involve youth in its USAID-funded programs.
The Afghanistan Municipal Strengthening Program (AMSP) recognized the need to help Afghanistan’s “next generation” not merely stay in their home municipalities but also view public service as a potential career and understand that every citizen needs to realize his or her individual role as a member of their community:
- A community-based youth program encouraged Afghan youth to consider local government service as a livelihood, provided employment skills development, and organized activities for youth in municipal internships, community service, and sports. More than 3,100 male and female youth participated.
- A greenery campaign in Jalalabad, conducted in cooperation with local organizations and the municipality, recruited youth to assist in planting 4,000 saplings donated by a private farm.
- Young people were offered courses in basic literacy, English language, and computer skills.
- AMSP sponsored volleyball, soccer, and cricket tournaments and/or distributed new sports equipment to young players.
- An internship program provided opportunities for young people to get training in administration and experience working in various municipal departments.
The Commercialization of Afghanistan Water & Sanitation Activity (CAWSA) program, which was designed to develop a viable commercial business model for urban water and sanitation service delivery in four cities, involved youth through a robust internship program. Internships provided practical, hands-on training and work experience for students and young people, who assisted local water supply companies by:
- Assisting in the automation of technical, administrative, and financial data (these interns were recent university graduates with excellent IT skills who also helped the local water supply company address multiple IT issues)
- Reading water meters and detecting illegal water connections in homes, thereby increasing revenue
- Distributing water bills, assisting in collections, and supporting customer care initiatives
- Delivering English language and computer training to staff
- Conducting surveys and supporting other public awareness efforts.
The Regional Afghan Municipalities Program for Urban Populations (RAMP UP) team:
- Sponsored an art contest for school children to support a public awareness campaign about a community trash collection project
- Assisted partner municipalities in conducting workshops entitled “Youth and the Municipality,” held in schools and universities, with particular attention given to female youth participation; the workshops built dialogues between youth and municipal officials, inspiring a sense of civic responsibility in the youth, and identifying ways to increase youth participation in municipal planning and decision making.
ICMA’s Municipal Partnerships for Violence Prevention in Central America (AMUPREV) program in Panama, El Salvador, and Guatemala has shared best practices in community-based crime prevention. U.S. cities and counties have showcased successful prevention programs that promote interaction between police and the community. Practices focusing on youth include police athletic leagues, citizen police academies, and school resource officer programs.
Building on AMUPREV, ICMA was an implementing partner in Alcance Positivo (Community Youth at Risk), which sought to reduce the risk factors that lead to crime and violence among young people in high-risk communities in selected Panamanian cities. The program employed a two-pronged approach: (1) Initiating youth development and prevention activities that address root causes of youth crime and gang involvement and (2) improving overall coordination and local capacity to better formulate and implement programs for youth at risk.
ICMA helped municipalities, districts, and the Child and Adolescent Unit of the Panamanian National Police address the conditions that put youth at risk of criminal activity. Specifically, ICMA sought to improve coordination among the police and other governmental, nongovernmental, and private-sector stakeholders, including youth, in efforts to promote greater public safety by:
- Supporting the creation and/or strengthening of municipal committees and roundtables for the prevention of violence, including assistance in the development of crime/violence prevention plans and the development of project proposals for funding of activities that benefit at-risk youth
- Facilitating training and planning for the Child and Adolescent Unit of the national police by conducting an assessment, identifying key areas for assistance, and sharing best practices in community-oriented policing, including the use of Police Athletic Leagues, school resource officers, and other activities that encourage positive interaction between youth and police.