By Olimatou Coker
National Youth Council (NYC) on Saturday completed its three-day Urban Thinkers’ forum.
Funded by the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, the activity was designed to engage young people identify, assess and monitor disaster risks and better early warning systems in order to plan and develop strategies with local government councils to address issues underpinning urban centres.
The forum brought together 85 participants from urban settlements including Banjul, Kanifing, Brikama, Farafenni and others.
In her opening remarks, Fatou Gibba, director of governance at the lands and regional government ministry, praised the forum as platform for building resilient mechanisms to combat climate change and related disasters.
She recalled that in 2016 The Gambia participated in adopting new urban agendas that aimed to develop and accelerate achievements of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
Ms Gibba said building capacity is the most important mechanism to addressing challenges of urbanization.
She said the Urban Thinkers forum empowers people to overcome issues affecting urban centres.
She thanked UNDP for financing the programme.
Lamin Darboe, executive director of the NYC described the forum as instrumental as it enables participants to work with the NYC and its partners to ensure that the best interest of urban dwellers are addressed.
“The forum is a platform where the youth are expected to mobilise smart and innovative ideas from young innovative and critical minds in curbing these existences in the country,” he stated.
The youth leader said urbanisation is increasingly becoming a challenge in the country. He said without proper preparation and good innovative programmes and tools, the future could be bleak.
“Therefore, the youth council deems it essential to converge young people across the state to look at how to resolve some urban problems,” he said.
He cited some of the challenges confronting urban centres which includes poor drainage systems, poor road networks and others.
He said these challenges cannot be left with the central and local governments alone. He called on Gambians with innovate ideas to come out and work hand in glove with the Council to address these challenges.
“It is our responsibility to raise awareness of the masses and hold duty bearers to account, but it is also our responsibility as citizens to take action to address these challenges,” he demanded.
Aboulie Nyass from the finance ministry, said government looks forward for greater youth participation in the National Development Plan (NDP) in order to ensure its effective implementation.
He said the formulation of the NDP was inclusive as many stakeholders participated in the process.
“At the national level various thematic working groups had been established comprising the government, private sector, NGOs, CSOs and other partners.
He said community consultations were also staged across the country.
He praised the NDP as significant, saying it is here to bring good governance, accountability and economic transformation.
He highlighted human rights, security sector reform and youth empowerment as some of its priority areas.