On the 15th March 2017, Yentyl Williams, Founder and President of ACP YPN, was presented her award as finalist for the Africa and Europe region as Commonwealth Young Leader in Development 2017. The award was presented by Baronness Patricia Scotland, Secretary General of the Commonwealth Secretariat. Yentyl was awarded due to her initiative to create ACP YPN in order to empower young people to take an active role in policy-making processes. By creating the ACP YPN platform to mainstream youth perspectives, Yentyl bridges the gap between international institutions (European Parliament and institutions), diplomats (ACP Ambassadors) and youth, in line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. See the press release here.
Yentyl’s application particularly stood out due to the legacy she created by bringing youth into EU-ACP relations, particularly by founding the EU-ACP Joint Parliamentary Assembly Youth Forums. As a young professional in EU-ACP affairs, Yentyl regularly attended the JPA sessions but quickly noticed that youth were generally absent from the exchange. Despite the unique parliamentary forum being in existence for more than 50 years, youth were never actively engaged at the JPA. Yentyl changed this by starting the Youth Forum as a side-event at the JPA, and by teaming up with international partners: the national youth councils of the host country, the Commonwealth Youth Council, the European Youth Forum and the JPA Secretariat. So far, two sessions have been held in Windhoek, Namibia. The second JPA Youth Forum was held in Nairobi, Kenya, where Bora Kamwanya, ACP YPN Policy and Advocacy Officer, led the Youth Forum. The JPA Secretariat has since institutionalized the Youth Forum and it shall now take place at all upcoming JPAs, twice a year, rotating between the EU and ACP regions.
Yentyl’s application also stood out because of the expertise she demonstrated in EU-ACP affairs. Yentyl was the youngest expert ever appointed to the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) for the Green Paper on the Future of EU ACP relations. Yentyl has shown consistent dedication to EU-ACP affairs and this is evident in her academic publications, her public speaking and, of course, her motivation to make sure more youth – both EU and ACP youth – can benefit and learn more about the EU-ACP partnership. Other initiatives include the ACP YPN Ambassador Roundtables, whereby young people meet with ACP Ambassadors in Brussels for a Roundtable and networking reception at the ACP embassies.
Yentyl is extremely grateful that since founding ACP YPN she has been surrounded by a dedicated team who are advancing the aims and the goals of ACP YPN to mainstream youth in policy-making; and as well, that EU and ACP officials are equally keen on opening spaces for young people to be involved in the partnership – in particular the ACP Secretariat; the European Economic and Social Committee; and the European Youth Forum. Yentyl’s message to youth on winning the award was poignant: “Dreams do come true and you can be the change you want to see”.
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