Mr. Theophilus Ekpon
Team Leader, Center for Sustainable Development and Education in Africa, Nigeria, September 2009
Mr. Theophilus Ekpon is Team Leader for the Center for Sustainable Development and Education in Africa, based in Nigeria. He is currently a consultant with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Nigeria, where he assists with facilitating the ongoing review of the National Youth Policy and development of a national youth profile. He has been the President of Youth Initiators Nigeria and a Special Youth Fellow with UNFPA in New York, where he carried out research on UNFPA-supported integrated livelihoods interventions among young people and developed a report from a global E-consultation on youth involvement in poverty reduction strategies in collaboration with the World Bank.
We asked Mr. Ekpon to discuss his role in forging a partnership between UNFPA and the Nigerian Ministry of Youth to review the National Youth Policy and ensure that the revised policy adequately addresses youth reproductive health concerns.
Youth Policy Toolkit: Tell us about why there is a need to review the National Youth Policy. Who initiated the review? What was the impetus?
Mr. Ekpon: The need to review the National Youth Policy became obvious due to the fact that the policy was last reviewed in 2001. Again, challenges faced by young people in Nigeria vary with time and need appropriate policies to address them. The idea of the review came as a result of a discussion between the director of the Ministry of Youth and me. The drive to review the policy came as a result of so many development challenges (especially adolescent reproductive health and livelihoods) that were not adequately addressed in the existing policy.
Youth Policy Toolkit: Tell us about the partnership between UNFPA and the Ministry of Youth to review the National Youth Policy. How did it come about? What does it involve?
Mr. Ekpon: UNFPA is giving both technical and financial support to the Ministry of Youth for the review of the National Youth Policy. This partnership started when I reported back to UNFPA on the outcome of my meeting with the director of the Ministry of Youth to review the policy. It was then followed by a proposal from the ministry to UNFPA. This partnership entails the provision of technical guidance and financial support to the Ministry of Youth.
Youth Policy Toolkit: In what ways do you hope to strengthen the current National Youth Policy with respect to reproductive health?
Mr. Ekpon: I hope to strengthen the reproductive health section of the National Youth Policy by involving young people who work in adolescent reproductive health to provide inputs during the proposed consultations in all geopolitical zones of Nigeria. I am also working with the vast network of adolescent reproductive health experts in Nigeria to get their inputs.
Youth Policy Toolkit: What will the review process involve? Who will take part? How long will it take? Who is financing it? What is the expected outcome?
Mr. Ekpon: The review process involves the development of an initial draft document that will be given to a wide range of stakeholders and the general youth population for inputs. The review is taking into consideration stakeholders in youth development and empowerment, ministries and agencies that work with young people, youth networks, and the underserved youth population. The review process will take close to 12 months and we are expecting it to be completed by February 2008. UNFPA and the Ministry of Youth are the major source of finance. We expect that at the end of the review process, a national policy document with an implementation mechanism that addresses the heterogeneous issues of youth in Nigeria will be developed, launched, and disseminated. The United Nations will assist with the dissemination and implementation of the revised policy.
Youth Policy Toolkit: Tell us a little about how you personally became involved in the review process.
Mr. Ekpon: I became involved in the review process due to my current position with UNFPA as a consultant on youth development issues and my passion to influence policies that affect young people. I was a Special Youth Fellow with UNFPA, President of Youth Initiators Nigeria, and am now on the Advisory Team of the Center for Sustainable Development and Education in Africa. I was also involved in the development of Nigeria’s National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy II (NEEDS II), which is Nigeria’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper.
Youth Policy Toolkit: What challenges do you expect to confront in the policy review process?
Mr. Ekpon: The most noticeable challenge is the issue of getting inputs from rural youth into the review process. Over 70 percent of young people live in the rural areas and getting them to attend such consultative processes has been a major challenge in the past. The issue of bureaucracy in government is another challenge that we will have to cope with.
Youth Policy Toolkit: How are you planning to meet those challenges?
Mr. Ekpon: We are planning to make the consultative process a grassroots-oriented activity rather than one that occurs only at the state or zonal level. The issue of bureaucracy in government will be a difficult one to overcome, but I do hope that, as the government is taking ownership of the review process, things will be able to move faster.
Youth Policy Toolkit: Can we get back to you for an update when it is all over?
Mr. Ekpon: Yes.
Do you have a question for Mr. Ekpon? If so, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Information for Mr. Ekpon:
Center for Sustainable Development and Education in Africa, Nigeria