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Forum Allows Young People in Africa to Discuss Issues With Leaders


Leaders from several African countries and Germany listened to the concerns of young people from across Africa Saturday. They discussed issues ranging from armed conflicts to democratic participation and the environment during a two-day forum. Efam Dovi covered the forum in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, and has this VOA report.

Ghana's president, John Kufuor, opened the two-day forum, urging participants to come up with innovative ideas, to address the concerns of European and African youth.

Among the leaders in attendance were Presidents Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Festus Mogae of Botswana, as well as 30 other political and business leaders.

Discussion groups focused on a variety of issues.

Mr. Obasanjo presided over the discussion on the environment. He said climate change is having a serious impact on Africa. For instance, he said, Nigeria is suffering from more desertification in the north and coastal erosion in the south.

He said Africa needs help coping with the effects of climate change. "Africa's interest is in adaptation, and we have to help Africa in the process of helping developing nations of Africa to develop their adaptive capacity to cope with climate change," he said.

Mr. Obasanjo talked about the critical situation facing Lake Chad, which he said has dwindled to 10 percent of what it was 50 years ago. He said, in another 20 years, there will be no water in Lake Chad, which over 10-million people depend on for their livelihoods.

He said the Lake Chad Basin Commission, made up of countries, which depend on the lake, are working to keep it alive.

Nadine-Lan Nguyen, one of the young people who addressed the heads of state, said government leaders must abide by their commitments. "With signing these conventions and treaties, in our view, the real work only starts. We observe for lack of states' compliance with these treaties, we observe for lack of commitment, and for the lack of discipline regarding implementation and the lack of enforcement - these might have many reasons, however the ones I would like to strongly mention here are corruption at the governmental level, as well as corporate level," he said. "As youth representatives, we ask each and every one of you to fulfill what you promised, in order to preserve the natural habitat biodiversity, and to prevent climate change."

Nguyen also called for effective laws at national and international levels to deal with non-compliance with international treaties and conventions.

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