Baguio, Naga highlight local initiatives in youth empowerment towards urban development

(in photo above) Panelists and organizers from the S2Cities programme partners, including representatives from the Global Infrastructure Basel Foundation, the youth sector and city governments of Baguio and Naga, Cordilleran Youth Center, WeSolve Foundation, and ICLEI Southeast Asia during the online event 8 March 2024 advocating for youth empowerment in urban development. 

Representatives from the city government, civil society, and the youth sectors of Baguio and Naga, Philippines on 8 March 2024 shared best practices in youth empowerment, engagement, and inclusion in urban development, in the process advocating for the transformative potential of young people in improving urban safety and well-being. 

Organized virtually by ICLEI Southeast Asia and attended by over 100 participants from around the world, the online event titled “Youthful Urban Futures: Empowering the Youth Towards Safer and Sounder Cities,” tackled key learnings and insights from the implementation of the youth- focused Safe and Sound Cities (S2Cities) programme in Baguio City and Naga City, Philippines. 

“The theme of today’s webinar, youth empowerment, is not just a topic of discussion, but a call for action. Young minds are the architects of tomorrow and their fresh perspectives are crucial in our collective quest for innovative solutions to environmental challenges,” said Hon. Abigail Binay, Mayor of Makati City, Philippines; Chairperson of the ICLEI Southeast Asia Regional Executive Committee; and Chairperson of the ICLEI Innovative Financing portfolio, in her opening remarks. 

To showcase what the youth can achieve when given the platform and capacitated to contribute to their communities, Audrey Nicole Pahayahay and John Mari Agapito, S2Cities youth innovation fellows from Baguio and Naga respectively, shared their urban safety interventions developed throughout the programme. The former’s youth group is currently developing an urban pet park, while the latter’s youth group is developing smart streetlights. 

How local governments and organizations are empowering their youth 

Discussing Baguio’s efforts in enabling the youth to be urban changemakers, Arch. Donna Tabangin, City Planning and Development Coordinator, shared that in partnership with the S2Cities programme, the local government created an innovation hub near the city center where youth activities in the city can emanate from. She noted that these activities are geared to be collaborative, innovative, immersive, and leadership- and mentorship-focused. 

“The youth are the leaders of today and of the future. One of the things that we aim for is to teach them and help them realize that they are indeed leaders, and we immerse them because they are partners in decision-making of the city,” noted Architect Tabangin. 

To further the reach of the innovation hub and its advocacies, the Cordilleran Youth Center (CYC), the S2Cities local implementing partner in Baguio, developed a mobile youth hub on wheels to reach youth and communities that are located in Baguio’s further and upland villages.  

“Aside from the fact that further communities have a more difficult time travelling to the city center, the younger people also have to be accompanied by their guardian or parent,” explained Patricia Joan Daloria, CYC Project Staff, on why the mobile youth hub makes sense given Baguio’s mobility context. 

In Naga, participatory governance has been a long-standing norm instituted through mechanisms such as the City People’s Council, City Youth Officials Program, and more recently, the S2Cities programme. According to Samantha Fullante, Naga City Youth Officer, these have helped empower the city’s youth to participate in and design programs and services for their communities.  

“The capacity-building aspects of [these mechanisms] equips young people with skills in leadership, public speaking, project management, and community engagement—skills that are beneficial not only to the individual but to our overall human capital development in the city,” said Fullante.  

This participatory approach was also evident in Naga’s development of its youth innovation hub. WeSolve Foundation, the S2Cities local implementing partner in Naga, held various co-creation workshops where the youth designed the space they want to use including its equipment and furnishings. 

“In addition to co-creating the hard infrastructure of the youth hub, the youth also co-created the soft infrastructure and policies for its long-term use. “[Because they are meaningfully involved], the youth have this feeling of ‘home’ and familiarity with using the youth hub. They ensure that the space is properly and actively used and cared for,” shared Ramon Dominic Nobleza, WeSolve Project Manager. 

“The S2Cities programme has really opened doors for collaboration between the youth and the local governments,” highlighted Victorino Aquitania, ICLEI Southeast Asia Regional Director. “As emphasized, the youth’s participation in urban development is critical. ICLEI will be happy to collaborate with all of you to discuss how these takeaways can be applied in your respective cities,” he added. 

Global state of youth participation in urban development 

According to the 2020 World Youth Report, young people aged 15 to 24 years old make up over 1.21-billion or 16% of the entire world’s population. Almost 90% of these young people live in developing countries. 

Despite this demographic prominence, the youth often face barriers in actively participating in urban development. A report by the United Nations indicates that youth are frequently marginalized in decision-making processes related to urban planning, limiting their ability to contribute fresh perspectives and creative solutions to the problems that they themselves face and will have to hurdle in order to become productive members of society. According to a survey conducted by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability and Global Infrastructure Basel Foundation (GIB), these problems include pollution and health; deficiencies in public infrastructure and transportation; and crime and harassment, among others.  

S2Cities is a global programme aiming to improve the safety and well-being of young people in urban environments. It seeks to understand urban systems better and their influence on safety and well-being, build capacity within these systems, and enable youth innovation to solve critical challenges for safer urban environments. It is led by the Global Infrastructure Basel (GIB) Foundation, in partnership with ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, hosted by the Swiss Philanthropy Foundation, with the support of Fondation Botnar. 

You may watch a replay of the online event on the ICLEI Southeast Asia YouTube channel. 

Post a comment