The Sunday News
IN last week’s first instalment on the subject of establishing a Youth Commission, I interrogated the process of policy making highlighting the first flaw in its establishment in Zimbabwe which is the failure to set the agenda.
This week, I shall focus on two oversights, communication and policy stakeholder inclusion/exclusion by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee of Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation in an attempt to provide a clear roadmap.
The third instalment will provide a prospective outlook in establishing a legitimate, credible and effective Youth Commission.
In part 1, I argued that there are six basic steps of policy making which are agenda setting, formulation, legitimation, allocation of resources, implementation and evaluation and adjustment or termination.
What the Youth Commission hearings has already missed is the definition stage where questions that pertain to what the problem or need is, whether it affects an individual, household, section of society or the whole society?
The provinces they have been to so far have only concurred on one matter: The Commission should be made up of young people.
The subject of generational guard always emerges in contemporary politics in Zimbabwe, owed to a long post-independent experience of social exclusion that has targeted young people and arguably in many instances has left them more desperate with limited prospects of prosperity.
Why am I emphasising that process has been flawed from the inception? you may ask; I will quickly respond by saying that the first of the six basic steps of policy making which is agenda setting has been defective.
I should highlight immediately that the Youth Commission public hearings are important components of policy making; of which policy architecture is a product of processes and outcomes. If the process is flawed, the outcome is inoperable.
Despicably, the Chairperson of the Parliamentary portfolio Committee on Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation who was present at Stanley Hall, Honourable Mathias Tingofa made a concession that they had poorly communicated the public hearing(s), an admission I found contemptible given the gravity of the matter, not only to my academic and political interests, but it was a spite to the national interests of development which should be fronted by Youth.
For now, I think that the outcome of the public hearing will be deficient given the oversight of basic processes of policy making-communication. Writing and speaking are not sufficient to make public policy, but they are necessary.
In public policy such as the Youth Commission, communication functions in two fundamental ways: Communication produces useful information and communication makes information intelligible in context.
Information is needed at every stage of a policy process to frame a problem, to analyse issues, to argue approaches and to decide on solutions.
In policy making process at agenda setting, when the consulted have limited knowledge on the petition, the underlying problem that necessitated the public hearing, adequate analysis of issues categorised in their gravity from severe-urgent, mild-sporadic and potential-include, become amiss because the Portfolio committee has ambushed the affected.
So-far, not only based on the concession by the Chairperson of the portfolio committee but also aided by the quality of the contributions in the public hearings so far, communication as an important nugget in policy making process has been flawed consequently the miserable numbers attending the public hearings.
Non-state actors have also contributed to the policymaking flaws of the Youth Commission. Also, this is the exact point where civil society should be active in policy advocacy by capacity building.
One would wonder why the silence of the market place when such is happening. Compared to other subjects such as elections, MDC interests, sanctions, non-state actors have been betrayingly silent on the subject of the commission. Individual stakeholders and the institutions are central to policy making. Institutions outside Government play a role in policy making by acting as advocates for policy-change (civil society organisations, NGOs and advocacy groups) by providing data for decision making and by providing funding for policy research, policy dialogue, formulation and implementation.
For a long time, policy making directed to the youth in Zimbabwe has been concentrated in the hands of policymakers and a few influential people/organisations outside Government.
The approach to policy making has involved high expenditure processes of public hearings where the “not-so-important” people attend and then an expensive stakeholders conference where the influential and elite discuss issues affecting the suffering then policy “death” where the opinions and valid contributions of the young people grow dust in the shelves, and if implemented, are limited in their contribution to youth affairs.
Think of the Zimbabwe Youth Commission, with its noble establishment yet it it’s under resourced, if not the problem of resources.
Think of the National Youth Policy, impressive document but unseen implementation — that needs to change from now.
This stems from the understanding that a Youth Commission public hearing is a key step of policy making; one key component in policy agenda setting is of equipping intended beneficiaries with adequate information on the policy trigger, making sure that relevant stakeholders such as civil society beneficiaries and members, faith-based organisations’ congregants and members, cultural ambassadors, institutions of learning, formal and informal youth leaders and most vulnerable youths are present, whose contributions and contents are instrumental in informing policy formulation.
From the sights in Bulawayo, Mutare and Harare, never minding that contributions were made by those present, stakeholder inclusion key step has been eloped and this is owed to poor communication on the part of the legislature and a selective participation in the process by non-state actors whose role should be advocacy in this matter; and that has already created a huge gap considering my previous arguments of the heterogeneity of youths in Zimbabwe; paying particular attention to history, ethnology and current affairs.
While a Youth Commission is urgent, it should not be a rushed process led by legislators with limited to no grasp of basic processes of policy making as they will find themselves being confirmation agents of what Professor John Makumbe highlighted in 2001 that, “One of the least understood governance activities is the process of policy making in Government”.
The Youth Commission mooted should fall into the category of creative policy making in Zimbabwe.
ν To be continued . . .