Youth policies


Are they delivering?



National Forum on Provincial Youth Policies was held in Islamabad only a few days ago where all the four provinces Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Sindh, Punjab and two regions Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) participated to present status of their youth policies. It is pertinent to know that after the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, youth has been devolved as a provincial subject. Rules of business clearly mark that all the youth related planning and development including formulation of youth policy is a mandate of the relevant province only.

In the wake of the said amendment a local youth organisation ‘Bargad’ with the support of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) offered assistance to all the provincial governments to formulate their youth policies. Both these organisations carry expertise in the field. Consequently, in June 2012 Punjab became the leading province to approve and implement first ever provincial youth policy in the country. The then Chief Minister of Punjab launched the policy amidst 10,000 youth in Lahore along with a youth package. It indeed is a historic milestone whereas rest of the provincial youth policies are either lying before respective provincial governments in the form of final draft or are in the process of final approval ever since. They have taken too long to approve the youth policies.

The need is to focus on few questions here regarding youth policies. How important is it to have youth policies? What is the relevance of youth policies with youth profile of the country? What should be the implementation mechanism and when? These are appropriate questions in the face of our repeatedly uttered fact that Pakistan is a country with youth bulge. Major segment of the population comprises of youth. In Pakistan, youth age bracket is 15-29 years which makes slightly above 30 percent of total population.

Having seen the youth policies closely it is found out that the drafts of youth policies and the only approved policy contain important elements in its formulation. These documents have been drafted after an unprecedented consultation with youth groups at all levels and among all youth categories (rural, urban, semi urban, minorities, disabled, literate, illiterate, transgender, domestic workers, idle, unemployed, elitist educational campuses, madrassas, high achievers, etc). More than 20,000 youth took part in consultation for formulating the policy drafts and around 1,000 government and private organisations provided input in this consultative process. After thorough literature review, this process helped gather data for assessing geographical situation, political, economic and social challenges and opportunities for youth and avenues to create youth spaces.

The draft youth policies cater to the age wise levels of 15-19 years, 20-24 years and 25-29 years and respond to youth needs, demands and responsibilities.

Youth is a cross-cutting theme and cannot be seen in isolation. They are simultaneously part of education, labour (employment), TEVTA (skill development), population, health and social welfare. Youth development/empowerment is subject to holistic approach and an integrated effort. The policies framework is standing on three main pillars: social empowerment, political empowerment and economic empowerment of youth. Precisely the drafted policies are unique and unconventionally formulated being “youth voices” by the involvement and direct participation of youth.

Ideally speaking once the provincial policies are approved, youth empowerment does not end here. It takes the route to bigger challenge. If we analyse our newly established provincial youth affair departments, they are not in a position to take up the gigantic responsibility. They are far behind in terms of expertise, mechanism, human resource, finances, equipment, data, research, planning and initiatives. Youth has been globally recognised as a specialty. Youth development/empowerment cannot be achieved by having expertise in infrastructure development projects, engineering, irrigation, district management, land acquisition, so on and so forth. It is a delicate and intricate subject that deals with human potential between the age bracket that reflects maximum energy, high aspiration, curiosity, urge to achieve high goals, short attention span, less sustainability in ideas, thrill, zeal, enthusiasm, less maturity, entertainment, special health concerns, psychological pressure hence no state of equilibrium as a young person. None of the characteristics is mentioned as a negative connotation. It is innate process of human evolution passing through a certain time period.

The drafted policies have proposed institutional mechanisms which are bone marrow to implement the policies. Unless the respective departments establish institutional mechanism in the form of youth directorates or youth foundations, youth commissions or advisory bodies, they cannot move further. There is also a debate on legislative process to enact the policy but institutional mechanisms can be made possible minus act.

Inter-department coordination is one of the biggest hinges to implementation. There is also equal need to revise rules of business, particularly on youth affairs. At present they are near to silence on the subject.

Once the institutional mechanism is in place the relevant department has specialised trained human resource, financial resources and inter-department coordination, only then it can come up with tangible action plans at grass roots level. So far we have found few encouraging examples in Punjab Youth Affairs Department, Punjab Youth Festival, 8 percent youth quota in the local bodies, youth internship programme, Youth and Sports Act (in process) but still institutional mechanism is a dire need.

The National Forum on Provincial Youth Policies allowed a great deal to the youth to interact with the government representatives, state representatives and youth experts during the province-wise sub-sessions. They could directly explore the status of their youth policy and how and when it shall commence to make their present prosperous.

The big question still remains: Why have all provinces and regions, except Punjab, failed to officially approve their respective youth policies? One of the key indicators that will better judge a provincial government’s seriousness and commitment to youth will remain passing of these policies.