Ask what you can do for them
Every year we commemorate International Youth Day on August 12 by offering youth seminars, radio programs, theatre performances etc by the government, media and civil society organisations. We also see the same youth enchanting slogans at various occasions to uplift the morale of political rallies, local sports tournaments or musical concerts. But it’s time to reflect: do we really accept the youth as an entity, a full actor to our national development? Or is the youth is a political rhetoric but not a policy option?
As the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has said “Youth should be given a chance to take an active part in the decision-making of local, national and global levels.
Tracing back the ties of International Youth Day (IYD), August 12 is dedicated to youth population of the world to realise their social, economic and political potential. The seed for IYD was planted in August 1998, at a meeting in Lisbon of the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth. This group recommended that a day each year be designated for highlighting the global impact of our youth. In December 1999, the United Nations General Assembly endorsed this recommendation by passing a resolution 54/120 (policies and programs involving youth) declaring August 12 as International Youth Day. A unique theme is created annually to assist in focusing awareness on issues affecting youth around the world. The theme for 2016 is “The Road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainability”.
The significance of highlighting youth can be visualised by considering the fact that today’s world is carrying more young people than ever. According to estimates there were 1.2 billion youth aged 15-24 years globally in 2015, accounting for one out of every six people worldwide. If we include adolescent between the age bracket of 10-24 this world is home to 1.8 billion young people they constitute 18% of world population with 87% residing in developing countries. Pakistan is considered to be among the developing countries with a youth bulge constituting approximately above 60% of total population below the age of 30 years considering them young population.
Not a day is missed when we don’t hear how crucial youth is for Pakistan; that they are the future. Almost all the political parties rely on youth mobilisation and many claim to represent this outnumbering group. Such political sloganeering apart, the real question is: have we practically adopted the youth issue as a policy option and priority of the federal and provincial governments?
If youth is not an abstract idea or a fiction trumpeted so often in rallies of the Pakistani political parties, then how far we have gone into institutional investment which can transform our slogans on youth into a national reality?
I will further argue that while we practically miss on mainstreaming youth into our national/provincial planning and development, following certain misconceptions about youth that don’t let us rise above political slogans. Ten big mistakes while addressing youth are commonly seen and heard around the globe equally relevant to the Pakistan context, unless we omit those from our practice we can’t go far in making youth development a reality, also mentioned by Ahmed Alhendawi UN General Secretary’s Youth Envoy.
‘The biggest of ten mistakes is when people say youth is our future walk away from them youth is our present and future both. Youth exist now, youth counts now, youth voice is now, youth demands now & we need to invest in youth now. ii) we are working for youth is wrong instead we are working with youth iii) young people need support rather they need investment iv) youth bulge is a liability whereas they are demographic dividend and an opportunity to this world v) all extremists are young people but we find extremists without young people vi) young people are careless and lazy which should be as they need meaningful participation vii) young people are too young to quote hence they comprise largest population in the known world and have biggest voice all around viii) young people do not care about politics but they do; they can change the discourse of every democratic process ix) merger of youth ministries as part of so many other ministries when they need focused attention x) addressing young girls and boys equally when girls are more deprived between the two and they require special attention.
The point to ponder is where do we stand in the row of faulty statements about youth? What spaces we are offering to our youth (slightly above 30% of total population between age cohort 15-29)? So far only Punjab approved and announced its youth policy back in 2012 followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhawa (KP) approved in 2016 (yet to be announced). We may count on mega youth events’ held in recent past spearheaded by provincial governments those can be seen as one time or series of few years’ activity to gain political milage whereas; planning youth development, budgeting youth development, empowering youth as a human resource requires a serious venture. Punjab has been allocating 2% of its districts budget to sports which is one of the youth segments and does not encompass overall youth need. We may find few more examples by provincial governments’ of featuring youth exchange program (by KP Government), speech competitions, sports galas’, laptop scheme, youth internship program, TEVTA, NEVTAC (skill development programs), youth loan scheme, youth & sports festivals etc which could be seen as models of youth engagement and participation at grass roots level for the marginalised segments of youth population. But these stand alone and vague in the air withoutsustainability, missing structural support within youth affairs domain hence, eventually diminishing hopeful picture into a futile exercise. As most of the initiates have defunct within few years of inception leaving behind a big question mark of transparency and mechanism.
Let’s jolt ourselves on this day to “eliminate misconceptions” and “recognise the youth’s potentials”. Ensure youth development at policy level through legislation, allocating youth budget and youth inclusive approach as basis for their development.
Jews- Technology & Business oriented
Christians- All rounder
Hindu-Technology & Business oriented
Buddhist- Very Hard working and Business oriented
Shi’a/Sufi- Let there be peace
Muslims- You know it.
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