A charter of the youth: Pakistan’s development roadmap
PAKISTAN currently has what social scientists consider to be an ideal population pyramid. According to a report published by the UNDP, over 64 percent of the population is below the age of 30 and 29 percent is between 15 to 29 years. The development trajectory of this cohort will determine the nation’s development path. In addition to modern education and skill development, youth development also entails the development of attitudes, behaviours and thought processes in a manner that drives their actions and output for positive contribution to society and the state. This can be made possible by enabling the youth to grasp opportunities while building upon and channelling their innate strength toward constructive endeavours. This fulfils the purpose in terms of involvement, building identity and a strong sense of self.
Youth development has received a lot of thought, funding and effort across the world. In successful cases, it enabled the youth part of those programmes to come out of uncertain conditions and unstable situations to collectively become part of national efforts for progress, prosperity and development.
A practical result is the involvement of the youth across various sectors and industries within a country. Change occurs as an evolutionary process. In developing countries, like Pakistan, aspirations of the educated middle class revolve around pursuing stable career in medicine, academia, engineering and to some extent, the civil services. However, over a period of time, as the population grew rapidly along with economic turbulence, market saturation and the impact of globalisation, the need for economic diversification and competitiveness grew. To ensure a healthy and resilient society, an active focus on youth development is therefore essential. However, Pakistan lacks in building platforms for utilising the full potential available. A highly capable, competent and well-adjusted population would enable Pakistan to tackle the issues and challenges it faces on a stronger footing.
In Saudi Arabia, the workforce revolution enabled by sectoral development and based on a strategic policy of economic diversification has been beneficial. It has led to significant development in terms of competence and upgrading of the workforce. However, this development did not happen overnight. The astonishing results visible today are the result of decades of consistent policies. State-sponsored Saudi education funds enabled Saudi youths to attain a globally competitive education and accrue rich international experience which is now coming into play. Today, the Middle Eastern countries are enjoying high levels of participation of their youths across different sectors and industries.
Saudi diplomacy, spearheaded by a young Crown Prince, has fostered an improvement in relations across the Middle East. It has the potential to transform not only the Middle East but the Islamic world, too, with a focus on development and collaboration. Youth development stands to play a pivotal role in this aspiration for transformation on such a deep level.
This leads to the issue of identifying the needs and requirements pertaining to youth development according to the dynamics of Pakistan. On that front, a “Charter of Youth” must be reached first. Educational institutes must foster critical thinking and research skills which are crucial for consistent improvement through experience and learning. The focus must be given to developing the mindset, behaviour and attitude of the young population in a way which is synchronised with the goals of economic growth and social stability. Such an undertaking would also require collaboration between the public and private sectors. A promising outcome would be a culture geared toward harnessing the potential of its people in national development.
Young people in developing countries also require access to development platforms. Pakistan should invest its efforts in facilitating access to practical research-based higher education as well as skills transfer from more developed systems. This would lead to investment in Pakistan’s infrastructure for youth development programmes and lead to higher-quality growth.
For Pakistan’s youth development roadmap, linkages for development at the regional and global levels must be pursued on a priority basis. The young population must also be provided with the necessary platforms to learn, experience and grow as individuals and professionals. For this, related government departments must provide the necessary guidance and streamlined facilitation. This Charter of Youth is intertwined with economic prospects of the nation. Coordination, cooperation and consistent policies at the provincial and national levels must be ensured along with adequate funding.
The wave of rapprochement in the Middle East and Asia due to shifting diplomatic dynamics is an unprecedented opportunity for Pakistan to engage on favourable terms to seek assistance and collaboration for a comprehensive youth development initiative. This comes at a time when the Global East and the Global South are seeking to provide better opportunities for future generations. Keeping in view the demographic window, these are opportune times for creating promising environment for young people to pursue progress and prosperity.
—The writer is a Researcher at Centre for Aerospace and Security Studies.