Addressing challenges of youth
IN the light of General Assembly resolution 54/120 in 1999, 12 August was declared International Youth Day to highlight importance of youth and celebrate young peoples’ views and initiatives across the globe.
Today, young people hold a crucial role in nation building, societal reforms and working towards the effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The theme of International Youth Day 2021 is, “Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health”, with the aim of highlighting that the success of such a global effort will not be achieved without the meaningful participation of young people.
It has been acknowledged by all the stakeholders that there is dire need for inclusive support mechanisms that ensure youth continue to amplify efforts collectively and individually to restore the planet and protect life, while integrating biodiversity in the transformation of food systems.
According to the United Nations, with the world’s population expected to increase by two billion people in the next 30 years, it has become recognized by numerous stakeholders that simply producing a larger volume of healthier food more sustainably will not ensure human and planetary wellbeing.
Other crucial challenges should also be addressed, embodied by the 2030 sustainable development agenda including poverty reduction; social inclusion; health care; biodiversity conservation; and climate change mitigation.
Recent global priorities revolve around fighting the impact of climate change, unemployment, poverty, gender inequality, access to basic necessities of life and conflict.
Today, COVID-19 is adding to the strains on our food & health systems, disrupting markets and employment opportunities for youth around the world.
During the 2021 ECOSOC Youth Forum (EYF), the issues and priorities highlighted by young participants included the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly related to its effect on human health, the environment and food systems.
As part of the official outcome recommendations of the EYF, young participants stressed the importance of working towards more equitable food systems.
If we talk about the youth in Pakistan, according to the National Human Development Report launched by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Pakistan currently has the largest percentage of young people ever recorded in its history; 64% of the total population is below the age of 30 while 29% is between the ages of 15 and 29 years.
Pakistan has become one of the youngest countries in the world and the second youngest in the South Asian region after Afghanistan.
This youth bulge will critically impact Pakistan as a country if not dealt with appropriately, depending on how the country invests in the youth by providing them with quality education, employment and meaningful engagement opportunities that could empower our young to unleash their potential.
On this important occasion of International Youth Day 2021, we should also acknowledge Nadeem Ashraf, a proud young man from rural periphery of Pakistan with modest self-resources, for holding the Green Flag high in Tokyo Olympics-2021. Indeed, he has sparked a national debate about the status of sports in a ‘youth bulge’ country.
If we really want to keep away our youth from extremism, violence and drugs abuse etc., then we should provide them excellent sports facilities in every town of Pakistan i.e. sports complexes well equipped with both gadgets and trainers with free access.
This investment on our youth will also be helpful in raising Pakistan’s global standing in youth.
As per recommendations of Roadmap on Strengthening Social Sciences in Pakistan, Vice Chancellors Conference on Peaceful & Tolerant University Campuses and three editions of International Students Conventions organized by Inter University Consortium for Promotion of Social Sciences Pakistan, largest network of Pakistani universities, there is dire need to increase budget allocations for education and health (at least 8% of GDP), effective engagement of youth through establishing/strengthening student societies and youth clubs and provision of necessary psychological counselling.
The International Youth Day 2021 demands us for realizing importance of effective role of youth and provision of basic services, facilities for youth to enable them to play a significant role as active contributors to society. At the same time, we also need to equip them with required skills and knowledge.
Despite increase of number of universities in Pakistan, still we have very low, access to higher education i.e. about 8%. There is dire need to declare education emergency in Pakistan through allocating 5% of GDP for education sector.
In view of limited budget allocations, public-private partnership in education sector should be encouraged so that we may provide quality education to our future generation.
—The writer is working as National Coordinator with Inter University Consortium for Promotion of Social Sciences Pakistan.