Human Rights Monitor
Giving Youth a Voice
National youth policy in South Asian countries
Kazi Nurmohammad Hossainul Haque
Youth has always been an important force socially, politically and economically. The sheer energy and enthusiasm that is found only in youth was instrumental in history's most sweeping changes, particularly the revolutionary ones. That is why youth issues have to be properly addressed in public policy to ensure development. But that doesn't happen most of the time since youth lack voice in the policy process. That is why a regional conference on youth issues in Colombo on March this year was titled Giving Youth a Voice. The conference was a collaborative effort of several academic and policy institutions who work on South Asia. But the whole initiative was mainly the brainchild of Dr. Elvira Graner of IGS, BRAC University who teamed up with Professor Siri Hettige of SPARC, Colombo University. One key agenda of this regional conference was state of National Youth Policy (NYP) in South Asian countries.
According to UN ESCAP, South Asia region has the highest concentration of youth as the home to 26% of world's youth population. Despite that youth issues are still not given necessary policy attention in the region's countries. However, slowly but gradually, the region's governments are waking up to this policy gap as evident from their interest in adapting youth policies. Although it is true that a policy is only worth a document unless implemented and the complex multiplicity of youth issues in the region cannot be met by a single policy or programme. Still youth policy is an important first step towards giving youth issues fair share of policy attention. Now let us discuss the youth policies of the South Asian countries.
The National Youth Policy 2003 of Bangladesh defines youth as population of 18-35 years age groups. Its objectives are, among others, to create values of good citizenship, provide appropriate education and skill development, promote self-employment, encourage voluntary service, patronize literary, cultural and sports activities, facilitate to benefit from developments in IT, ensure access to necessary information, ensure equal participation of women and men, undertake leadership development programmes. The implementation strategies include setting up of training and technical advisory centres, awareness campaign through audio-visual and print media, provision of concessionary credit for self-employment, provision of grants and awards to youth organizations, expansion of computer and internet infrastructures to all upazilla. The Bangladesh NYP stipulates a high powered advisory committee to give guidelines for its implementation that will be headed by the Prime Minister and will also consist of other concerned ministers.
The National Youth Policy 2010 of Bhutan defines youth as population aged 13-24 years. It is aligned with four pillars of Gross National Happiness (GNH), Bhutan's own development philosophy. It has taken a differentiated approach to youth issues by identifying prioritized target groups who require most policy support. These include out of school, unemployed and underemployed, people engaged in risky sexual behaviour, drug and alcohol users, people with disabilities, orphans, domestic workers and uneducated young women. In line with the GNH, the Bhutan NYP has four key sectors of policy concern: sustainable and equitable socio-economic development, conservation of environment, preservation and promotion of culture, and promotion of good governance. The policy areas under the key sectors are: education, health and well being, employment and training, environmental education, awareness and action, culture and identity, social environment, recreation and sports, and, civic participation and empowerment. For each policy area, critical issues and strategic objectives are identified. The Bhutan NYP stipulates an integrated cross-sectoral implementation mechanism with the Department of Youth and Sports (DYS) of the Ministry of Education as the lead agency. There is provision of National Youth Action Plan that will be developed in every 3 years.
The National Youth Policy of Sri Lanka defines youth as those aged 15-29 years. It is based on the following values: youth participation, gender sensitivity, access to services, human rights, participation in governance, culture of peace, national harmony and stable and happy family unit. Its objectives include facilitate instilling constitutional values and sense of national identity, establish effective, coordinated and holistic response to problems faced by youth, enable youth to initiate actions that promote own development and welfare, and, create enabling environment and communities. The priority target groups identified are: high risk groups, socially stigmatized and exposed to criminal environment, traumatized and stressed, victims of circumstances, isolated and marginalized, and those who need prompt attention. The strategic areas of actions are: education and training, health, welfare and community development, economic participation, safety, security and justice, sports and recreation, environment and tourism, art and culture, and, science and technology. The implementation mechanism as stipulated in the Sri Lanka NYP provides a partnership framework among government structures headed by National Youth Commission (NYP) as an independent apex body.
To be continued in the next issue..