JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, July 12 (IPS) – Youth advocates from Asian countries have called for reform of a system that excludes young people from participating in policymaking.
During interaction with parliamentarians from 23 countries, youth representatives considered the enabling political framework to be the most important reform required to eliminate inequality.
Over 100 youth representatives and parliamentarians participated in an intergenerational dialogue of Asian parliamentarians and youth advocates on meaningful youth engagement. The webinar was organized by the Asian Association for Population and Development (APDA) and supported by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Y-PEER Center for Asia and the Pacific.
Hitoshi Kikawada, General Secretary of the Japanese Population Parliament Union (JPFP), welcomed delegates to the “innovative” dialogue, which will serve as a platform to “listen to the voices of youth, integrate youth needs and build a better future.”
Björn Andersen, UNFPA Regional Director, said the dialogue would give a boost to the feeling that “nothing is about us, without us”.
“Many young people are still significantly left behind. Inequality and inequality still exist, particularly in education, employment, access to services and political participation, and the impact of COVID-19 has exacerbated challenges and inequality,” Anderson said.
Immigrants, poor urban youth, girls and young women, people with disabilities, members of the LBTQI+ community, and people living with HIV faced greater exploitation, violence, and mental health issues. They had poor access to health and protection services.
Anderson said young people need to be involved in all stages of policy development, from design, planning and implementation to evaluation.
Youth representative Setu Shrestha reported the results of a quick poll which showed that more than 50 per cent of respondents said they had “not engaged in any kind of consultation or dialogue with the government at any level”.
She said there is a lack of good platforms for youth participation, ineffective communication, and youth often do not trust government policies. Shrestha said only meaningful engagement can reduce these gaps.
Pakistani MP Romina Khurshid Alam said that the Young Parliamentary Forum included members up to the age of 45
As legislators, there have been attempts to ensure youth participation in the parliamentary process – through internships for university students. She, as a member of the Standing Committee on Human Rights, said she is also concerned about the isolation of the transgender community.
It welcomed international cooperation and expressed concern about the effects of the COVID-19 protocols, which included lockdowns as mental health issues became prominent and violence, drugs and other social problems increased.
Sri Lankan youth representative Ram Dulip told the gathering that young people have used social media to raise social and economic issues that their communities have experienced during the pandemic. He also said that COVID-19 has demonstrated the leadership ability of young people.
“They are not only on the front lines as health workers, but they also work to promote health and safety in their roles as researchers, activists, innovators and as communicators,” Dolip said. Decision makers must consider this and commit to ensuring that the voices of youth are part of the solution for a healthier and safer society.
Similarly, Sri Lankan Member of Parliament Hector Abuhami called on countries to use the innovative nature of youth for their economic benefit – and believed that the Youth Parliament would be the most beneficial mechanism.
Siva Anjita from Indonesia said that young people should be involved in making critical decisions. This included access to budgets – whether national or local – to ensure that their development programs were funded.
Angeta was concerned that when young people were involved in political participation, “it was no secret that they came from distinct backgrounds”.
Therefore, it is important to make (changes) to a political system that includes all young people. So, all young people have the same opportunity.
Coordinator Aichweni Lama said that the youth survey during the preliminary consultations confirmed the opinions expressed and put political reforms as one of the top three recommendations.
Sarah Elago, from the Philippines, expressed concern that although internet connectivity ensures workers are connected to their work environments, it has some negative connotations, including “digital surveillance and privacy” issues.
However, she praised young people in the Philippines for participating in many projects such as community kitchens during the COVID-19 pandemic, which helped “combat hunger and poverty exacerbated by the massive loss of jobs and livelihoods.”
Fora Sherpa, an advocate for youth, has called for a direct relationship with policy makers – it is time to abandon systems where young people are legislated without consulting them.
“There was no real youth involvement in making policy around youth,” Sherpa said, and that needs to change. The policy should be written with the direct “actual participation” of the youth community.
The Forum called for three major changes – an enabling policy framework that includes collaboration and dialogues between governments and youth. second, needs-driven reform with policies being reviewed and revised with emerging challenges; And third, inclusiveness in involving young people and marginalized groups in decision-making.
Parliamentarians welcomed the dialogue. Ananda Bhaskar Rabulu, MP for India, said the discussion gave him hope as they, as legislators, had learned from young people’s observations and aspirations.
Mariani Muhammad Yeat, a former MP for Malaysia, said that while there was a national youth policy in her country, there was no data to assess its success. She commented that she was not sure the government was serious about youth participation – underscoring the dominant theme in today’s debate.
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© Inter Press Service (2021) – All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service