Jobs and social inclusion for youth remain drivers for peacebuilding in Asia Pacific
The Asia Pacific region is on the cusp of a historic social transition.
Six out of every ten young people in the world today are living in the region, roughly numbering 700 million in 2014. Countries that invest in young people to ensure their participation in economic and civic life today, will have an opportunity to reap unprecedented social and economic gains in the coming decades, say experts.
One of the principal barriers to attaining these gains is rooted in insecurity and violence that affects young people disproportionately, especially in post-conflict societies, standing between them and their education and employment.
As UNDP’s Asia Pacific Regional Human Development Report 2016 noted:
An astonishing one-third of youth—around 220 million people—are neither in school nor the labour market. Directionless, unable to start adult lives, they end up frustrated, their enormous energy and enthusiasm thwarted.
- Six out of every ten young people in the world today are living in the region, roughly numbering 700 million in 2014.
- UNDP is working closely with young people and youth-led organisations across the region to ensure the active and meaningful participation of youth in preventing conflict and building resilient communities in post-conflict contexts.
- From community based theatre to skills training, UNDP's programming on youth issues spans across Asia and the Pacific.
“Unmet youth expectations can weaken social cohesion and stability,” the report warns.
Pakistan, for example, has witnessed an increase in extremism, armed violence and militancy in recent years. More than 60% of the country’s population is currently below the age of 30 – suggesting that any long-term solution to violent extremism in the country will have to be youth-centric.
Integrating young people into peacebuilding practices, and encouraging them to become actively involved in their communities, is therefore both a demographic and democratic imperative.
This is especially important in the Asia-Pacific region where 60% of the world’s conflicts are located.
“Engaging youth as active citizens, and addressing social exclusion is critical to building peaceful and inclusive societies,” says Nicholas Rosellini, UNDP Deputy Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.
“Past experience reveals that some countries of East Asia -- including Japan and Republic of Korea -- achieved their economic miracles by investing in education and health. Countries of the Southeast and South Asia need to follow the suit,” says Rosellini
UNDP is working closely with young people and youth-led organisations across the region to ensure the active and meaningful participation of youth in preventing conflict and building resilient communities in post-conflict contexts.
In Pakistan, UNDP is seeking to address radicalization and social exclusion by tackling high rates of youth unemployment.
Through an ongoing initiative launched under UNDP’s Youth Employment and Social Cohesion project, funded by USAID, more than 13,000 young women and men in Pakistan’s most populous city Karachi, are undergoing specialized training for employment in the readymade garment industry.
So far, 95% of trainees have gone on to secure jobs at readymade garment factories.
In Bangladesh, UNDP has partnered with central and local government since 2003 to promote development and peacebuilding among youth under the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord. Under this initiative, nearly 200 young people have taken part in leadership training and confidence-building initiative through activities such as Sports for Peace, martial arts and debating courses.
Roughly 300 community run schools have been built or renovated under the programme and more than half a million people have been involved in deciding on what community development work will be funded through the programme.
Faced with rising levels of extremism, young people are increasingly vulnerable to recruitment to militant ideologies and armed violence.
In the Maldives, UNDP, along with national partners, is countering extremist channels by providing spaces for creativity and leadership potential of young people. For example, Community Based Theatre is employed to promote community-based, grassroots and people-led dialogues on sensitive issues and conflicts.
The CBT method is used as part of a series of community dialogues to build confidence in managing tension and peacebuilding at the local level. Using this approach, UNDP has helped train almost 100 young people in facilitating forum theatre activities and sessions.
“Youth can no longer be an untapped peacebuilding resource,” says Beniam Gebrezghi, a Programme Specialist for Civil Society and Youth, at UNDP’s Bangkok Regional Hub.
The recent UN Security Council Resolution 2250 validates this, urging Member States to support youth-friendly policies and encourage youth participation in grassroots peacebuilding and political peace prcoesses.
“Their actual contribution and potential, as a key stakeholder to durable, inclusive and sustainable peace, needs to be valued, recognised, and necessitates support and strengthening,” he says. In his Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, the UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon underscores the importance of harnessing the “idealism, creativity and energy of young people,” Gebrezghi points out.
As the world looks towards the realization of the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it will be critical to harness the enormous potential of young men and women to bring change to the world around them.
Written by Odhran Mcmahon and Mahtab Haider, UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub