Celebration of International Youth Day

Drishty Chittagong won the International Youth Day debate by effectively arguing that good governance and strong implementation of policies must accompany employment opportunities in order to address issues such as drug use by youth.

Wednesday August 12th marked the annual celebration of International Youth Day. This year’s theme of “civic engagement” was spot on for the UNDP’s pilot project, Youth Empowerment for Development (YED). Over the past six months, UNDP has been testing approaches to encourage young people’s engagement with policy and decision makers starting with strengthening and amplifying youth voices. Centering around “civic engagement”, IYD activities in Chittagong included a youth fair, which highlighted opportunities for young people, a debate on youth unemployment and a dialogue with councilors from Chittagong City Corporation (CCC).

Building on the success of the CCC election dialogue, the dialogue offered a rare opportunity for young people to directly interact with elected councilors from CCC.  It was very clear that young people have a strong desire to play a greater role in the running of the CCC and very much wanted to be part of the solution to many challenges the city faces such as the preservation of Chittagong’s remaining hills, traffic congestion and waterlogging. Furthermore, youth asked after the plans CCC had to incorporate the concerns and needs of street children, the hijra community and differently abled residents, including those with vision impairments. As Pauline Tamesis, UNDP Country Director, reflected in her opening remarks the dialogue was “a real demonstration that our youth are informed citizens [who] take an interest in the well-being of themselves and their communities”.

However, there was a limit to the depth of discussion which could be had in the short 1 ½ hour format. One youth interviewed said that he was not completely happy with the dialogue as he believed CCC could show greater interest to work with young people such as engaging them as volunteers. It’s amazing that while unemployment is a major and immediate concern of young people, it doesn’t detract from the commitment youth have to large social issues and volunteerism as a means to addressing them.

The dialogue showed that further steps are needed to actually integrate young people into planning. Fortunately, the persistency of youth paid off! Real headway was made with the panel mayor publically committing to welcoming any group of young people to his office, if they felt they had a clear plan to address an issue.

YED’s focus in the next couple months will be to capitalize on this commitment and hold the panel mayor to his word. UNDP will be working with young people to test solutions to youth priorities and develop plans, which could include engaging with CCC.

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