Youth and sustainable development

Every year on 12 August, International Youth Day is observed globally to focus on global issues related to youth and seeks attention and action related to the challenges the youth face and opportunities available for them. The theme of the International Youth Day this year is ‘Youth and Civic Engagement’. Although youth can play an important role in any socio-economic development of a country, this vital force often remains unutilized or it is not transformed as trained and skilled youth force befitting the needs of the overall development programme of a country. As a result, the optimum level of development is not achieved. As such, it is felt that more efforts are needed to raise awareness about the importance of civic engagement of the youth socially, politically and economically for proper utilization of the youth force for sustainable development of a country.
The first International Year of Youth was observed by the United Nations in 1985. On its 10th anniversary, the General Assembly adopted the World Programme of Action for Youth; setting policies and strategies for national action and international support to improve the condition of young people. The General Assembly adopted fifteen priority areas which included education, employment, hunger and poverty, health, environment, drug abuse, juvenile delinquency, leisure-time activities, girls and young women, participation, globalization, information and communication technologies, HIV/AIDS, youth and conflict, international relations etc. The programme plays a prominent role in youth development, which focuses on measures to strengthen national capacities in the field of youth and increasing the quality and quantity of opportunities available to young people for their full, effective, and fruitful participation in the society.
One estimate reveals that about 16 million girls under the age of 18 give birth to children each year and 3.2 million other undergo unsafe abortions. 90 per cent of the pregnant adolescents in the developing world are married. They also face consequences of discrimination, violation of rights, including child marriage, inadequate education, and sexual coercion. International Youth Day is an opportunity to seek attention and action of the world leaders, raise awareness of the governments and individuals for the welfare of global youth.
When we think about an earth that would be nice and worth living in, we must think about a strong youth force equipped with sufficient knowledge and available facilities that would help them become worthy citizens. Gender inequality cannot exist there and healthcare facilities must be available for all irrespective of poor and rich, male and female, rural or urban. Youth must be utilized in an appropriate manner for sustainable development, as this is the reality that neglecting the youth force and keeping them underutilized a nice planet earth cannot be expected.
APJ Abdul Kalam, former Indian President and Nuclear Scientist, from his vast experience and idea thought about what would be the Planet Earth of 2030. In his idea, we shall get an earth where gap between village and city, rich and poor, developed and developing countries will be reduced. Balance distribution of energy and pure water supply will be ensured and this will be within the reach of the people. Efficiencies and capacities of each country will be identified and accordingly economic advantages and development will be accelerated through joint efforts of all. The learners will get such teaching that their values will be awakened and enriched. By this time, quality healthcare will be ensured for all. Transparent and corruption-free government system will be formed. Gender disparity and all kinds of injustice on child will be removed and none will be neglected in the society. All citizens will be able to live in a nice environment. All countries will move forward through sustainable development remaining free from terrorism and prevailing conflicts will be removed through creative leaderships and there will be peace and tranquillity among the nations in near future.
According to APJ Abdul Kalam, more than 300 crore of world population now live in rural areas and he saw vast resources are available in them, which should be utilized properly. To ensure empowerment of this vast number of people living in rural areas four things should be done which are- firstly, to ensure consumptions of the new goods and services, secondly, to ensure supply of power and energy, thirdly, environmental equilibrium to be maintained, and fourthly, to make an end to worldwide war and to remove economic disequilibrium between the haves and have-nots.
We know that historically, the youth of Bangladesh has proved themselves as a driving force of national development. In the War of Liberation in 1971 and thereafter in all democratic movements of the country, the youth played historic and important role. The youth force has the glory of playing historic role in the overall welfare of the people of our country. Our defence force also has the glory of earning international reputation in various peace missions. Our country is disaster prone one and is vulnerable to climate change and in times of various natural calamities, the wonderful role played by the youth has always earned love and appreciation of the people of the country.
Our Gross National Income (GNI) has increased. We have been able to achieve the status of a lower middle-income country, joining those with annual per capita annual income of $1046 to $4125. According to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), our country’s per capita GNI is now $1314, which is $1080 as per World Bank. Our inward remittance also created a new record in the Fiscal Year 2014-15, contributing to the growth of the economy. Our youth force shares the credit.
As no development work can be achieved without the participation of the youth, the government of Bangladesh has given priority to youth development in all development programmes of the country, including Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agreed by the leaders of the UN member states in 2000 and to be achieved by 2015. Accordingly, it has achieved appreciable success in expansion of primary and secondary education, reduction in many challenges in women’s empowerment and gender disparity, eradication of hunger and poverty, reduction of maternal, infant and child mortality, including development of the youth. The Ministry of Youth and Sports is playing pivotal role in the development of youth in Bangladesh. Institute of Disaster Management and Vulnerability Studies (DU), UNV, UNDP, JICA, KOICA, and VSO are also working in this regard. UNDP Bangladesh, one of the largest country offices of the global development network, has been operating here since 1972. Drawing upon its global network, UNDP helps the people and the government of Bangladesh develop their capacity to meet development challenges through initiatives that link advocacy, policy advice, and projects. Youth from the Fire Service and Civil Defence Urban Volunteers Network, Young Power in Social Action, Foundation for Disaster Forum, Institute of Disaster Management, and Vulnerability Studies (DU), UNFPA National Youth Forum for RH are also working for local communities linking international and national youth initiatives, like disaster response, disability, and access to education, especially in sexual and reproductive health. Drug abuse is a great public health threat and the youth are its prime victim. The government is addressing the problem in priority basis.
The government has taken various programmes for the development of youth in the country. Digital Bangladesh by 2021 is one of the important agenda of the government. As such, it has given priority to the expansion of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) among all sectors of the country. The government is committed to ensure all kinds facilities to all with the help of technology and information network. This will certainly help create skilled youth in Bangladesh and thus contribute significantly in the development of the country. The International Youth Day is an opportunity for all working in the field of youth development. Working together, we may dream of a strong youth force for sustainable development.
MA Jabbar, Executive Secretary of ADHUNIK, national anti-tobacco organization of Bangladesh, writes on health and environment issues

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