Youth ministers and senior officials from Commonwealth countries in Asia committed to tackling high youth unemployment and lack of youth participation in a statement issued today. They recognised that providing a greater role for young people in decision making is essential for the region’s development.
The statement containing a number of commitments was drawn up over the course of several days at the Asia Region Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting, which took place this week in New Delhi, India.
The meeting was convened by the Commonwealth Secretariat and hosted by India’s Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports under the title, Youth participation at the heart of sustainable development.
Highlighting the untapped potential of young people, India’s Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports, Hon Sarbananda Sonowal said, “About 60 per cent of youth, between 15 and 24 years old, live in Asia. In India, about 65 per cent of the population is under 35 years of age. This demographic dividend offers us a great opportunity.”
“The challenge before all of us is to develop and empower young people to enable them to realise their full potential and to contribute to the development of their respective nations”, he added.
Ministers debated and agreed on a number of critical areas relating to young people, such as investment in entrepreneurship, the importance of building life skills and providing alternative education pathways. They also agreed to advocate for adequate financing for youth development at sub-national, national and regional levels.
In his address, Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Deodat Maharaj heralded young people as drivers of change to improve the region’s future prospects.
“Asia cannot realise its potential without young people being centrally involved in planning and development. Young people are agents of change, and drivers of development”, he said.
Mr Maharaj added: “Investing in young people, ensuring decent employment and education prospects, including them in decision making, and creating an enabling environment where creativity, leadership and energy can flourish will invariably lay the foundations for more prosperous, healthier and stronger societies.”
Underscoring the value of youth participation through established national youth councils, ministers noted the lack of resources available to youth-led organisations. They agreed to lend their support through legislation and financial assistance.
Supporting the call by youth leaders, ministers committed to backing a youth-focused monitoring mechanism for the Sustainable Development Goals, including the disaggregation of data and analysis using the Commonwealth Youth Development Index.
Ministers reinforced their commitment to youth work, viewing it as an essential component to underpin youth development and empower young people in their communities. They agreed to invest in youth work education and collaborate with the Commonwealth consortium to create a bachelor’s degree in youth development work.
Design and implementation of national youth policies was another key topic during discussions. Participants focussed on the use of evidence, consultation with young people, and alignment with regional and global policy frameworks as ways to strengthen youth policies.
Ministers committed to taking a collective, regional approach to peace building and conflict resolution. They noted that young people and youth ministers can play an integral role in promoting friendship, understanding and unity throughout the region.
In recognition of the important contribution of young people as partners in regional and national development, ministers considered recommendations set out in the Youth Declaration, which was submitted by the Youth Leaders Forum. The declaration calls for investment in skills and training, particularly in the green economy, and for young people to play a greater role in decision making.
For more information about the Youth Leaders Forum and Youth Declaration, see: Youth leaders call for more green jobs to support sustainable development in Asia
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