Nothing about us, without us, say young Asians to parliamentarians

Asia-Pacific, Development and Aid, Education, Gender Violence, Titles, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, Inequality, Labor, LGBTQ, Migration and Refugees, TerraViva United Nations

Some of the delegates to the Intergenerational Dialogue of Asian Parliamentarians and Youth Advocates on Meaningful Youth Engagement. Credit: APDA

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Jul 12, 2021 (IPS) – Youth advocates in Asian countries called for an overhaul of a system that excluded young people from participation in policy making.

During interaction with parliamentarians from 23 countries, youth representatives considered that a supportive political framework was the most crucial reform needed to eliminate inequalities.

Over 100 youth representatives and parliamentarians participated in an intergenerational dialogue of Asian parliamentarians and youth advocates on meaningful youth engagement. The webinar was hosted by the Asian Association for Population and Development (APDA) and supported by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Asia-Pacific Center Y-PEER.

Hitoshi Kikawada, secretary general of the Federation of Japanese Parliamentarians for the Population (JPFP), welcomed delegates to the “innovative” dialogue, which would serve as a platform to “listen to the voices of young people, integrating the needs of young people. young people and building a better future. ”

Björn Andersson, regional director of UNFPA, said the dialogue would give impetus to the feeling “nothing about us, without us”.

“Too many young people are still largely left behind. Inequalities and inequalities still exist, especially in education, employment, access to services and political participation, ”said Andersson, adding that the impact of COVID-19 had exacerbated the challenges and inequalities .

Migrants, youth from poor urban areas, girls and young women, people with disabilities, members of the LBTQI + community and people living with HIV all face issues of exploitation, violence and mental health. higher. They had limited access to health services and protection.

Young people needed to be involved at all stages of policy making, from conception, planning and implementation to evaluation, said Andersson.

Youth representative Situ Shrestha reported the results of a rapid survey which showed that more than 50 percent of those polled said they “were not involved in any kind of consultation or dialogue with the government. at any level “.

She said there was a lack of good platforms for youth engagement, ineffective communication and often young people did not trust government policies. Only meaningful engagement could narrow those gaps, Shrestha said.

Pakistani MK Romina Khursheed Alam said the forum for young parliamentarians included members up to the age of 45.

As legislators, there have been attempts to ensure the engagement of young people in the parliamentary process – through internships for university students. She said that as a member of the Standing Committee on Human Rights, she was also concerned about the isolation of the transgender community.

She welcomed international collaboration and expressed concern about the impacts of COVID-19 protocols, which included deadlocks where mental health issues became prominent and where violence, drugs and other issues social have increased.

Sri Lankan youth representative Ram Dulip told the meeting that young people are using social media to raise the socio-economic issues their communities faced during the pandemic. He also said COVID-19 has demonstrated the leadership potential of young people.

“Not only are they on the front lines as health workers, but they are also advancing health and safety in their roles as researchers, activists, innovators and communicators,” said Dulip. Policymakers should take this into account and commit to making the voice of young people part of the solution for a healthier and safer society.

Likewise, Sri Lankan parliamentarian Hector Appuhamy called on countries to use the innovative nature of young people to their economic advantage – and said the youth parliament would be the most useful mechanism.

Young people should be involved in critical decision making, said Siva Anggita from Indonesia. This included access to budgets – whether national or district to ensure that programs for their development were funded.

Anggita feared that where young people were included in political participation, “it was no secret that they came from privileged backgrounds”.

“So it’s important to make (changes to a) political system that includes all young people. So all young people have the same opportunity, ”she said.

Moderator Ayeshwini Lama said the youth survey during the preparatory consultation confirmed the views expressed and placed policy reforms among the top three recommendations.

Sarah Elago, from the Philippines, expressed concern that while internet connectivity had allowed workers to be connected to their work environment, it had negative connotations, including ‘digital surveillance and privacy’ issues. .

However, she praised the young Filipinos for their involvement in many projects such as community kitchens during the COVID-19 pandemic, which helped “fight hunger and poverty exacerbated by massive loss of jobs and means subsistence ”.

Youth advocate Fura Sherpa called for a direct connection with policymakers – it was time to abandon systems where young people were legislated without being consulted.

“There had been no real participation of young people in the creation of youth policies,” Sherpa said, and that had to change. The policy should be written with direct “real participation” from the younger community.

The forum called for three main changes – an enabling policy framework that involved collaboration and dialogues between governments and young people. Second, a needs-based reform with revised and revised policies based on emerging challenges; and third, the inclusion of young people and marginalized groups in decision-making.

The dialogue was well received by parliamentarians. Ananda Bhaskar Rapulu, an Indian lawmaker said the discussion gave him hope because, as lawmakers, they learned from the observations and aspirations of young people.

Mariany Mohammad Yit, a former MP from Malaysia, said that while there was a national youth policy in her country, there was no data to gauge its success. She commented that she was not sure the government was serious about youth participation – confirming a dominant theme of the day’s debate.

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