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Say 'YES' to de-fuse this 'bomb'

Rajni Mukherjee, YES, support coordinator. --Photo: K.R. Deepak

Rajni Mukherjee, YES, support coordinator. --Photo: K.R. Deepak  

The overall growth of a country hinges on the youth, as they constitute the productive nucleus of any economy. Thus, unemployment in a big scale will only result in an adverse effect on the GDP of a country.

A deadly time bomb that could blow the social, economic and political framework of any country to smithereens is in the making and we seem to be blissfully ignorant about it. The bomb is much bigger and more destructive and dangerous than Bin Laden's hijacked Boeings or America's cruise missiles or for that matter the Kashmir problem. It has something to do with the future - our future.

`Youth unemployment' is the name of the bomb in the making. Currently there are one billion youth in the world of whom over 40 per cent are unemployed. And in a decade 700 million youths in the 15-24 age group from developing nations alone are likely to join the labour force. In India itself there are over 400 million youth without a decent employment with many completely unemployed.

Just imagine the impact of the explosion of this lethal bomb. Unemployed youths are prone to psychological stress and this initially has a severe impact on family relations. They succumb to drug and physical abuse easily. It has been estimated that 60 per cent of HIV/AIDS cases are prevalent among the youth. Unemployment leads to poverty and that leads to malnutrition and weakening of bodily defences thus making the youth more susceptible to diseases like tuberculosis, cholera and hordes of other ailments.

It is largely seen that unemployed youth often switch to informal sectors for stopgap avenues. The lack of binding norms, accompanied by deeply felt need for monetary reprieve, drives many towards unlawful and unethical modes of earning livelihoods. This results in negative and in some instances irrepairable damage to environmental and social fabrics like poaching, smuggling, drug peddling, joining terrorist outfits and even the mafiosi.

The overall growth of a country hinges on the youth, as they constitute the productive nucleus of any economy. Thus, unemployment in a big scale will only result in an adverse effect on the GDP of a country.

Keeping the impact of this ticking bomb in mind the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, launched the Youth Employment Network (YEN), which includes representatives from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the UN and the World Bank. The topic has moved up on their priority list and is now being given the same treatment with subjects like global warming, poverty eradication and health care.

YEN has formally drafted a programme that focuses on the 4 `E's: Employability, Equal opportunities, Entrepreneurship and Employment creation. But the beginning has to be made somewhere, and to make it historic there cannot be a better place than Egypt.

Set amidst the reminiscence of a glorious civilization Youth Employment Summit (YES) was held in the historic Library of Alexandria. This is the place where the great Pharaohs and their priests documented and stored their research on complicated topics, such as the life after death, the science and technology of the mystic pyramids and the secrets of their civilization, 5000 years ago. This ancient edifice and place of learning was renovated and named Bibliotheca Alexandria to host another historical summit of this millennium, YES.

The summit brought together 1,800 delegates from 140 nations, comprising 70 ministerial delegations from different countries, NGOs, investors and a large contingent of youth. The summit was co-chaired by the first lady of Egypt, Suzanne Mubarak, and the former US President, William Jefferson Clinton. The committee comprised many luminaries from diverse fields that included World Food Prize Laureate, M.S. Swaminathan, and the YES Executive Director, Poonam Ahluwalia.

India also sent a strong delegation comprising the Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports, Vikram Verma, a couple of NGOs, the Indian coordinator of YES, Sanjay Nagi, and a medical practitioner from Visakhapatnam who is also a support coordinator of YES, Rajni Mukherjee.

The week-long summit concentrated on one goal: creating a global framework of action to ensure that 500 million young adults will have productive and sustainable livelihoods by 2012. A holistic approach to the problem became the focal point at the summit laying special emphasis on adolescent girls, disadvantaged youth, gender equalities and health problems.

After much deliberation on how to make headway, it was decided to form a broad-based global alliance of governments, NGOs, the private sector, education and training institutions and other stakeholders to create productive and sustainable livelihoods for the youth. And to get the act together on a national basis, the YES Country Network (YCN) was incepted in all the countries. In India the YCN is headed by Mr. Nagi with Dr. Mukherjee as its support coordinator.

After setting the alliance on its course YCN has drafted a broad-based strategy at the summit to promote self-employment and entrepreneurship; school to work programmes and work-based training; private sector partnerships; productive on-farm and off-farm employment; the use of information and communication technologies (ICT); and education targeted for work opportunities. All through the summit, employment generation through information and communication technology and renewable energy sources especially in rural sector took a prominent place.

Two case studies from India were acclaimed by all at the summit. Stree Mukti Sanghatan, Maharashtra, trained rag-picking women in alternate skills like vermiculture and has successfully formed 120 working groups till date. Similarly Vaancha ICT Association project has trained 457 rural youth in ICT skills, of whom 211 have already found decent work in private and public organisations and 38 started their own ventures, such as tele centres, cyber cafes and computer training centres.

"We not only liaison with various government bodies, NGOs and other stakeholders to build a foolproof network but identify the problems of the youth, counsel them, recommend the connected NGO, take care of their health problem, identify the relevant stakeholder and suggest them and recommend funding agencies," says Dr. Mukherjee.

The defusing process has been initiated at Alexandria but the explosion can be averted only if there is mass civil society movement to stimulate and inspire the development programmes and policies in all countries.

There is a hint of such a movement in AP with the Chief Minister confirming to be the official host of the first regional summit that would be held by YES in September 2003. The Hyderabad summit will be attended by over 600 delegates from 20 countries including all ASEAN and SAARC countries.

SUMIT BHATTACHARJEE

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