We feel strongly that many of the young people in Pakistan today desire an opportunity to more fully understand the socio-political power dynamics of our country. We also believe that it is important to re-create the activist spirit in development work. There is a need to prepare a cadre of young leaders who can be groomed, not just to take on leadership roles in general, but to be mobilizes of other youth who are focused on crafting Human Rights as an underpinning platform for their generation.
There are hardly any forums in Pakistan that can provide this opportunity. Most of the core institutions in our country, from the family to educational institutes, only seek to reinforce the status quo. Attempts to bring a rights-based approach to development have been undertaken, but most of these still lack a true spirit of humanity. There are some institutes that provide Human Rights training, but in the face of the power of the countervailing social forces that continue to attract the young generation either towards extremism or hedonistic apathy, it is important to expand this capacity.
However, there are perceptible winds of change. The past few years have seen a lessening of state control over media, the most powerful tool of information. Women have been given thirty three and a half percent representations in local governments. While the religious right has entered political mainstream, concurrently there is a shift in the state towards a more liberal and progressive agenda.
Most encouraging for our initiative, the government has declared 2005 as the Year of Youth, and is working towards finalizing the first youth policy ever. Its draft states “Youth will have to become, and act as, an agency of change rather than a passive subject and target of change.” Among the declared objectives, is to “Promote values of tolerance, mutual respect and affinity with fellow citizens across Pakistan” The government has undertaken to work towards a National Youth Study Institute, a youth portal and Youth Resource and Support Centers, as well as a Young Citizens Volunteer Corp, among other components.
The proposed institution will buttress these efforts, providing leadership with alternate visions in line with the State’s new agenda “Youth for truer, deeper democracy”. We believe this will compliment and take forward the state’s concept of “youth friendly country, country friendly youth’, and the year of Youth will be a perfect time to launch this effort.