Empowerment is both an end and a means.
Youth form the major asset of this nation. Young people must be considered as the primary actors with whom to develop such partnerships.
Youth is viewed as a very specific stage between childhood and adulthood, when people have to negotiate a complex interplay of both personal and socio-economic changes in order to manoeuvre the ‘transition’ from dependence to independence, take effective control of their own lives and assume social commitments.
Almost 85% of young people live in developing countries, with approximately 60% in Asia alone. Despite mass urbanisation, the majority live in rural areas.
Even though, in some parts of the world, young people are better educated than ever before, they are faced with increasing insecurity in the labour market.
Young people are empowered when they acknowledge that they have or can create choices in life, are aware of the implications of those choices, make an informed decision freely, take action based on that decision and accept responsibility for the consequences of those actions.
Empowering young people means creating and supporting the enabling conditions under which young people can act on their own behalf, and on their own terms, rather than at the direction of others.
These enabling conditions are: economic and social base, political will, adequate resource allocation and supportive legal and administrative frameworks, a stable environment of equality, peace and democracy and access to knowledge, information and skills, and a positive value system.
Just because not all the conditions of empowerment have been met in a particular society, it does not mean we cannot empower young people to help bring those conditions about.
What the enabling conditions affirm, however, is that young people cannot be expected to do the job on their own and unassisted; empowerment is not about shifting responsibilities of other stakeholders (such as the state) onto young people’s shoulders.
To address some of these issues and, more importantly, to take a strong stand in support the young people, it is a wise move to develop a long-term, consensus-based, integrated and cross-sectoral youth policy.
National youth policy strategies that are effective and beneficial for youth are thus, above all, those empowering young people to actively influence and shape the political agenda.
A progressive national youth policy obliges traditional decision-makers to work not only for young people, but with them and let their experiences inform the development of appropriate interventions and services.
While it is very important for a national youth policy to be formulated as a piece of independent legislation, it is essential to subsequently integrate it into the overall national development plan and to coordinate it with all other sectoral policies.