Role Of Youth In Local Governance

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The local government sector is the closest to citizens as it represents and acts in their interest and to meet their needs. Youth represent the productive and enegetic segment in the society. According to Nepal’s National Youth Policy, approximately 20.8 per cent of the total population of the country falls in the age group 16-25 years while 42 per cent of the population falls in the age group 16-40. Young people are the most influential and influenced segment among their local communities and they interact either negatively or positively with policies and strategies enforced by the various local government institutions.

 It is imperative to listen to youth aspirations as well as utilise their vast energiy in serving and advancing their local communities through youth participation to create an environment where rule of law is ensured, corruption controlled and transparency within public bodies created to build strong and inclusive public institutions.  The local governments have announced a number of initiatives to help young people develop their professional skills and join job market, but complaints about insufficient funding for youth development are widespread. It is preferable to handle youth development funding through a single ministry compared to several ministries. This will encourage the programs' integrated implementation on enhancing its effectiveness.

Youths are prioritised in annual policies, activities, and budgets as well as periodic plans. A ten-year strategic plan, "Youth Vision-2025" and "National Youth Policy-2072" have been developed and implemented as action for youth development. According to the National youth Policy 2066, young people are the facilitators for change and inspirers of social, political, economic, and cultural development. This class is the essential legacy of the country and is regarded as the primary source of nation development because of their energy, inventiveness, capacity for learning, and high level of self confidence. 

The National youth council has allocated policy and budget resources for youth-friendly local governance implemented in 77 municipalities of each district. This has given the youth greater access to the local governments' policymaking and development plans. Youth-targeted programmes are gaining traction. For this, the Council has introduced 'Youth Friendly Local Level Directives-2075', 'Youth Vision-2025', 'Ten Year Strategic Plan', and 'National Youth Policy-2072'. The youth are not only the leaders of tomorrow, but also the partners of the present, hence emphasis has been placed on their participation in every aspect of the state. 

In the year 2075, the 'Youth Vision' was presented with the objective of enhancing young engagement within local government. It has been suggested that by 2025, youth-focused programs should get 10 per cent of the local governments' total funding. Everywhere they go; young people are modeling youth parliaments. This type of program has been in place for three years with the goal of fostering youth leadership and familiarising them with the laws, the constitution, legislative process, dignity, and customs. The way has been cleared for young people to get involved locally. The young people, however, lack clear idea on how to get involved in local plans, initiatives, or policy-making processes and are in need of capacity building. 

Every local level can create a youth forum in their municipality to involve the young people in the overall work to clear up this confusion. Young people from the area might go to their municipality and assist with this effort. Through actively participating in city council meetings, young people can apply constructive pressure on policymakers to develop policies and programmes that better fit their needs. They can keep an eye on every action taken by the municipality by using their right to information. Even children can become involved and work with public representatives to strengthen the relationship with the municipality. All youths should be able to collaborate and work together with their municipality to accomplish the objectives of youth development, including the 'National Youth Policy-2072' and 'Youth Vision-2025' and ten-year strategic plan.

Youth should understand the extent of own value, how they have an important role to play for the nation. However, youths have extra responsibilities, such as sharing information, capacity development, seeking information, acting as a good role model and moreover, to cooperate with local authority in order to ensure the safety and security of the community. As mentioned above, it is necessary to build consensus with equitable representation of the minorities and the decision-makers. Youth and the adult population can benefit from one another's skill set, knowledge and capabilities too. The youths have the ability to impact and significantly change the future of the community by acting passionately for the well-being of their society. But this cannot be done without partnership.

Youths must observe the change and progress of local development. They should take an active role at local level to follow up on the budgeted plan on youth-related projects. Youth participation can improve and increase good governance. Their fresh insight and contemporary knowledge of society, technology and cultures can bring effectiveness and efficiency. Youth groups need to advocate for an open system of government where information and communication is easily assessable. This will help in two ways: create transparency in government and increase effectiveness of communication and service delivery. Moreover, youth participation in development will help to reduce the widely accepted stereotype that youths are either passive or a problem for society.

In order to promote the role of youths in local development and good governance, interactions, seminars, and round table discussions should be organised between young people and the decision makers. This would provide the opportunity for the exchange and sharing of ideas and experience from the youth. Collectively, it will result in formulation of wholesome result. Furthermore, promoting public information and using peer talks can be an effective to engage the youth. Commitment to youth should be greatly encouraged and they should be motivated to play a more significant role in the society.

However, there exist gaps between young people and decision makers where the decision makers remain out of touch with the needs of the youth. Although many of the needs of the youth are cross-cutting for age, ethnicity, cultures, gender, identity and geography some issues are specific and need direct intervention. Local governments are well-suited for this purpose. And this is where youth councils can play an important role. The National Youth Council (NYC) of Nepal comprise of government bodies that are primarily in touch with youth. The NYC can act as a bridge between ministries, governments and youth networks so that local initiatives are tailored to youth-specific needs.

(The author is a board member of the National Youth Council of Nepal.)

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