National Youth Summit 2013

National Youth Summit 2013 ends in Muzaffarabad demanding imposition of a youth emergency in Pakistan

The National Youth Summit 2013 which has concluded here on Sunday has demanded the government to announce youth emergency in Pakistan to ensure employment opportunities in public and private sector and to provide access to education to all Pakistanis. The resolution is an outcome of active engagement of the 200 young people from all over Pakistan, who came to Muzaffarabad to attend the summit from 14th to 17th February 2013.

The resolution adopted at the concluding ceremony of three-day NYS 2013 also urged federal and provincial governments to reflect plans in their Annual Development plans for providing frequent opportunities of exchange to youth of all provinces, FATA, Gilgit Baltistan (GB) and AJK to reduce the gaps, provide for cultural integration and develop harmony.

The three day National Youth Summit 2013, was an endeavor of ACT International with its partner organizations and Valley Trackers, which aimed to enhance leadership capacity, build confidence, introducing youth to the social challenges, ensure intercultural and interfaith harmony and provide an opportunity to network with the youth around the country. Hundreds of students aged 18 to 24 from across Pakistan participated in the event that was inaugurated by the President of AJK Sardar Yaqoob Khan.

The Summit encompassed twelve multi-dimensional sessions, addressed by leaders from various segments and professions, including political figures, youth leaders, and journalists, leaders from business community and mentors from leading corporations. President AJK Sardar Yaqoob Khan, President Muslim Conference Sardar Atique, Deputy Speaker of AJK Assembly Shaheen Kauser, Minister for Rehabilitation AJK Abdul Majid Khan, Minister for Industries and Commerce Chaudhry Akbar Ibrahim, and Shireen Fatima, Member Legislative Assembly Gilgit Baltistan also addressed the Summit.

The participants of NYS urged the government to provide youth with uniform education by reforming the public institutions improving the regulatory framework for the private sector educational institutions. They also asked for effective implementation of existing laws by reinforcing the judicial infrastructure in country from lower to higher court; meritocracy should be ensured within all segments of society.

The text of the resolution passed by the participants of the NYS is: “Government should announce youth emergency in Pakistan and ensure employment opportunities for the youth by reforming the public sector and improving the private sector pro-youth reforms within country; provide for uniformity in educational system and syllabus all around the country”.

National Youth Summit was inaugurated by the President of AJK Sardar Yaqoob Khan on 14th February 2013. Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob Khan stressed the need for enhancing youth skills. He said that brain drain exists and could be further fuelled by the lack of opportunities for highly skilled graduates. The only way it would be reversed is, if Pakistan is seen as a “land of opportunity”, he added.

Earlier, Mubashir Nabi the CEO of ACT International in his welcome address highlighted the objectives and importance of National Youth Summit. He thanked the President AJK Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob Khan for gracing the summit with his worthy presence.

National Youth Summit Team Leader Waqas Banoori, briefed the participants of summit on the Social Action Projects which will be the outcome of the summit. He highlighted that in Pakistan, around 63% of the population is concentrated below the age of 25 years while a significant portion of 55.53 (33.9%) of 186.76 million population is concentrated in the age range of 10-24 years old.

The summit continued for four days in the cold weather of Muzaffarabad city having hundreds of young people in its folds from different parts of the country. The Summit commenced on the second day with the ice breakers by the CEO of School of Leadership Umair Jaliawala injecting a vigorous spirit in the participants to set the tone of the day.

The first formal session of the day was aimed at ‘Youth and Change’, presided over by Midhat Shehzad, Joint Secretary at Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas. The main theme of her conversation revolved around the role of youth as ‘managers’ who catalyse and propagate change. Moreover, she called for a leadership that inculcates dynamism and positive vibrancy. Her speech was followed by questions from the audience.

The next session titled ‘Dialoguing with Young People who have made a Difference’ included Barrister Iftikhar Gillani and Dr Shahbaz Israr. The former is a member of the Legislative Assembly as well as an advocate of the Supreme Court, AJK. He started off with relating his own struggles as a young man to pursue his desire of studying law and then eventually settling down in AJK despite there being innumerable opportunities for him to seek better options within the country and abroad. He then stressed on the importance of a legal system as a guarantee of success, be it any country in any corner of the world. He further said that the youth are the real harbingers of a change in a society if they take decisions rationally instead of hot-headedness. He impressed upon them to vote in the elections, so that the 30% cannot take their will and implement their own vision in this country.

Dr Israr, although possessing a degree in medicine, prefers initiating activities centered on peace especially in the conflict zones of Pakistan. A project coordinator at Bargad, he assisted the government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to formulate youth policy of the province. His speech focused on youth taking the reins in their own hands rather than accusing the older generation of ‘not doing enough’ for them. He expressed the need for utilising the largely untapped potential of young people’s capabilities through proper channels. The remaining session was spent in the speakers providing answers to the participants’ questions.

The subsequent topic of discussion, ‘The Power of Being Young’, was chaired by AJK Minister of Rehabilitation Abdul Majid Khan. The session opened with Mr Majid recounting a heart-rending account of his personal losses in the 2005 earthquake that included him losing his entire family in the blink of an eye. His purpose of relating the event was to impress upon the audience his resolution to stay strong in the face of the adverse circumstances and rebuild everything with an iron will; thereby displaying the lengths that young people can go to once they set their mind to anything. He asked the youth to utilize their energies towards rebuilding the country, promoting intercultural harmony and peace initiatives at the grassroots level.

The Deputy Speaker of AJK Assembly Shaheen Kauser also came over to welcome the delegates of the National Youth Summit 2013. She thanked the organizers for arranging the summit in the city of Muzaffarabad, which is first of its kind in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. She urged the youth to work for common good in the country. She also stated the efforts of her government which includes the first women university in AJK and a medical college for the young people.

The next session was ACT: the first step towards change by the CEO of ACT International Mubashar Nabi. He spoke of the fact that the human are not able to decide their place of birth and subsequently the mother tongue, race, culture or belief. However, these things matter a lot in our lives. He said that the change is a continuous process, however, only attending the summits or making policies alone cannot resolve everything. He said that taking action is the most important thing to see the change. He urged the youth to promote action oriented activities instead of blaming alone.

The day ended with a cultural evening where the delegates wore their cultural dresses. A number of stalls were also displayed to show the different cultures of Pakistan. The Minister of youth, culture and sports AJK Saeed Butt came over to the event as a guest of honor. He appreciated the youth for coming over to Muzaffarabad with their cultural dresses and promote the cultural integration amongst themselves. The event ended with the music share where music in different languages was played by the local musicians which included Bano Rehmat, Ali Rao and Azmat Khan.

After a satisfactory culmination of its opening day, the National Youth Summit 2013 moved forward with a marked difference in its schedule. While the previous day consisted of speakers’ sessions and a cultural event, the second day’s itinerary initiated with workshops on different subjects related to capacity building of youth.

There was no compulsion for all participants to attend all workshops; it was left to their inclinations to take part in whichever discussions they thought would serve them best. Three workshops at a time (there were two segments) were conducted with a maximum capacity of 65 participants in each. The duration for each was approximately 90 minutes.

One of the workshops in the first segment dealt with ‘Entrepreneurship: A Road to Success’. The speaker urged the youth to promote entrepreneurship amongst them and work for prosperity of the country together. The other workshop discussed the process of making the change and how one can become a change maker. The third simultaneous workshop discussed the importance of self realization in success and the speaker urged the youth to come out of its bounds to play a role in the development of the country.

Another session in the second segment titled ‘Developing Confidence’ was considerably exciting and interactive. Conducted by Ms Asma Mustafa, a professional consultant and counselor, the session centered on the main aspects of the lack of confidence amongst many people. Indicators of low self-esteem were also discussed, followed by an activity that emphasized the need for building confidence in order to move on in life without hurting anyone’s interests or rights. A session was also conducted on creativity where the youth was informed to come out of bounds to play a role for their selves and coming generations, and that creativity and arts should be accepted to promote cultural harmony and peace. Another workshop was held for volunteering to promote the spirit of selflessness amongst young people.

The youth went on to a city tour where they were taken to the legislative Assembly of AJK. The Deputy Speaker Shaheen Kauser Dar welcomed the youth on the arrival and had interactive discussion on the problems of Kashmir, the role of AJK government for the cause of Kashmiri people and the governance structure. The youth travelled to the city to see some parts of Muzaffarabad later.

Former Prime Minister Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan also came over to the summit to welcome the young delegates from all over the country. He spoke to the youth on the issues related to governance in an interactive session. An informal session followed where youth was asked to prepare action plans for post-summit social action projects.

The evening dinner was held with the partners and sponsors of youth to thank the organizations who had sponsored or partnered in the arrangement of the National Youth Summit 2013 in Muzaffarabad.

During the seminar participants acquired knowledge and tools to strengthen the role they play with regards to youth cooperation and attain skills to develop the capacity of their organizations to act as civil society in the processes of development. Participants exchanged experiences and strategies to empower youth in Pakistan and to implement local actions that can achieve greater and better recognized representation on local, national and international level. One of the impact-oriented outcomes of the summit is the social action projects which every participant is supposed to complete before 1st July 2013. The projects have been designed during the summit, and a follow-up report shall be shared by the participants by the due date to be certified for their participation.

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