Combatting violence, poverty: Youth urged to acquire education

Panellists highlight challenges being faced by Pakistan on United Nations Day.

Our Correspondent October 26, 2013
Youth urged to acquire education. DESIGN: SUNARA NIZAMI/FILE


Panellists at an interactive session debated issues most affecting Pakistan, in general, and the youth, in particular. They advised the youth to acquire modern and scientific education to combat ignorance, violence, poverty and joblessness. “Access to education can be a tool for peace,” UN Resident Coordinator Timo Pakkala said, while speaking on the occasion marking the United Nations Day on Thursday.

The panel, comprising of the UN agencies’ heads, two youth representatives, discussed topics related to education, healthcare and youth empowerment and highlighted the success stories of young Pakistanis.

The event was chaired by TV anchor Hamid Mir and attended by media and mass communications students from various universities.

The event started with a video highlighting the work of the UN and the effectiveness of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in reducing the suffering of the most vulnerable communities around the world. It also mentioned the looming global population crisis. With three billion people under 25 now populating the world, almost 90 per cent of them live in developing countries.

UNESCO Director Kozue Kay Nagata also spoke about the importance of technical and vocational training before turning over to the education crisis in Pakistan. Second only to Nigeria, she said, Pakistan has more out-of-school children than the entire population of several countries. However, she hoped Malala Yousafzai’s role will inspire people and generate awareness. “In a single day, she did work equivalent to what UNESCO and UNICEF has been doing for the last 20 years,” according to her.

On unemployment, International Labour Organisation Country Director Francesco d’Ovidio said access to labour market must be enhanced by bringing employers and workers together. He cited Waseela-e-Rozgar technical and vocational training (TVT) programme as an example.

While Maha Yusuf, a chemical engineer and one of the youth panelists spoke of the need to shift focus towards practical steps to address the problems the country is faced with instead of playing blame games.

Saad Hamid, an internet entrepreneur, urged the youth to use their energy in a positive manner. Exemplifying himself, he said he made money off the same internet that most youngsters have access to, by moving beyond using Facebook and chat engines.

What our youth are taught?

Contrary to the startling facts, the questions from the audience were less than rational. While some criticized the UN for not creating jobs and being silent on Palestine, Kashmir and drone strikes, others said it has not been vocal on Syria.

An evidence of dunce mind-set, it was disappointing to see that the media and mass communications students had no idea that the agency does not possess powers of a supranational government and can only intervene when asked to by a member state.

Trying to give a new definition to the term grassroots, the youngsters kept droning on how the UN is not active at the level, when most of the work done by the WHO, UNDP, UNHCR, WFP, UNICEF and a similar acronyms are working at grassroots level.

The ‘lowlight’ though, was when contrary to facts that the only non-governmental intervention allowed by the Pakistan government has come from local agencies — including the ‘charitable wings’ of extremist religious groups, a question was raised on the Awaran earthquake and why the global agency did not care about the affected people.

This hit a nerve, as Marc-Andre Franche of the UNDP immediately shot back by saying it was among the first organisations to offer assistance but was turned down by the government, stating the situation could be handled in-house.

This “in-house” ability can be seen portrayed by the banners around our cities calling on the public to donate to the government and army for resolving the crisis.

“We continue to be ready to provide support, should the federal government ask for it,” said Franche who added that, “No country has developed because of the UN. Change comes through the people themselves. We can only encourage and support them.”

Published in The Express Tribune, October 26th, 2013.


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