Ahead of International Youth Day, celebrated globally on 12 August, hundreds of Afghan young people gathered in the provinces of Kandahar and Nangarhar to call on all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan to do more to promote peace.
This week, some 500 young people in the capitals of Kandahar and Jalalabad attended two events, backed by the regional offices of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), to participate in panel discussions on the role of youth in peace-building.
In Kandahar, more than 300 young people focused discussions on youth-related challenges, such as unemployment and illiteracy, and called for peace in Afghanistan. Similarly, in Jalalabad, more than 150 young people participated in discussions focused on Afghan youth and development. “Young people are a strong force,” said Abdul Sami Ghairatmal, a Kandahar panelist and the provincial head of media watchdog Nai: Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan: “They are full of energy; they can bring peace to communities.”
In Jalalabad, a panelist and a member of civil society in Nangarhar province, Bsira Fidayee, called on the Afghan Government and international community to focus on empowering young people, urging government officials to ensure effective implementation of the Afghan National Youth Policy, a national plan that outlines a roadmap for the development of youth in the country.
Global events for this year’s International Youth Day, celebrated under the theme of “youth civic engagement,” are designed to raise awareness about youth as essential in achieving sustainable development.
In his message for the day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on young people around the world to speak out, and urged leaders to listen.
“As the world changes with unprecedented speed, young people are proving to be invaluable partners who can advance meaningful solutions,” he said. “Let us all support young people in creating a future where our planet is protected and all people live in dignity.”
Youth Day celebrations in Kabul included an event backed by the United Nations Population Fund, a handcraft exhibition and theatre performances.
According to a joint UNFPA and Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture press release, Afghanistan is one of the youngest nations in the world, with 63 per cent of the population under 25 years old. Participation of Afghan youth in politics is relatively low. A 2013 study found that more than 80 per cent of Afghan youth are not actively involved in a political party.