Sayed Mostafa Sayedi, Head of Policy and Program for Youth Affairs at the Ministry of Information and Culture,speaks about the activities of his department in empowering youth in Afghanistan
Afghan Zariza: How do you assess the development of youth, who constitute 60 percent of population in Afghanistan,over the past 13 years?
Sayed Mostafa Sayedi: If we go back 10 years and compare that with today,we have seen lot of improvement. But if we compare the current situation with what we desire to see, then there is lot more that could be done, and many problems and challenges that need to be addressed jointly by the government and the international community.
However, there has been tremendous progress and improvement over the past one decade in terms of policies and laws that support youth. The government has made significant efforts to engage youth in different activities.
AZ: Can you provide us exact statisticsabout the number of youth who currently work in government and non-government organizations?
SMS: Last year, we worked on the national database of youth. We sent specific charts to government and non-government institutions but since the database has not been completed, we cannot provide the exact estimation of youth working in different sectors.
However, I can tell you that youth today have extensive presence in judicial sector, parliament, directorates of government, district institutions, universities etc.
AZ: How is the national database for youth important and when is it going to be ready?
SMS: The national database for youth has two parts. The first part, under which it will provide the exact number of youth working in different sectors, is half complete. The second part is technical that requires budget and we have already submitted our proposals to relevant organizations such as United Nations (UN).
The main objective behind creating such a database is to get the actual number of youth and segregate them among various categories as per their engagement and occupation. With exact details of youth in cities and villages where they live, work and study, we will have a proper recordof how many of them are working, how many are unemployed, how many are educated and how many are uneducated.
Since we don’t haveexact idea about how many youth are unemployed and how many are employable, it is difficult to find a solution to the problem of unemployment. This department can do nothing by itself; we need to engage many government and non-government organizations who are responsible to provide facilities to youth.
AZ: How can we involve youth in the fightagainst corruption and nepotism in this country?
SMS: Over the past one decade, the youth in Afghanistan have proved their mettle in virtually every field. The institutions run and led by youth have lowest level of corruption. Youth are the future of this country and they have the capability to tackle corruption in government institutions.
AZ: The previous government led by Hamid Karzai could not adequately address the problems facing youth in the country. What reasons do you attribute to that?
SMS: Lack of a national policy for youth was a big problem during the previous government.However, towards the end of President Karzai’s tenure, a comprehensive national policy for youth was envisaged, which was a major achievement. The leaders of new government, during the election campaigning, promised to involve youth in the affairs of government and vowed to create a ministry for youth affairs.Some even promised 50 percent youth members in the new cabinet. These promises need to be translated into reality now.
AZ: What are the main problems and challengesfor youthin Afghanistan?
SMS: When we envisaged the national policy for youth, we outlined 19 main challenges facing the youth, in which unemployment figures on top. Lack of quality education, lack of standard healthcare services in remote areas, illegal migration, drug addiction, violence against youth, indoctrination of youth by extremists and poverty are some of the problems outlined by us.
Unemployment and joblessness is a major problem, and if we don’t address this problem, we will end up ruining the future of our youth.
AZ: What is the prime objective behind the establishment of national policy for youth and what role could the creation of a government high commission have in this regard?
SMS:In mid 2012, we started work on the national policy for youthin cooperation from some ministries, independent organizations and eight international organizations, including UNICEF, USAID, UNFPA and ILO. Each of these organizations performed constructive role in theestablishment of this policy.
The policy was established after consultation with youth in eight zones of the country. We organized many seminars across the country, followed by a major two-day conference in Kabul in which representativesfrom all the 34 provinces participated and shared their ideas.
In the draft of the policy, we have focused on youth. The objective behind this policy, as I mentioned earlier, is to highlight problems faced by youth and suggest the remedies. We have also proposed the establishment of a government commission led by one of the vice presidents. Two youth, including a male and a female,will be part of the commission that will hold monthly meetings.
AZ: To what extent will the implementation of this policy solve the problems of youth and what is your demand from the new government?
SMS:Once this policy is implemented, we will see positive changes on ground. It is an inclusive policy and we have asked all the ministries to prioritize youth in their programs and agendas. International organizations, local government institutions, private sector and civil society institutions have also been urged to fulfill their responsibilities towards the youth.
We are making efforts to frame the five-year plan to execute the policy and ensure its foolproof and proper implementation.A ministry for youth affairs with extensive network across 34 provinces is one of our demands from thenational unity government. That will enable us to fulfill our objectives and address the problems and challenges facing youth in this country.
Secondly, we are making efforts for the implementation of the policy, in which support of government will be required. Thirdly,we want the youth to support the new government, like they have done over the past 13 years.
AZ: After the implementation of this policy, how do you see the situation of youthchanging?
SMS:There were ominous concerns and apprehensions before 2014, but we saw smooth political transition, in which youth played a critical role. I believe the situation will significantly improve for youth in Afghanistan from this year. The deeply committed and highly capable youthhave always prioritized national interest of Afghanistan and they will continue to do that. Even with limited facilities and resources, our youth have shown that they can be world beaters.