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Remarks by His Excellency H.E. Arjun Bahadur Thapa, Secretary General of Saarc in Kathmandu

South Asia Subregional Consultation on Youth Volunteerism to Promote
Participation, Development and Peace
March 25, 2015
Kathmandu, Nepal

[Honourable Minister of Youth and Sports, Government of Nepal, Co-Chairs of the Asia Pacific Peace and Development Service Alliance, Mr.  Marco Roncarti, from UNESCAP and Mr. Ingill Ra from Global Peace Foundation.]

Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a great honour and privilege for me to speak at the Inaugural Session of the Asia Pacific Peace and Development Service Alliance’s “South Asia Sub-Regional Consultation on Youth Volunteerism to promote Participation, Development and Peace”. I wish to thank the organizers, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, the Global Peace Foundation and the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Nepal, for this opportunity. 

Today, over half a million young people live in SAARC countries, constituting over one quarter of the global population of young people. Therefore, how the South Asia region supports and enables its youth will have a major impact on the global future.

At present, most of the SAARC countries are, experiencing what we refer to as a youth bulge, where the proportion of youth aged 15 to 24 years in the population increases significantly compared to other age groups. I believe, if we empower our young, give them knowledge, skills and opportunities to fully participate in the economy and contribute productively, this youth bulge will be translated into a demographic bonus that will change the developmental landscape of this region.

However, taking advantage of this demographic bonus requires full commitment from the governments and all sectors to invest in young people now, with a multi-sectoral approach, to improve the education, employment, health and general wellbeing of young people.  For this action is required now, rather than later.

I believe that Youth Volunteerism is a very positive and innovative approach to empower the youth of knowledge of the developmental challenges and provide them with an opportunity for direct engagement in the developmental process. In addition to the positive contribution towards the developmental process, successful youth volunteerism and engagement could also contribute to improving coordination among sectors, building consensus and partnership, mobilizing resources and to generate and maintain peace.

Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen

In SAARC, issues related to youth of the region have been given due priority. SAARC held its first ministerial conference on youth in the Maldives in May 1994 to address the problems of the youth and focus on the broad theme of youth and development. The year 1994 was also designated as the “SAARC Year of Youth”. In 1995, a SAARC Youth Resolution was adopted to advance the overall development of youth in the region. Four SAARC Youth Camps have been held on designated themes with a view to promoting cultural interaction among the youth. 

A “SAARC Youth Awards Scheme” was initiated with the aim to provide suitable recognition to extra ordinary young talents and encourage the overall development of the youth in the region. Twelve such Awards have been conferred to young people from the region, who have shown outstanding achievements in various fields, including social services, humanitarian work, protection of the environment, innovation in traditional medicine, promotion of tourism, awareness in TB and HIV and creative photography. 

Currently SAARC is engaged in the process of finalizing a SAARC Youth Charter and Action Plan, to guide regional cooperation in this area, covering a comprehensive range of issues related to youth. This will also provide a conducive and positive environment of future activities and programs for youth in the South Asia region, including youth exchanges and volunteerism.

Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen

As youth are largely, the beneficiaries of the decisions we make and policies we put in place, it is my hope that youth are looked upon as partners in development and given an active role to contribute towards building the future they envision for themselves and for generations to come.  

I hope that this consultation will be fruitful in improving the knowledge of youth volunteerism in the region, generate exciting discussions and interaction on national as well as regional aspects, and come up with realistic and forward looking set of recommendations in the “Kathmandu Call for Action”.

I thank you all.