Responsive Citizenship: Paving the Way for Youth Inclusivity: Bangladesh’s Future Moving Forward

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Youth Policy Forum (YPF) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) collaborated on a project called Responsive Citizenship, which brings forth the importance of great citizenship, what it entails, and youth inclusivity at various spectrums, such as the economy, society, environment, and policy. It sheds light on crucial aspects that deserve utmost attention, such as the role of institutions and organisations to create the opportunity for citizens to actively participate and have their voices heard on pressing issues.

On 3 March 2021, the second expert session of YPF-UNDP Responsive Citizenship project was held on Youth Policy Forum’s official Facebook page. The esteemed panelists dived deep into the discussion on “Building better communities: Role of civic participation and responsible citizens”.

The panelists for the session were Saber Hossain Chowdhury, MP, Dhaka-9 constituency, Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate change; Farah Kabir, Country Director, Action Aid Bangladesh; Md. Azharul Islam Khan (Additional Secretary), Director General, Department of Youth development, Ministry of Youth & Sports; and Sudipto Mukerjee, Resident representative, UNDP, Bangladesh.

The session began by a brief presentation conducted by two young researchers from Youth Policy Forum. The findings highlighted key takeaways from a research on youth consultation regarding civic participation and climate awareness. The study, presented during the webinar by Minhaz Chowdhury, Lead of Policy Research at YPF, showed that the youth were reluctant to get involved in civic responsibilities due to the lack of a role model or proper guidance. They have also expressed the limitations of opportunities presented to them and stated that civic values should be instilled from an earlier age.

While discussing about climate change awareness with the youth, the findings suggested that policies must be grass root centric. The private sector has a critical role to play here as it can contribute more efficiently to pave the ecosystem, and academic textbooks must be constantly updated with information related to climate change, emphasising on its awareness and activities.

Sadia Karim, coordinator of Economics Policy and Jobs Network at YPF, shared pivotal insights that suggested the youth prefer innovative mode of civic participation, such as utilising the digital space. The findings also reflected on how media can be a catalyst to bring forth climate awareness among the mass.

Farah Kabir, Country Director, Action Aid Bangladesh, put forth her two cents when asked how to drive inspiration among youth for active, civic participation.

We are capable of unparalleled success if we can even go near the thought processes of the youth.

She added that more civic engagement among the youth can be inspired if we are able to properly explore their talent and skill-sets. One of the factors hindering civic participation is the pre-existent mindsets of parents and families in our country that prioritise academic achievements more than any other activities.

The value of education has been confined to a paper certificate, and it’s time the young break the chain. It’s time they become intrinsically motivated to take on responsibilities in policymaking, leadership, and civic engagement.”

The incredible discussion then progressed as Sudipto Mukerjee shared his insightful opinion. He regarded “access to information” and “value education” as the most important determinants that may act as catalysts of positive change — be it in civic participation or youth involvement as a whole. He pointed out that there’s a need for trust and confidence in public institutions, and this is where the government and relevant organisations are expected to demonstrate their active interest in enabling civic participation, especially among the youth. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are no longer to be discussed among a few people sitting around at a table — they should be subject to active, consistent contributions from the youth, too.

As much as Sudipto Mukerjee spoke about the digital space, he also expressed his concern regarding digital divide and how the government along with UNDP should work towards bringing best practices to tackle the issue of digital divide.

“We’re no longer a citizen of a specific country, we are now citizens of the planet. If you want to see the change then you have to truly be the change,” said the UNDP representative.

Azharul Islam agrees, stating if we can engage the younger generation using different resources, we may witness positive societal changes and they shall eventually craft the path to change the world for better.

The chief guest for the session, Saber Hossain Chowdhury, pivoted the conversation using a staggering fact backed by data:

“Half of the world’s population is youth. That is 50%. However, only 2% of the younger generation represent their decisions and are actively participating.”

He also shed light on the fact that the society needed reconstruction and the window for using Demographic Dividend for Bangladesh is very narrow, therefore necessary steps towards youth inclusivity are needed to be taken as soon as possible.

Farah Kabir then spoke about gender discrimination and the atrocities experienced by the female citizens of this country on a daily basis. She said,

“Gender is a sensitive issue and societies cannot be run by a single gender only; women are a huge part of it and hence, they should be acknowledged as such.”

The webinar session ended with Saber H. Chowdhury speaking more about advocating volunteerism, youth participation in politics, specialisation as a concept, and youth potential. His concluding remarks pointed to the inception of a world led by the youth, and that we all are looking forward to it, now more than ever.


Watch the full discussion on Facebook here:

Written by: Maria Hassan Oishi, a senior year student pursuing Marketing at Bangladesh University of Professionals


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