Monday, July 15, 2013

Pakistan’s First Provincial (Punjab) Youth Policy: Is It Mission Accomplished?

In 2009, Pakistan approved its first national youth policy. The introduction of “The National Youth Policy” (NYP) marked a new era for youth affairs in Pakistan. Under this policy, various projects were initiated by the Federal Youth Ministry including National and International Youth Exchange Programme. While the implementation of NYP was in the process of being implemented, Pakistan’s Parliament passedthe historic 18th amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan. As a result, on April 8th, 2010, the Federal Youth Ministry was dissolved.
Following the devolution process, all the provinces and territories have initiated the formulation of provincial youth policies through wide-scale consultations. Announced in collaboration with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), policy formulation has been initiated in the four provinces (Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, Kybher Pakhtunkhwa) and the two territories (Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Jammu & Kashmir).

Punjab Youth Policy
On 6th June 2012, the Chief Minister of Punjab launched Punjab’s very first youth policy.  However, a number of initiatives were introduced by the prevailing provincial government to promote youth affairs even before this policy. The purpose of this analysis is not to delve into the merits of the policy itself. The focus is to assess the quality and pace of implementation as well as to review the relevance of the existing youth projects to the policy. This analysis also proposes recommendations for effective contributions on all public, private and development fronts.
Department of Youth Affairs, Sports, Tourism and Archaeology, Punjab   – Progress to-Date
Punjab Youth Policy recommends the establishment of Punjab Youth Commission to oversee the implementation of the policy. It suggests that nominated government representatives, selected youth representatives, heads of youth organizations and heads of civil society organizations should be part of this commission. However, it doesn’t specify a selection criterion for the fair and transparent selection of commission members.
In terms of implementation to-date, the commission has not been notified ever after seven months of the policy announcement. It is the recommendation of this analysis, that the Government should expedite the process and adopt fair and transparent means for selecting members.  Department of Youth Affairs, Sports, Tourism and Archaeology should publically announce the eligibility criterion through official channels. Subsequently, the members of the commission should be notified on merit.  Given the important role of this Commission in the implementation of the policy, timely and transparent notification of the commission is important for successful implementation of the policy.
Punjab Government’s Current Youth Projects
Since June 2012, the Punjab Youth Policy is officially meant to be the key driving force behind youth development initiatives throughout the province. However, a policy is nothing but a piece of paper unless it is implemented with due diligence. To implement it effectively, it is important for the existing and future youth projects to follow the direction and mission provided within the policy.
Currently, Punjab government’s projects on youth are not properly coordinated and organized. For example, focuses on Punjab Youth Initiatives of Youth Internship Programme, Youth Festivals and Laptop Awards. This site, however, is operating in isolation and is not linked with the Department’s main site. Another example of youth initiatives operating in pockets would be the Punjab Education Endowment Fund at and the youth festival at This can be rectified by linking all the running and future youth projects to the official website of Department of Youth Affairs, Sports, Tourism and Archaeology.
It is recommended that youth projects should be reviewed by Punjab Youth Commission on various criteria including their relevance to the youth policy, impact and scope of geographical coverage and value for money. The approving authorities should take the comments of the commission into serious consideration before allocating funds.
Role of Private Sector
The private sector can also play a strong role in the effective implementation of the youth policy. Establishment of a Youth Venture Capital Fund through public-private partnerships can be one of the quick wins. This will support new business ideas and entrepreneurship amongst young men and women and lead to youth development in the province. The private sector can capitalize on their hefty Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) budgets to sponsor this contribution.
Role of Development Sector
To further its present role in advocating for the importance of youth development in Punjab, the development sector needs to step up in a more sustainable manner. Unfortunately, youth focused projects still fail to get the requisite attention from the key donors. Donors with muscle need to consider supporting the implementation of the youth policy in partnership with the Department of Youth Affairs, Sports, Tourism and Archaeology. However, interventions should focus on institutional capacity building and not only unsustainable community initiatives.
Plan Pakistan, a subsidiary of an International Non-Government Organization, has taken lead in providing timely support to implement one component of the policy.  In June 2012, they signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Youth Department to set up a “Youth Helpline” for counseling of adolescents on health and reproductive issues.  This is a good example of how the development agencies can intervene through activities with long term impact on the province while not encouraging dependency syndrome.
In terms of proposed interventions that can be supported by development agencies, establishment of a Job Bank On-Line to conduct job market surveys, building a database to inform the youth about potential openings and guiding the educational and vocational training institutes are the key ones. Once established through donor support, the Youth Commission and its team can take the initiative forward without additional support.

The Future is Bright
As we welcome 2013, I look forward to seeing Punjab lead the implementation of its Youth Policy by example. I hope the province implements the policy through a coherent trio of public, private and development sector partnerships. Although led by the Government, these vital partnerships are essential for monitoring the achievements of this traditionally over advertised and under supported policy agenda.
I also have high hopes for the provincial Government of Mr. Shahbaz Sharif. Hailing from the province, I was proud to see quick steps taken at the policy level. So far, implementation is facing challenges. However, if the implementation plan envisaged in the policy is followed, it will undoubtedly contribute to the long-term economic development of the province and effectively enable Punjab to tackle the youth bulge.


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