National Consultation on Youth Volunteerism
New Delhi, 12 November 2013 - “How can we inspire young people to volunteer and create an ecosystem to support them?” This question and many more were discussed at a National Consultation on Youth Volunteerism organized by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MoYAS), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) on 12 November. The consultation focused on a Plan of Action for implementing the draft National Youth Policy (2013) and a National Youth Volunteer Programme for India, keeping in view the 12thFive-Year Plan and the recommendations of the post-2015 development agenda.
In her keynote address, Ms. Alexandra Solovieva, Deputy Country Director (DCD), UNDP India, highlighted the benefits of youth volunteerism. Congratulating the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports on the new draft National Youth Policy (2013), she offered collaboration of UNV/UNDP to the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, National Service Scheme (NSS), Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan (NYKS) and Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development (RGNIYD) and other partners including the Planning Commission, in promoting youth and volunteerism. She said, “A National Youth Volunteer programme would provide a major step in that direction and we are very honored and excited to work with you on this.” Setting the context for the discussion on the programme, Ms. Solovieva shared key factors to set up a youth volunteer infrastructure along with useful examples of youth volunteering programmes in other countries. She also shared the UNV Youth Volunteering Strategy (2014 – 2017).
Mr. Rajeev Gupta, Secretary, Youth Affairs, MoYAS in his inaugural address highlighted the scope of the National Youth Programmes, the challenges and way forward. He said, “With one of the largest experiments in youth volunteerism in the world, the Ministry is now looking at ways to consolidate and expand these programmes in collaboration with UN agencies and NGOs.” He endorsed the suggestion of Ms. Alexandra Solovieva on a National Youth Volunteering Programme and collaboration of UNV/UNDP with MoYAS for the same.
“There is a need to empower youth to achieve their full potential so that India can reap the demographic dividend,” said Mr. Lalit Kumar Gupta, Joint Secretary, MoYAS while presenting the draft National Youth Policy (2013). Setting the tone for discussion on the inputs for a Plan of Action for implementing the draft National Youth Policy (2013), he said, “Since youth development is a cross cutting issue, each ministry and department working for youth should have its own targeted youth outreach and awareness programme, and a volunteer network would play a critical role in this area.”
Ms. Vandana Kumari Jena, Principal Adviser, Planning Commission emphasized the need to involve youth, especially from marginalized groups, in entrepreneurship development and employment generation. She also highlighted the need to continue national integration programmes that build bridges between young people from different parts of the country and foster a feeling of “oneness”.
Neha Buch (Pravah), Divay Trikha (Restless Development) and Mohona Chatterjee (The Youth Parliament Foundation) presented the priorities of the youth for the post-2015 development agenda. These priorities emerged from a cross-country exercise with young people about what they wanted to see post-2015 and how youth could play a role in it. They said that key strategy going forward should be - Youth volunteerism, which should be recognized as a lifelong learning process and mainstreamed into service delivery platforms and curriculums in school and out of school contexts. Further, they said that youth volunteerism should be linked with increased access to better opportunities and equitable livelihoods (career, higher education, business, cross-sectoral learning).
Sunita Dhar (JAGORI), Ashraf Patel (Commutiny – the Youth Collective), Father Jerry Thomas (Bosco Institute), Vimlendu Jha (Swechha) and Ranjan Chaudhury (National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) gave inputs for the Plan of Action drawing from their experience and expertise in the fields of gender justice and equality, inclusion of youth, environment and disaster management and skill development. Pooran Pandey (United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) network India) explored the role of corporate volunteerism and coordination mechanisms to bring together different stakeholders. Vishnu Swaminathan (Ashoka India) emphasized the need to build incentives for volunteers. Describing an innovative programme called Peace Gong, Javed Naqi argued that communication literacy must be an integral part of the National Youth Volunteer Programme.
The National Consultation and thematic discussions that were attended by more than 120 people across 21 states of India, including representatives of MoYAS, Planning Commission, Government youth programmes - such as NSS and NYKS, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), the private sector, UNGC network in India, NSDC, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), UNV, UNDP and UNFPA amongst others concluded with some key recommendations:
- A Joint Action Group convened by UNV, led by MoYAS and comprising members from different stakeholder groups such as youth, civil society, government, media and UN agencies should be set up for monitoring the implementation of the national youth policy and programmes.
- State/Regional Volunteer action hubs should be created across the country keeping in mind regional diversities that can play an important role in mobilizing, mentoring and supporting volunteers.
- To build a culture of volunteerism, community service should be made a part of the school curriculum so that students develop skills and attitudes for volunteering.
- To enhance youth participation in governance, young people should become part of decision-making bodies at all levels starting from the village gram samitis.
- Strong interface and partnerships with private sector should be established to leverage corporate volunteerism and resources.