My first day at the Annual Meetings, and it’s a good thing I’m here early. Security is tight and traffic is backed up. Still, delegates can be seen happily chatting away as they wait to pass through the metal detector, the press is photographing the lines, and meetings are being planned for lunch. A thermal camera screens us as we are cleared through.
I’m looking for the civil society rooms. As with any large conference, there may be up to seven or eight meetings being conducted at any one time. This isn’t so much a problem if it weren’t for the fact that no one seems to know where the “civil society people” are. “Civil society? I don’t know…but the plenary is this way.” No thanks. Then I’m security-blocked a few times from going down to the floor where I think I may find this morning’s meeting. It seems “the press are not allowed” into the civil society meetings. I beg to differ. I finally find a free staircase without any security. I run down and realize I am at the right place…and the press are definitely allowed.
The floor is abuzz. Flyers, posters, coffee and free internet. This is where the heart of civil society beats. There is a more colorful dress of costume here, helpful directions…even the security on this floor seem friendlier. I quickly find the room for the session and take my seat.
The panelists for “Youth and Human Development” are very well-informed. From case studies of the Asian economies and how they utilized the power of youth through cross-sectoral policy initiatives, to the importance of approaching the issue of young people from a human development approach and guaranteeing choice above all, the session was a great opportunity to learn and reflect. Despite some of the pessimistic views, like Turkey’s poor ranking on a number of youth-related human development indices, the very presence of such a panel comprised solely of eloquent Turks working on youth development suggests a positive trend and reason enough for a hopeful outlook.
I sat down with one of the speakers, Ms Zeynep Dereli, to take a deeper look into development from a youth perspective.
With the current economic climate and calls for tighter regulation, do you think efforts for greater youth employment or involvement will be harmed?
"Not at all. Increased regulation does not actually harm incentivization. The crisis was caused by a mismatch of supply and demand: too much cheap credit and not enough timely payments. But now we have a golden opportunity for youth to be at the center of this new harmonization as we recalibrate supply to effectively meet demand. While banking as a process may need new regulation, this is not necessarily detrimental for youth employment. Regulation, particularly with regard to job security, will actually benefit young people. Turkey’s lack of recruitment regulation, that is, how someone is hired and fired, makes it difficult for young people to secure jobs for longer terms.
One other benefit of the reharmonization we will be seeing as we move out of the crisis is an increase in public-private-partnerships (PPPs). PPPs give the private sector the confidence they need to increase investments, and the public the confidence that they retain oversight of private initiatives. In essence, private + public = security. Regulation contributes to this security, and this will support young people."
Where do you see Turkey’s youth in 15 years time, at the close of the “demographic window of opportunity,” mentioned in this morning’s session?
"I think the challenges facing Turkey’s youth, that is, literacy rates, educational disparity, youth employment, and youth involvement to name a few, can be addressed if the actual decision to fix these problems is made. Young people need specialized skills, tertiary education, job definitions, language training, and job search agencies geared specifically towards young people. Once there becomes a widespread understanding of how great a power youth can be, I don’t think there is a single challenge that cannot be overcome."
What would you like to say to our international youth readers as to what is the most effective way for them to become involved, be it in the economy, civil society, or politics?
"By definition, NGOs are the link between the government and the public. We need more active NGOs to secure greater dialogue in this field. Three elements will help secure this:
a) Complexity. Complexity in the work being conducted by young people. Numerous variables, heavy interaction with numerous actors will contribute to this. The more complexity young people encounter in the nature of their work, the greater the capacity developed and the greater the economic returns.
b) Autonomy. Young people need freedom to congregate, interact, and discuss issues affecting them. Without this freedom, how can we expect them to contribute to addressing their challenges at all?
c) A direct link between the work/effort being exerted, and the return: if people don’t see any impact in their work, they will lose motivation. How can you keep investing time and energy when you don’t see the fruits of your labor?
I think Youth Councils are a fantastic way of addressing these points, in addition to familiarizing young people with politics and local government. If such an opportunity exists, take it. If not, work to further the three key elements that will increase the effectiveness of youth participation."
Throughout the entire talk, I find myself thinking what great insight this is. I don’t think there’s any reason to be pessimistic at all!