The observance of International Youth Day 2015 today on the theme “Youth Civic Engagement” gives us a special opportunity to reflect on and recognize the potential of our youth as valuable human and social capital resources. Bhutan is a small country with just over 700,000 population. Yet, the Royal Government of Bhutan has understood one thing throughout the history of the country, the dynamic strengths of our youth. Young people make up a significant portion of Bhutanese population. The latest statistics according to the report on Sexual and Reproductive Health of Adolescents and Youth (NSB, 2015) indicates that about 56 percent of Bhutanese people are below the age of 25. Because of this, the Royal Government has been placing so much importance on the wellbeing of our youth and has been investing a huge amount of resources on promoting youth development programs and services in the country.
The Royal Government of Bhutan is aware of emerging concerns and challenges faced by Bhutanese youth as a result of rapid globalization and modern developments. It’s understandable that our youth are struggling to balance the traditional values and culture with modernization as they transition from adolescence to young adulthood. As potential future leaders, they have the most important responsibility of being current and keeping the country in sync with emerging global changes while keeping the traditions and cultural values intact. As a result, many of them often lose the track of their future directions and land up in numerous juvenile delinquencies such as drug/alcohol abuse, gang violence, vandalism, robbery/theft, etc. Youth unemployment is another concern since there are not enough jobs for young adults. The 2009 Bhutan Labour Force Survey indicated that Bhutan’s unemployment rate increased to 4 percent with over 80 percent of the unemployed population between the ages of 15-25. This means that about 13,000 out of 325,700 economically active Bhutanese people are without jobs and out of this, about 10,500 are youth.
Keeping all these challenges in mind, the government is doing all it can, within the limited resources, to address the needs of our youth. So many agencies are working towards providing youth with avenues for positive growth so that they can grow up to become responsible and productive citizens of Bhutan. However, as we cannot clap with one hand, we need the support of our youth in this journey to our common future.
The UN theme for this year’s International Youth Day is a timely reminder for our young friends to consider the importance of sharing responsibilities with the government. For a small country like Bhutan where the human resource is very small, civic engagement and participation of youth in all aspects of social, economic and political life can make a huge difference in the overall progress of the country. Youth civic engagement is being increasingly recognized as a driving force for community and national development since it helps youth unleash their potential and contribute to the overall development of their societies. It also educates youth about their rights and responsibilities as citizens of the country and equips them with skills necessary for transitioning successfully into adulthood. I have understood civic engagement as individual or collective actions to improve and enhance the wellbeing of a society. There are many forms of civic engagement: youth community services, social entrepreneurship, volunteerism and youth media initiatives all of which are feasible in Bhutan. Therefore, I see civic engagement as an important component of youth development in our country as it serves as a powerful means enabling youth to build their capacities, transition smoothly into productive public life, contribute to the development of their communities and nation, as well as to contribute to the positive growth of their friends and social groups that do not have access to opportunities for human development.
As we come together to join the global community to observe the International Youth Day 2015 today, it’s very important for the Royal Government of Bhutan to renew its commitment to support youth in all aspects of development so that they grow up to become socially responsible and productive future leaders of Bhutan. As per the visions of our beloved kings, His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo and His Majesty the Fifth Druk Gyalpo, let us all pledge to join our hands to take our nation forward into the brighter and more promising future for all generations to come. On this special occasion, I would like to wish all Bhutanese youth a very happy International Youth Day 2015. Our nation’s future depends on what you do and how you think!