Engaging Indonesian youth as development partners


Indonesia with its high proportion of youth, home to 66 million young people between the ages of 10 and 24 years, will soon be in an unprecedented position to harness its demographic dividend and accelerate economic progress.


The period between 2015 and 2040, Indonesia’s approximate window of opportunity, will not last long, demographic experts argue.


The World Bank warns that this demographic dividend, a situation in which people of productive age outnumber children and older people, can become problematic, unless the country fully invests in education, health, infrastructure and job creation for its huge youth bulge.


Following the recent National Adolescent Summit in Yogyakarta, Annette Sachs Robertson, Indonesia’s representative to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), shared the UNFPA’s experiences working with numerous groups to design programs, to formulate policies that affect young lives and to involve them in the process as the subjects of development.


The recent summit was jointly organized by the National Population and Family Planning Agency (BKKBN), the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Communication Programs (JHUCCP), the UNFPA, United Nations Population Fund (UNICEF), Rutgers, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and dozens of other NGOs and youth-led groups.


The UNFPA, a co-supporter of the summit, is currently chair of the United Nations Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development (IANYD) in Indonesia.


“We have learned that most government programs dealing with youth are based on the interests of specific sectors. The National Development Planning Board [Bappenas] and Youth and Sports Ministry are currently promoting a holistic concept that incorporates the overall development and wellbeing of young people,” explained Robertson, who obtained her doctoral degree on epidemiology from Harvard University.


She said some 25 ministries and government institutions have programs on youth, currently being coordinated through a National Action Plan for Youth Development being developed by Bappenas and the Youth and Sports Ministry, which are looking at a long-term holistic vision and master plan.


The government of Indonesia, she said, understands the importance of harnessing the demographic dividend this youth bulge presents and is committed to ensuring effective youth programming and engagement.


Coordination, partnering and collaboration, both horizontally and vertically, involving young people will present opportunities for attending to young people’s rights and basic needs, as well as for learning to work better with and empower young people, she added.


Many studies on youth-related issues have emphasized that there is a great deal of diversity among young people throughout Indonesia.


“Young people’s views are increasingly being heard and respected, in order to craft strategies for all young people, to optimize the opportunities to develop their full potential, and to allow them to live free of poverty, discrimination and violence.”


For example, the UNFPA has been closely working with the Health Ministry to include comprehensive health intervention in the National Action Plan on School Aged Child and Adolescent Health. The UNFPA also works with other agencies and organizations on sexual reproductive health (SRH) issues.


“In many countries, issues related to sexual and reproductive health and rights and incorporation of comprehensive age-appropriate, life-skill-based SRH education in the curriculum are sensitive, given cultural and religious norms.”


“I hope the National Adolescent Summit can become a platform for a regular dialogue with young people in the future.”


The summit, she said, confirmed Indonesia has many strong and dedicated young people who understand and strive to fulfil their rights, including access to information and services.


The summit also reaffirmed the diversity of youth in Indonesia, with various groups of young people articulating varying and specified needs in SRH.


“In order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs], it is vital to ensure that no one is left behind.”


Given some youth issues are still sensitive in Indonesia, particularly sexual and reproductive health and rights and gender equality, she said dialogue and cooperation among ministries, government agencies, UN agencies, the private sector, religious and community leaders, NGOs, teachers, parents and youth-led organizations and networks is important.


The UNFPA has partnered with Bappenas and the Youth and Sports Ministry, which have led the development of a National Development Index.


The agency supports youth engagement in UNFPA programming through the Youth Advisory Panel that comprises several outstanding young Indonesians, ensuring youth-friendly approaches and promoting youth leadership on population issues.


The UNFPA delivered several substantial knowledge products from their research to enhance the evidence base that underpins national planning and advocacy on youth development. The Youth Mapping Reports consist of Indonesian Youth in the 21st Century, Realising Young People’s Potential in Indonesia Book 1 and Book 2, Investing in Young People in Indonesia and Youth Monograph Series No. 2: Youth in Indonesia Taking Advantage of the Demographic Dividend.

“The UNFPA encourages inviting youth networks to consultative meetings of all agencies to discuss with young people the issues that have affected their lives. In addition, we also provide capacity building for young people to be able to participate meaningfully in policy development.”


By giving space for youth to participate in policy and program development, implementation and monitoring, she said it will help adults better understand and value young people’s perspectives and contributions, and the other way around, in order to prepare them to become high-quality human capital in the future.


Developing clear parameters and indicators of success, she added, will be critical. Also regular monitoring and evaluation of youth programs will be important to improve youth policies and programs.


“Exposing decision makers, lawmakers, religious and community leaders with exemplary innovative youth interventions will also foster creativity and have a positive impact on the social and economic development of this country.”



Rita Widiadana

The Jakarta Post

Yogyakarta, Wed, June 14, 2017, 09:50 am

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