Youth Diplomacy : A New Actor in Global Diplomacy

Youth Diplomacy : A New Actor in Global Diplomacy

September 24, 2020

            The recent turmoil that the youth back lashed in Nepal was against India’s inauguration of a Himalayan link road built in a disputed territory which falls under the strategic junction with China. There were several protests in the roads and around Indian Embassy as Nepal views the alleged incursions as a stark example of bullying by its much larger neighbor. Be it the situation during unofficial blockade by India in 2015 or series of incidents where foreign countries have provoked over the sovereignty or other major issues of Nepal, youth belonging to different student unions and other groups have made their stand by demonstrating on the road. Burning down the dummies, burning tyres and chanting slogans. This has quite become a culture among youth.  The nature of such kind of youth’s action during diplomatic crisis sometimes raises a serious question on the role of youth in dealing with national and internationals issues. This question at the same time answers the necessity of understanding alternative role youth can play in diplomacy and international affairs of the country.  

As of 2019, there were about 1.2 billion youth aged 15 to 24 years in the world, or 16 per cent of the global population. Around 2065, the world’s youth population is projected to reach its peak, at just under 1.4 billion persons (13%). The share of youth in the total population peaked at 19.3 per cent in 1985. In 2019, Central and Southern Asia were home to the largest number of youth (361 million), followed by Eastern and South-Eastern Asia (307 million) and sub-Saharan Africa with population of 211 million (World Population Prospect 2019). The youth population in Nepal constitutes 21.52% of the total population (Nepal Demographic Profile 2019).

With the changing global scenario, the art of diplomacy has broadened its dimension from the ancient diplomacy that was limited to family ties and elite groups. Modern diplomacy does not necessarily rely upon or is limited to only ambassadors and diplomats assigned by different countries. With the advent of neo-liberalism and wide recognition during 1970s and 1980s which promoted economic liberalization including privatization, deregulation, globalization and free trade. It played major role to bring private sector at front and contribute in economy and society. The whole scenario has contributed to broaden the scope of international relation and diplomacy where every individuals, groups and institutions can play vital role. The multidimensional facets of international relations have given new avenues for multi-track diplomacy in present world. Youth are integral part of global development. Young minds hold capacity to promote their communities and countries through exchange of ideas, culture, innovations, grievances and visions. Young people can vital role to promote global diplomacy through multi track diplomacy which enables youths to take part in dialogues, programs at both official and unofficial capacity. Youth diplomacy consists of some actions in which youth are interested in the national interest along cooperating with other youth abroad the boundaries in order to achieve the long term international strategy. The main problem that prevails is that young people at many developing and underdeveloped countries have limited access to the knowledge of global diplomacy and still rely upon the concept of ancient diplomacy or European diplomacy. Youth do not have a self actualization that they can play vital role to shape the diplomatic ties between the countries through their grass root level initiatives as well. The broader meaning and values of diplomacy is yet to reach to the youth all around the world. Whenever a youth comes up with the terminology “Headquarter”, they would certainly have image of either Europe or USA. This is the mindset that majority of young people in Asia, Africa, South America carry. The term” Global Diplomacy” has become a Eurocentric or Americanized term for most of the youths all around the globe. In reference to the youth engagement, the term “Global Diplomacy” can be further deconstructed into Multi Track Diplomacy, Citizen Diplomacy, Cultural Diplomacy, Virtual Diplomacy, Preventive Diplomacy and Conference Diplomacy. All these dimensions are not totally different from each other and have significant essence with Youth Diplomacy. It can be regarded holistically as “Soft Power” that youth can mobilize to empower people can connect beyond border.

John. W. McDonald of Institute of Multi Track Diplomacy (IMTD) presented a set of five types of Diplomacy, each performed by different actors. These five types are called ‘Tracks’: (Track One) official government-to-government diplomatic interaction, (Track Two) unofficial, non-governmental, analytical, policy-oriented, problem-solving efforts by skilled, educated, experienced and informed private citizens interacting with other private citizens, (Track Three) businessman-to-businessman, private sector, free-enterprise, multinational corporation interactions, (Track Four) citizen-to-citizen exchange programs of all kinds, such as scientific, cultural, academic, educational, student, film, music, art, sports, and youth exchanges, to name a few, (Track Five) media-to-media based efforts designed to expose and educate large segments of the population in conflict to the philosophy, ideas, culture and needs of the other national, society, or ethnic group with whom they are in conflict

The youth engagement in various dimensions of diplomacy can be part of unofficial dialogues and exchange between people which aimed at building relationships. Youth Non-profit Governmental Organizations (YNGOs) can play vital role in promoting diplomatic ties and peace building through participation of influential youth leaders from different academia, communities, civil societies who hold negotiating capacity to deal with high level officials. It does not replace the official diplomacy or government level diplomacy but compensate and support governments for better negotiation and developing good relationship between countries. Likewise, it also enables young people and groups of young mind to undertake initiatives at grass root level where there is people to people interaction. Global world have not only globalized economy but also culture, opinions, natural calamities, war, terrorism and oppressions. Irrespective of division made by politics, race, color, economy and more, youth are connected by shared ideas, vision and aspirations. Cultural exchange at national and regional level plays vital role among young people to know the outer world. At the same time it helps to pacify the political tensions that have divided youths of different regions.

Linking the scenario with the youth of Nepal, all we can see is handful of young people and organization that have some level of approach to global village. The scenario of youth in Kathmandu valley and few major cities cannot be taken as a whole scenario of Nepal. Youth have yet to realize that their individual level capacity to work at community level can have global impact. After much political turmoil, Nepal has a stable government with presence of federal, provincial and local government. Federalism is at infant stage in Nepal and government is struggling for administrative structure reforms that all the strata of government are somewhere growing slowly with major issues of overlapping roles and working areas of the governments at different level. Youth tends to see national politics, international politics, international development, international relations and global diplomacy as separate entities. Youth take part in either of the area and deviate from other sectors with an understanding that it is not their matter of concern. Youth have very little voice in development programmes, peace negotiations, and most international and domestic political decision-making, despite their growing demographic and economic significance. The curriculums in school level does not adequately cover international politics and diplomacy, leaving youth unaware of significance of international community and foreign relation in determining Nepal’s stand in global arena. Youth merely try to see opportunities other than student politics in youth wings of different political parties to understand the issue and empower themselves. The formation of National Youth Council in 2015 and National Youth Policy 2015 has contributed to formalize the issues of youth. However, it has not been able to function in full fledge throughout the country to empower youth in the sectors that have been discussed in the policy.

There is a need of special program on “Youth Diplomacy “ through which youth can be linked to the political awareness, development discourse, sustainable development,  international relations, peace building, conflict resolution, leadership development and other major dimensions where there can be connectivity between youth of Nepal and other regions of the world. Though limited in urban areas and centers, YNGOs in Nepal have been playing important role to empower youth through initiatives like Model United Nation Programme, Youth Exchange, Mock Parliament Initiatives, Youth Conferences, Leadership Development Programmes, Entrepreneurship Boot Camps, Excursion Camps and various other activities. YNGOs in Nepal have had conferences, seminars and dialogues at international level and regional level in with countries associated with SAARC, ASEAN, EU, BIMSTEC and other regional parts. The main question arises is the limitation of these initiatives. Most of these programs are initiated at NGOs level and not by the government agencies. The declarations announced international conferences and seminars only remains in paper as government agencies do not endorse and accommodate it in their development policies. The values of these kinds of initiatives remain in shadow as only few of initiatives are properly supported and funded by government. There is always question on authenticity of these initiatives taken by handful of people and organizations.  The other major issue is that these kinds of programs have limited audience from urban areas and hardly reach to the youth of remotest region. The financial and administrative constraint is limiting the outreach of these initiatives. Lack of proper information and communication technology has obstructed the exchange of views and ideas between youth from one part of Nepal to another part. The local solutions and initiatives which could have flourished at regional and international arena remain intact in certain areas in the country itself.

There is a major role that government can play to enhance and increase the knowledge and understand of diplomacy among youth. The role of government in disseminating the literacy program is vital to make youth understand the concept of “youth diplomacy”. Media plays equally important role to highlight the importance of youth diplomacy in national, regional and international level. There is a need to build a mechanism or wings in foreign affairs institution of government and coordinate with National Youth Council to boost the youth engagement and initiatives to promote the national interest and strengthen the foreign policy. There is a need to revise the curriculum to make young people aware from early age regarding the international politics and global diplomacy. The concept of “Youth Diplomacy “should be localized by local government and start initiatives at local level to promote it. Government should take steps to connect youth around the world through all those activities and programs that are being held at capacity of YNGOs. If not, Government should encourage YNGOs by providing them with technical and financial support to make sure no youth in any corner of the country be deprived of opportunity to share their ideas with other youths around the world. Investing in youth greatly help to improve the country’s image and values in global arena and further contributes in creating think tanks, young diplomats, entrepreneurs and moreover a conscious youth in the country. Nepal has often faced lashes of diplomacy crisis to deal or negotiate with neighboring countries regarding crucial issues. In this scenario, equipping and empowering youth through Youth Diplomacy will definitely be a boon to improve connectivity of Nepal in global village and make a positive impact.

(Author is Founder and President at One Peace World and Executive Director at Global Youth Parliament)


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