1st SAARC Young Parliamentarians Conference on Peace and Harmony for Development

August 15-17, 2016, Islamabad, PAKISTAN


The first SAARC Young Parliamentarians Conference will be held on August 15-17, 2016 in Islamabad to offer young parliamentarians’ narrative as a prelude to the 19th SAARC Summit that Pakistan will be hosting in November-2016.

Engaging young people in politics is critical to the safeguarding and strengthening of democracy worldwide. With an estimated 1.2 billion people aged 15–24 on the planet, justice and democratic legitimacy demand more than a token youth presence in parliament. People between the ages of 20 and 44 make up 57 per cent of the world’s voting age population but only 26 per cent of the world’s MPs.[1] The South Asian region is experiencing a classic youth bulge with nearly 40% of its human capital within the youthful population of 0-25 years. It is indeed heartening that voters in South Asia, inhabited by the largest number of young people, are reposing their electoral trust in Young Parliamentarians in significant numbers. A careful glance on demography of SAARC unveils that the share of youth population under the age of 40 years varies from 54% to alarming 70% in most of the eight countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).[2] India, Bangladesh and Pakistan are among the most densely populated nations today. This creates daunting challenges of expectations as well as many meaningful opportunities to offer a better democratic deal to the posterity through parliamentary debates, discussions and legislative deliberations in the respective parliaments.


A variety of issues can have particular imprint on the young – not just in traditional “youth” areas like education, employment and social services, but in broader fields such as climate change and the overall transparency and reform of political and economic order of the countries as well as the region, which will impact heavily on future generations of South Asia. In addition, the presence of young people in political positions can change attitudes, eroding stereotypes about readiness or fitness to lead, while also encouraging young people to see politics as an arena open to their participation.


Two seemingly contradictory trends in youth engagement can currently be observed. The first, considered a sign of political apathy, is that young people tend to be less engaged than older generations in voting, party membership, volunteer work and participation in group activity. The second trend concerns the active role young people have played in democracy movements around the world. Youth mobilization has been instrumental in South Asia to a host of anti-government protests and emergence of new democratic regimes. Debates on youth participation in politics have traditionally focused more on young people’s role as voters and activists rather than on their election to political office. But as with gender equality, where the increased participation of women benefits society as a whole, the presence of young people in elected positions benefits all citizens and not just youth.


In this context, Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq envisioned to institutionalize the idea of articulating Young Parliamentarians’ narratives through the 1st SAARC Young Parliamentarians Conference before the SAARC Summit scheduled to be held in Islamabad, Pakistan, this November, 2016. It goes without saying that a futuristic dialogue and networking among the Young Parliamentarians of the SAARC region will create democratic space to meet expanding expectations of the burgeoning youth population. The goal is to build bridges between the future leaders of South Asia on a platform that supports continued engagement and cooperation. It will bring energy and enthusiasm to the SAARC forum. It will be an opportunity for the youth and Parliamentarians to apprise respective Government leaders on where the youth of South Asia stands on a vision for the region ahead of the High Level Summit.


The Conference demonstrates the keen resolve of the Parliament of Pakistan to play its role in cooperation with all South Asian Parliaments to engage with each other in the interest of regional stability and to build consensus. Parliaments, which primarily represent the will of the people through their representatives, can build stronger links with each other in the region, to muster expertise vis a vis oversight on the executive, to influence governments to invest more in promoting peace, harmony and development for secure sustainable future of coming generations.


The 1st SAARC Young Parliamentarians Conference (SYPC 2016), scheduled to be held in Islamabad, Pakistan from 15th to 17th August, 2016, looks forward to welcoming young and dynamic leaders across the region to contribute through their idealism and optimism and lit a blissful tone ahead of the High Level Governmental SAARC Summit in November, 2016. The 1st SAARC Young Parliamentarians Conference (SYPC 2016), is being hosted by National Assembly of Pakistan and supported by the Improving Parliamentary Performance IP3 European Union Project and country’s exclusive research and training institute for parliamentarians, Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services (PIPS). It will highlight voices of the youth, future of South Asia, on what matters to them. It will also set the foundation of strong inter-parliamentary linkages between parliamentarians from across South Asia to setup a network that can develop into a continued platform, nurture regional interaction, support democratic norms and build a coalition for sustained dialogue and peaceful cooperation. With sub-themes such as peace and development, human rights, sustainable development, regional trade, cultural diplomacy, youth issues and social inclusion, the SYPC 2016 will be a watershed in engaging young Members of Parliament to share knowledge and formulate action plans to unveil a future vision of emancipation of each member of their young population.


[1] See http://www.ipu.org/pdf/publications/youthrep-e.pdf.

[2] See https://populationpyramid.net/sri-lanka/2016

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