Youth, Volunteerism and Sustainability

The Millenium Development goals ( MDGs) of  the UN as enunciated in the Rio + 20 meet in 1992, followed by subsequent meets emphasized on an eight point charter. These included mitigating or wiping out maternal mortality, child mortality, ensuring primary education to all,  ensuring sustainable livelihoods, environmental protection and collaborative networking among nations, the south south dialogue, the north south dialogue etc. The documents pertaining to the MDGs speak of development across nations, with special emphasis on the third world and island nations.

The entire focus is on developmental goals, and eradication of hunger and poverty, through sustainable means.

The term sustainablity has been in currency since the last decade or so. Initially used, to denote environmental protection, the word is now veered to meaning continual or continuous, development. If poverty and hunger are not banished in the world, one cannot think of  moderate living conditions, let alone education and livelihood. If people in some countries still continue to subsist on less than a dollar a day, there is an yawning divide, to put it mildly between the rich and the poor. There is no use of  talking about the digital divide in such alien contexts. And, also education. Education can come only when there is some restoration of  physical and mental health.

To crtique the MDGs document(s) and there are plenty of them with committees being instituted by the UN is an enormity of tasks, because the entire task is not country centred individually, but has global concerns, taking into cognisance the entire world. So although we boast of the world as a global village, we are also talking in the same breath of community and indigeneous issues and cultures. How can education, child mortality, abysmal rates of  primary education be eradicated at the same time all over the world.? How can hunger and poverty be substantially improved especially in the developing nations?

However as one leafs through the documents, one comes across scattered references to indigeneous cultures, ICT development, training, vocational education, skills, disaster mitigation, environment protection, culture , community centres, livelihoods  etc. These although  scattered in reference are key expressions for holistic development of communities and cultures. The entire issue has to be seen in devolution, in fractured process at the micro levels, rather than the macro.

In  other  words, we think of our immediate communities, even localities, and then ' distribute ' these documents country wise, and in a contextualized manner. Livelihoods, the youth, actions of volunteerism, will play crucial roles in such contexts, for endurance and sustainability. This is the agenda: livelihood, education, the youth and voluntary help, not only in the avatar of donor nations, but within nations, multiple voices of social service, altruism and volunteering. The youth will be a referential paradigm and role model (s), as in countries like India the young, and the young adult constitute roughly 40 % of the population. There are ways to look at this perspective: ensure better living for them, and train them to train.

The MDGs were set to achieve the goals by 2015, but now this target year is approaching with alacrity, built on the Rio + 20 meet of 1992, and 2000; so post 2015 is targeted for further contextualization or improvisation of action plans. So according to the UN, post 2015 developments have to be kept in mind. Are there going to be additions, to the eight point charter, in say terms of health and nutrition, for amelioration of child and maternal mortality rates, or are we going to continue with the same agenda, and go for a longer time haul?

Basic education, I think is the solution here, in terms of vocational training and honing of skills. We can cover a large segment of  the population here; from sixteen to thirty five, both the educated and uneducated unemployed, and adress  also younger age groups such as the differently abled and street children, emancipate scourges such as exploitation of  domestic help, its abuse.

Education then will focus on skills, will reduce elitism, and attentuate fixed degree biases. To get rid of a stratified and structured system of education, we are looking at earning and learning, adult and continuing education, emphasizing on skills and experiential learning. This can be a wide range from technical education, to ' soft '  skills to aesthettic ones, to moot the many sided existence of  indigeneous cultures.

The Millenium Development Goals post 2015, must look at development in totality, with health and education and their centrality as primary focus, at micro levels. A top down approach is posited for coming towards approaching solutions, and giving some shape to the enormity of the 8 point structure, which have so many ramifications, that they are rendered, if  I may say so, nebulous or inchoate.

Here, volunteerism, the youth and sustainable efforts at development through volunteering in areas of education and development with a youth centred action, concentrating on them as change agents, should be I think the primary focus.


More by :  Ananya S Guha

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