LAHORE   -   A consultative meeting was organised at a hotel here on Thursday in preparation of 25th anniversary of the ground breaking International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).

The Young Omang and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) organised the meeting. Representatives of the civil society, youth organisations and population welfare and youth affairs departments from across the country participated. Noor Imran from Bargad shared some of the results that have come out of their work with UNFPA in different provinces.

The consultative meeting articulated the Civil Society Organisations’ ICPD+25 agenda, focusing on Pakistani youth to assess the progress made over the past 25 years in Pakistan post ICPD and to develop recommendations for government’s agreement to national commitments that reflect realities and urgent needs of Pakistan’s population and development issues.

Population Association of Pakistan (PAP) President Dr Muhammad Nazimuddin said, “We need to know what is the unfinished agenda that needs to be followed. The first thing Pakistan needs to do, using national and international sources, is to meet the unmet needs for education and health services. We need to build schools in every village. Unfortunately, we did not invest in this side and this has led to massive unemployment. Skill development institutes are required to train youth. We have to drastically change education and health departments. This is a consultative process that is happening in UN. Let us work together for achieving SGDs 2030.”

A panel discussion followed and was lead by Nabila Malick from UN Women to get recommendations from the participants for the Nairobi conference:

Afzal Sulehri, director of Youth Directorate, Youth Affairs and Sports, Balochistan, said: “We can achieve anything if we are sincere in our purpose. Our youth is exceptionally talented but they do not have the right direction. Effective counselling can help solve many issues if we all join hands.”

Dr Shakir Qayoom Khanzada, additional secretary/director for youth affairs, Sports and Youth Affairs Department, Sindh, said: “Almost all commitments of Cairo summit relate to youth. Use digital platforms to spread awareness. Social taboos should be gotten rid of by introducing direct or indirect knowledge about population in syllabus in our schools. Active involvement on social media is the need of the hour.”

Rasheeda Panezai, president of the Family Planning Association of Pakistan, Rahnuma, said: “The youth must not get despondent, hopeless or dissuaded. Skills development is the need of the hour so youth can feel empowered. We are very hopeful that one day we will achieve our goal. Give your input, take to social media to talk about your issues.”

Some recommendations included appointment of psychiatrists and health care workers for the transgender community. Needs of special persons need to be taken care of. Skill based education should be introduced in all institutions. Grooming of social circles and discussion of taboo topics in school classes should be introduced. Measures need to be taken to get legislation made for all of the above. The consultative meeting proved to be a huge success which brought to light some of the significant issues in form of recommendations for the ICPD+25 Nairobi session, from key players in the field of population and youth development in Pakistan.