South Asian Youth Conference 2012
Youth from South Asia will gather in Islamabad next month to promote peace and development in the region.
The South Asian Youth Conference (SAYC) 2012, hosted by National University of Science and Technology, will be held between November 5 and 10, said a press release issued by organisers. The conference aims to empower the youth of the region and utilise their potential to erase the gaps between the countries to progress together. SAYC was formed when a group of South Asian youth joined hands at the fifth World Youth Congress in Turkey. Having deep cultural and historical connections, the group felt the need for a space where young leaders can discuss and collaborate to improve relations, said the statement. This led to the Blue Ribbon Movement organising the first SAYC in Bangalore. It managed to get every country in the SAARC region represented and became synonymous with the idea of peace. This year, the conference moves from its country of origin to Pakistan. SAYC 2012 is primarily being lead by Hila, a youth-oriented organisation with a sole purpose to gather the youth under a platform for global issues.
The South Asian Youth Conference 2012, which features 120 delegates from eight countries belonging to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), kicked off with an opening ceremony at the Pak-China Friendship Centre on Monday.
“I believe the only way forward is peace, and for that we need to initiate a dialogue within and across societies, between governments as well as nations,” Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira told delegates at the opening ceremony. It is unfortunate that the South Asian region has been hijacked by the relationship between Pakistan and India, he said but added that the two governments have entered a process of dialogue for cooperation in the fields of education, trade and sports.
The third day of the South Asian Youth Conference revolved around education, with delegates engaging in thematic sessions, workshops and various interactive activities.
“Without education, we cannot develop a peaceful, tolerant society that respects diverse opinions and promotes multiculturalism,” she remarked. She also discussed the effect of terrorism on the state of education in the country. “With over 700 schools damaged in militancy-hit areas, we face a huge challenge in rebuilding the education sector.” As the social media team furiously typed every word she spoke, the compère announced that the conference’s live updates had become the most discussed topic on twitter in Pakistan. The announcement was received with a round of applause and cheer from the delegates.
“It has been an amazing experience so far. It feels as if one has come back home after a long time. Such interactive sessions should be held regularly to clear the misconceptions we have about each other,” said an Indian delegate as he stood up to thank Shah. The delegates also enjoyed a rock concert by underground bands in the evening. The six-day conference is being organized by HILA, a non-partisan Pakistani organisation working towards developing leadership skills among the youth. As many as 120 delegates from eight countries are attending the event. All the entertainment events are taking place at Ibex Club, while the discussions and other activities are being held at the National University of Science and Technology. The conference will end on November 10.
Kaira asked the younger generation to take the lead in improving regional relations. “I believe peace will come through the youth,” he added. “No country, no institutions can stop you from bridging the gap and making the region peaceful and prosperous.”
Chief organiser Naseem Khan Achakzai said the conference was unique because on November 9, which is being called ‘Action Day,’ the delegates will actually implement the action plans they devised during the first three days.
One of the Indian delegates, Abhishek Thakur said that while they connected deeply and had fun in Turkey, they also faced the grim reality that their countries had tight borders and difficult relations at the socioeconomic level.
“I thought that’s a reality we need to change,” Thakur said, speaking at the opening ceremony.
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