IMG_4333Phnom Penh: Over sixty young Cambodians from different youth organizations, various provinces, ethnics and minorities met on Tuesday April 23rd to discuss future of their country.

Youth consultation are part of a larger effort to gather the priorities of people from every corner of the world and help build a collective vision that will be used directly by the United Nations and World Leaders to plan a new development agenda launching in 2015, following the legacy of Millennium Development Goals. What is the future young Cambodians want for themselves and their country?

Power of Youth

In the opening remarks Claire Van der Vaeren, Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Cambodia, stressed the importance of youth in development of every society, especially in Cambodia, country with the youngest population in Southeast Asia.

Young participants of the consultations had an opportunity to voice their concerns about their society and discuss the vision for the future in which they are going to live. The aim of the consultations was not only to identify problems of the society, but also solutions with actors and time framework necessary for their development. Many of these youth didn’t stop by just talking about the problems and searching for solutions through others. The responsibility of individuals to take action and the power of these active young people was important topic throughout the consultation.

No War, Green Environment, Inclusive Society and Freedom

Morning started with group discussions about what is important for people to live well and why some people cannot live well today. In country tormented by violence during decades it wasn’t surprising to see that many young people stressed stability and peace as a necessary part of the vision for the future of their country. Corruption, lack of education, environmental degradation, excessive logging, insufficient healthcare, drugs and alcohol addiction and discrimination were amongst other identified problems.

Participants were asked to write simple phrases or draw on their t-shirts to express their visions for future. Young participant explained why she wrote Health on her t-shirt: “I live by the seaside and in recent years, there has been so much rubbish around our house that some of our neighbors got sick. I would like to help to clean it. Rubbish is dangerous for your health.” Also other participant talked about problems related to environment: “I see future where we have sustainable and green environment. I choose this because of what happened in my community. We used to have many trees and it was very green, but after the economic land concession all forests were destroyed. I would like to live in green environment again.”

Thanks to the participation of representatives from marginalized communities of youth such as people living with HIV, entertainment workers, homosexual and transgender and even drug users, the participants had also an opportunity to discuss deeper about issues that trouble their society and hear personal stories of those, who face discrimination or lack of opportunities in their daily lives.

During the final presentations groups of young people highlighted that joint efforts of their government, international and local NGOs, media and individuals, will be necessary to achieve the future they want and ensure prosperity and development of their country. Passionate discussion of all participants didn’t leave any doubts about the future of this country if voices of the youth are heard.

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