Delegate: Fahr Ahmed
Mr. Ahmed (Pakistan): I feel highly privileged to represent the youth of Pakistan at this forum today. I represent the part of a global community that is imbued with an ideal vision driven by lofty goals and fired by a desire to achieve the most with scarce resources.
A number of the world’s leading scientists, engineers, doctors, bankers and sportsmen come from Pakistan. While we take great pride in their accomplishments, we confess with a heavy heart that there have been many other dynamic souls who have not been able to realize their potential due to insufficient opportunities and inadequate resources.
There are about 35 million youth in my country; young women represent 48 per cent of that number. As is rightly pointed out by the Secretary-General, poverty and associated problems remain a major impediment to the progress of youth worldwide. Our nation economy has shown a strong recovery in the last five years, and we achieved a growth rate of 8.4 per cent last year — the highest in Asia. Despite that, the budgetary constraints on youth and social welfare areas are a serious issue. The Government is striving hard to tackle the resource shortage, but it is a Herculean task in the face of the twin menaces of unemployment and poverty.
Undaunted, we are steadfast in our struggle to rise high. We prefer to take the lead and do what we can to improve our conditions. One example is the increasing number of young, successful information technology entrepreneurs in Pakistan. Taking advantage of the improved investment climate in the country, young people are initiating small-scale business ventures in numbers never seen in the history of our region.
We have a highly educated and modern human resource base. To catapult the efforts of youth, the Government has established a small and medium-sized enterprise development authority, which provides loans of up to $25,000.
Around 65 per cent of young people live in the rural regions. To help that crucial cohort, the Khushali Bank has been established with capital of $28 million for extending soft loans to the unemployed in rural regions. Young women constitute 35 per cent of the Bank’s clientele.
In a special project launched earlier this year, 29 of the poorest districts were selected, where 500,000 girl students in 5,000 schools are receiving cooked meals. Through another programme, girls living in rural areas are being given free uniforms and textbooks, with a monthly stipend, until they reach the sixth grade.
Islam elevated the status of women and mandated their rights, which include equal access to education, among other things. While we have come a long way, more needs to be done to ensure the greater involvement and retention of girls in schools, as well as their increased participation in public life.
As we persevere to achieve our development goals, being global citizens we look towards the international community. Only together can we succeed and build on what we have achieved in the World Programme of Action for Youth. We must do what we can at the United Nations and in our respective countries to influence policies and actions for youth so that they will be truly beneficial to us.
UN Doc.: A/60/PV.27