This is a guest blog by Ravindra Shakya, Country Director, Restless Development Nepal
Young people make up a huge part of Nepal’s population, and many of them struggle to find formal employment. Starting small enterprises is a common way to try to make a living, but youth often lack access to the skills and support needed to develop their enterprises. As the government plan to revise the National Youth Policy in 2015, an opportunity is approaching to win increased support for youth enterprise, and to strengthen youth-led accountability to ensure that any new policy is effectively implemented.
For these reasons Restless Development, the youth-led development agency, is giving priority to Nepal in the first phase of our Big Idea programme, which supports youth-led, data-intensive accountability. Our country programme in Nepal will train, support and empower around 30,000 young people to work through a process in which they access, analyse and generate data, use this to develop an evidence base and to build momentum for advocacy, and then take part in policy dialogues at the local and national levels to seek stronger support for youth enterprise.
In planning the Big Idea in Nepal, we’ve reflected on why many projects that seek to use data to increase accountability achieve less than they promise. We think part of the challenge lies in the lack of capacities and confidence to work with data, and the absence of support to make transitions from having access to data, to building a body of evidence, to practising accountability effectively. To mitigate this, we are building in training and support at each step of the process, to ensure that young people gain skills and confidence, to participate, work with data, and develop relationships with government. All of this should contribute to enhancing the climate for accountability. We also believe it is important to work on both the demand and supply side of governance at the same time.
While increasing citizens’ participation is an important factor in improving accountability, we know there is also a need to build better relationships between governments and the governed, and to establish spaces and routines by which citizen-led accountability becomes an accepted and normal part of how governance is practised. Ahead of this work we have built up relations with the government, demonstrated in a memorandum of understanding and in support we have provided for the strengthening of the Ministry of Youth and Sports. At the same time, we have won the trust of young people and civil society: the need for this present project was identified by Nepalese young people in 2013, when we asked Nepalese youth what they want from the post 2015 development goals; they identified improved governance and accountability as a major development priority.
The situation in Nepal is by no means unique. In many developing countries, young people struggle to find employment, and find themselves working in the informal sector, trying to scratch a living without adequate support. This also means that young people are vulnerable to calls to extremism and crime. That’s why, as well as Nepal, we are testing our Big Idea programme with further youth-led, data-intensive accountability projects in Ghana and Tanzania. We are also, of course, working at the global level and looking ahead to the SDGs: we are advocating that the SDGs should include a distinct goal on governance, which should make specific reference to supporting young people’s participation. And we are clear that, given the size of today’s youth populations, the SDGs cannot be implemented and monitored without the active involvement of young people.
We seek therefore in Nepal, Tanzania and Ghana, to develop and test a model that could have potential wider replication in many other contexts where youth exclusion and youth poverty presents a barrier to development. We’ll be documenting and sharing our learning, and hoping to inspire others, as we proceed. Please follow our progress on the Big Idea webpage as we go along, and get in touch if you want to know more about our work in Nepal.