Youth presenting a skit during Peace Festival in Peshawar. – Photo by Muhammad Tayyeb

ISLAMABAD: To support the work on the social and economic empowerment of youth in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the Royal Norwegian Embassy signed a partnership agreement of USD 2.87 million with UNDP.

According to a press release issued here on Wednesday, the agreement builds on the momentum and repository of knowledge, experience, and linkages established during the implementation of the Youth and Social Cohesion Project, a predecessor project supported by the Government of Norway in the province.

During the first phase of the project, UNDP established 6 multi-functional community centres in D.I. Khan and Bannu districts, provided livelihoods and mentorship trainings to more than 2,000 young people, organized sports and recreational activities for more than 90,000 people, and developed the open source Virtual Platform for Peace and Development (VPPD) to promote informed decision making in the peace building domain in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The software was developed in collaboration with the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Peshawar. In this regard, the second phase of the initiative will have broader geographical outreach and strategic engagement of essential actors at the policy level as its key pillars.

More specifically, the partnership will help provide social enterprise development trainings to 5,000 young people, business development and management practices to 3,000 youth, and livelihood skills and psycho-social skills to more than 200 young people.

The partnership will also pave the way in creating an empirically informed narrative on peace and development related issues in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. This will be achieved by training 200 young journalists from mainstream and regional press on accurate and informed reporting based on reliable data. More importantly, in collaboration with the Department of Youth, Home and Tribal Affairs, and the Planning and Development Department in the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the programme will help to foster sustained interactions and dialogues between youth and critical power actors in the Government, resulting in active inputs from young people in future provincial development policies.

Ignacio Artaza, Country Director UNDP Pakistan stated, “Almost 28% of the population in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa includes young people between 15 to 29 years. There is an urgent need to find innovative and sustainable solutions for their economic and social inclusion.

These should primarily focus on creating opportunities for youth to actively shape and influence government policies aimed at their development and empowerment. The future of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa lies in its young people, and I hope that our partnership with the Government of Norway plays a crucial role in promoting youth-led progress towards a prosperous and peaceful Pakistan.”

His Excellency, Kjell-Gunnar Eriksen, the Ambassador of Norway to Pakistan stated, “We are pleased to sign this partnership agreement with UNDP. The Youth and Social Cohesion Project was conceived as a community-based project aimed at finding alternative pathways and opportunities for youth in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. We are optimistic that the second phase of the project will provide opportunities to engage youth in their communities positively and constructively. The youth bulge in Pakistan is a challenge but also a great opportunity. With training and livelihood skills the youth will contribute to job creation and economic growth in the country.”