On the first day of a two-day meeting organized by the Asia Society in Kabul on Friday, officials of the foundation announced that they had selected over 40 Afghan youth leaders from various fields to come together and discuss how best to address the challenges facing Afghanistan.
Sixty percent of the total Afghan population is said to be between the ages of 18 and 24, making it one of the youngest populations in the world. While that presents a challenge in so far as youth have long been marginalized from leadership in the country, for the Asia Foundation and the people gathered in Kabul for the event on Tuesday, it also presents great opportunities.
“If we can have a good football player and champions in other areas, we can have a good politician as well, and that is the goal of this foundation and the meeting today,” said Ahmad Shuja, a participant on Friday.
“Over the course of the last three years, in putting together this initiative, our hope was to bring together young leaders in Afghanistan to provide a network and build a platform in an effort to increase their capacities to address the shared challenges they face looking at the future of Afghanistan,” said Michael Kulma, the Executive Director of Global Leadership Initiatives at the Asia Society in Afghanistan.
The Asia Society has selected 10 to 20 Afghan youth leaders every year from governmental and nongovernmental organizations and brought them together to discuss major political, economic and social issues in Afghanistan.
The topic for this year’s discussion is the potential solutions to concerns about post-2014 Afghanistan and the spring Presidential and Provincial Council elections.
“We discussed the qualities of good leaders to see who can become a leader in Afghanistan, who we can call a good leader,” said Jameel Danesh who participated in Friday’s gathering. “In the upcoming days, we will discuss issues related to women, the elections and 2014.”
A number of participants said greater involvement of Afghan youth from a wider variety of backgrounds and professional circles would benefit the initiative.
The gathering aimed at more than just talk, however. Participants said that they would soon use the takeaways of the discussions for more practical action plans.
“Through consultation we decide our priorities and from there we start our activities,” said Freshta Karim, a conference participant. “Meaning that we contact people and ask them to take part in solving the issues in their country.”
The Asia Society initiative’s expressed aims are centered on keeping youth around the world active in the direction of their societies. The foundation is based in New York City and has operations in over 10 countries.