Mobilising for What: A Discursive History of Nepal’s Youth Policy
Over the last decade and half, there has been a converging international and national interest to establish a youth policy agenda. The first initiative of youth-specific policy was in the Ninth Government Plan in 1998, in which youth were separated from adolescents and given a subsection, 14.2.1 ‘Youth mobilization’. It identified education, culture, employment, health, sports, crime involvement, and substance abuse as major priority areas (NPC 1998). Youth issues took less priority in the Tenth Plan devised by the last HMG of Nepal. However, since the institution of the 2006 interim government, there has been heavy investment in creating a National Youth Policy (2008), The Ministry of Youth and Sports, and broad scale education and employment schemes in the post-conflict era. It is not surprising that youth policy has become a national priority since it has been a global focus of the UN and other multilateral organisations from the early 1990’s. What is more interesting is that it is one of the rare priorities shared by all sides in Nepal—the far left parties, democratic parties, royalists, general public, and donor agencies. The majority of democratic activists and Maoists combatants were of the youth demographic. In order to keep them loyal, all the parties recognise that they must address their young cadres’ concerns. There has also been more youth advocacy since student leaders and young Maoist commanders have transitioned into party leadership and government positions. Moreover, donor agencies and the general public directly correlate investing in youth opportunity with maintaining peace and stability. The National Planning Commission has tried to address these concerns by crafting a National Plan of Action for Youth Employment (2008-2015) with technical cooperation from the International Labor Organization. It emphasized: employability, equal opportunity, entrepreneurship, and employment creation. The estimated total budget was 14 billion NPR, little of which has been allocated or spent on developing programmes.
This paper provides a discursive history of the national youth policy development – focusing on the values, priorities, agendas of all the participating stakeholders and the degree to which they influenced policy outcomes based on their position in the policy making. It employs a trademark of youth studies by analysing the dynamic interplay between social, economic, and political structures and young people. This approach empirically grounds the tracking of social change and relationships between structure and agency (Beck 1992; Furlong and Cartmel 2007). I focus on policy and development to further unravel the relationship between the international donor regime and the state, providing insight into what mediates cultural flows and social change across sovereign borders. What should a policy of youth mobilisation entail? Or what will be the lasting effects of the Nepal National Youth Policy designating the youth demographic as 16-40 rather than the internationally sanctioned ages of 15-24? Such questions propel my analysis on the relationship between the global and local, and its implications for Nepalese youth as they navigate their life trajectories.