The global exhaustion we are witnessing and facing today due to the emerging (and challenging) contemporary issues, some related to the way we have to respond and adapt to what is asked from us in professional and personal settings, is highly reflected and rooted in the societies of the globalization era. This chronic fatigue is accompanied by what we tend to encounter even more often in these times of global crisis – depression. Whether in the global North or the global South, the fact that the overwhelming socioeconomic distress puts the youth at the same risk of exposure to the modern era’s “trending” phenomenon is not to be ignored. Depression can affect everyone. COVID-19 crisis’ outcomes have become a solid proof of its emerging presence among the next generation and the entire situation brings forward the need of awareness and intervention in addressing it.
If we are to talk about youth and their relevant roles in the recovery process, especially the strong and vibrant youth population in the global South, we have to realize that they are the true stakeholders and the spark needed to lighten up each of the crisis dark corners.
Whether it is overlooked or insufficiently valued, the global South potential, beyond its material resources and capabilities, lies in its youth, as they are the revival’s core engine, emanating the necessary energy, ambition and providing fresh new perspectives for sustainable positive changes. Therefore, to come back to the depression phenomenon, our capacity to move forward is dependent on taking depression seriously, on acknowledging that we can emerge stronger by empathically discussing these issues rather than by sweeping our problems under the rug.
Amid the attempt to focus on substantial changes and efficient long-term approaches, these rapid and progressive changes certainly need the youth openness, will, ambition and the curiosity for going beyond the beaten paths. We know too well that their receptivity to adaptability and new ideas can later produce dividends both at the social and economic levels.
Diagnosis and prognosis need the consolidation of common efforts, both at the intellectual and behavioral levels, beyond the classical theoretical framework, as well as inclusivity. Therefore, the emergence of the youth inclusion and participation in civil society and public sphere, where the young generation is to be positioned as one of the society’s crucial pillars and actors, is the key step.
While development constraints are usually the results of limited resources, poor management or lack of flexibility and cohesion, the youth is a perfect solution among the various priorities of the development framework. They can be an asset for active participation and preparing the groundwork and implementation, not only a workforce. In this context, we can discuss the need of youth leadership empowerment and raise questions such as the following: to what extent are they empowered today? What are the means and instruments at their disposal?
In supporting their quest towards positive and sustainable impact, we have to provide them with the right tools to cultivate their potential . Innovation and vitality come along with boosting self-confidence, while developing skills and expertise requires capacity building through experiential learning, mentoring and guidance.
Empowerment comes naturally when the tools and opportunities to channel their energy and their sense of autonomy and responsibility are in place. Similarly, it makes sense to acknowledge and encourage the youth’s influential role in the reform processes and building social connectedness. Starting from voluntary work, community engagement and mobilization, and moving to transforming ideas into local projects and assuming decision roles in politics, these are all examples of limiting dependency and cultivating their sense of leadership by creating a space for self-expression, security and hope.
What can be done at the policy level? Firstly, providing the tools for adequate qualifications and skills through education and training. To set an example, leadership and interpersonal skills can be cultivated through hope management, self-development, oratory and communication development, risk management, project management, and financial management. Secondly, creating spaces for making use of their skills and pushing their limits is certainly the right solution.
In the end, let’s not forget, youth empowerment and leadership mean investing in a brighter and more productive tomorrow.
Radu Magdin is a global analyst and think tanker, former Prime Ministerial advisor in Romania and Moldova.