After South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation was founded, member nations have been reaffirming their conviction, saying that SAARC youths should get attention for overall progress in the region. Youth has been one of the most important factor when the future of any country or region is discussed similarly member states always believe that the future of SAARC belongs to youth. It is pertinent to note that during the Ministerial Conference on Youth in South Asia in Maldives in May 1994, various youth-related issues of the region have been given due priority. This conference and the SAARC Youth Conference held in India in 2006 addressed the problems of youths and focused on the broad theme of youths and development. While 1994 was designated the “SAARC Year of Youth,” 1995 saw the adoption of the SAARC Youth Resolution for the overall development of youth in the region. The Foundation of SAARC Youth Award Scheme in 1996 has also laid emphasis on youths.
There have been theories prevailing that SAARC members have not been cooperating to make region prosperous due the factors including violence, internal war and political instability, and coming out for peace and security. However it seems reverse in case of youth; so the bid to come forward and take charge for the progress and prosperity of the region is a positive note. By dispelling the impression that SAARC counties are entangled in violence, internal war and political instability, and coming out for peace and security, SAARC youths with their potential, talent and dedication should turn SAARC nations toward progress and prosperity. In this regard SAARC Youth Award is certainly a good sign. SAARC Youth Awards Scheme was instituted in 1996 to provide recognition to extraordinary young talents and encourage the overall development of the youth in the South Asian region. The Scheme is also aimed at encouraging the South Asian youth to excel in various fields and to realize their full potential.
The SAARC Youth Awards Scheme is open to nationals of SAARC Member Countries, who are within the age group of 20-35 years at the time of nomination. The Award consists of a citation in English; a Gold Medal; and a cash prize of $1500 US.
The SAARC Youth Awards have so far been presented on the following themes:
1997 : First Award for “Outstanding Social Service in Community Welfare”
1998 : Second Award for “New Inventions and Discoveries”
2001 : Third Award for “Creative Photography : South Asian Diversity”
2002 : Fourth Award for “Outstanding contribution to protect the Environment”
2003 : Fifth Award for “Invention in the Field of Traditional Medicine”
This award was not conferred in 2007. Applications have been called for the SAARC Youth Award 2008. This year’s theme is ‘From Himalayan glaciers to verdant plains to coral reefs-protecting the environment in South Asia’. However the work or achievement, which has been submitted for or received an international or regional award, will not be eligible for consideration.
As per the decision of the Thirtieth Session of the SAARC Council of Ministers (Colombo, 31 July – 1 August 2008), the SAARC Youth Award Scheme would be gender balanced and the Youth Award for 2008 will be conferred upon women candidates only. The SAARC Secretariat has decided to confer the Award to a female candidate to encourage participation of women this year. The conferment of this Year’s Award is expected to be made at the next inter-Summit Session of the SAARC Council of Ministers, chaired by Sri Lanka.
Prospective candidates can forward their applications in English in the format published on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at www.formin.gov.lk and weekend newspapers, to the South Asia and SAARC Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Syed Zafar Abbas Naqvi of Pakistan was the winner of the 2006 SAARC Youth Awards conferred upon him during the 13th Session of the Council of Ministers held in Colombo in July – August this year. SAARC Youth Award scheme was introduced in 1997 and since then 02 (two) successful youth organizers have received “SAARC Youth Award” for their exemplary contribution in social work. Mushfiqul Alam is one of the most creative and talented Asian photographers based in Bangladesh. His photographs are exhibited at many national & international exhibitions since1994 was declared by the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) as the winner of SAARC Youth Award 1999. This was the single award of the contest which had been issued for the photographers among the seven SAARC countries where one fifth population of the whole world resides.
The role the youth should play in addressing social issues, eliminating evil customs, contributing to economic development, participating in public life and protecting the environment in this region has become the dire need of the time. Pakistani youth has great opportunities to show their capabilities in several fields. They can prove they are better than any other nation in the not only in south Asia but in the world