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Thai Youth Leader Urges Peers to Speak Up


WDR07 Provides Basis for Young People's Demands to Government

April 17, 2007 - In our current multi-tasking world of instant messaging, phone cameras, and music downloads, few youngsters may take interest in the thick volume of "World Development Report 2007: Development and the Next Generation."  But if 21-year-old Chalongkwan Tavarayuth had her way, this report would top the reading list of every young person in Thailand.


“I think it remarkable that the World Bank dedicated its flagship report to the issue of investing in young people,” said Chalongkwan, who has represented Thai youth in many occasions abroad. The WDR07, she said, touches many issues that will be critical to the development of her generation and to the future of her country.


“As the World Bank tries to encourage governments to address the challenges facing young people today, we should also try to make sure that our voices will be heard,” Chalongkwan said. 


The WDR 07 touches many issues that will be critical to the development of the next generation - Chalongkwan

“Being heard”, "Getting involved" and “Making a difference” capture precisely what WDR07 tries to convey to youth in developing countries, agrees Emmanuel Y. Jimenez, director of the World Bank Human Development Sector in East Asia and the Pacific and lead author of the report. “While our primary audience was the policy makers, we also hope that young people like Chalongkwan are able to take away such messages from the report,” Mr. Jimenez said.


Published annually since 1978, the World Bank’s WDR has become a valuable guide to the economic, social and environmental state of the world today. Each year, the WDR provides in-depth analysis of a specific aspect of development. Past reports have considered such topics as the role of the state, transition economies, labor, infrastructure, health, the environment, and poverty. The reports are the Bank's best-known contribution to the practice and theory of development.


This year, the WDR addresses five crucial stages of any young person’s life: transition to adulthood, progression through school, entering the labor market, forming families, and exercising citizenship. According to the Report, each of these transitions is laden with opportunities and risks – not just for the individuals, but also for their families, their societies, and their economies. The outgrowth of these experiences for today’s young people will determine the quality of the next generation of workers, parents, and leaders.


“The opportunities present a chance to benefit wider society, while the risks, unless properly handled, can destroy that potential,” noted Ian Porter, World Bank Country Director for Thailand. “The future of today’s younger generation and its contribution to the nation will depend heavily on how each of its members manages this transition.”

Building human capital requires more than just schooling - the WDR07

Building Human Capital is Key to Reduce Poverty

As he presented the WDR07 to a group of Thai audience in March, Mr. Jimenez also addressed the question as to why the World Bank, whose primary focus is to help the poorest people and least developed countries, devoted its most important report to the next generation.

“The main reason is that investing in young people is one of the key elements of any strategy to reduce poverty,” he explained. “What economists call human capital, which is the skills of people, is what’s really crucial if countries want to develop into the future and reduce poverty.”


Building human capital, however, takes more than just schooling, argues the WDR07. It also means ensuring that young workers can use their skills productively as they seek their first job; that their health is safeguarded as they experiment with new life experiences; that they become responsible young parents themselves; and that they become involved in their communities and societies. Youth should have opportunities to use their talents at work and to participate as active citizens, the WDR07 argues. Governments, it says, have a lot to do to expand those opportunities.


But expanding opportunities alone may not be enough, Mr. Jimenez said. Young people today also need support as they choose among these opportunities. And for those who have to recover from poor decisions or poor circumstances, providing a second chance to make up for missed opportunities can keep young people from being left behind.


“Policy institutions that govern how these transitions take place are going to be very important for the future,” said Mr. Jimenez, who has presented the WDR07 to youth and policy makers in 26 countries around the world since its official publication last year.  So even though the WDR07 concerns young people and their development, the message was crafted in the style that speaks to the world’s finance and economic ministers, those with the authority to allocate resources to support social objectives, he added.


Need to Expand Opportunities to Poor Areas

Chalongkwan was a youth representative on the panel discussion at the Bangkok launch of WDR07.  A senior student of political science, she believes that the WDR’s message about opportunities is most relevant to her country.


Even though the Thai Government has expanded compulsory education to nine years from six years previously, inequity in access to secondary education remains, the World Bank said in its Thailand Social Monitor published in August 2006. “There are large differences in secondary school enrollment between poorest and richest population groups,” the Social Monitor reported. “Although these differences have narrowed over time, they have remained quite substantial.”


Mr. Jimenez during the WDR07 launch in Bangkok

This is why the Thai Government should focus on expanding opportunities when applying the WDR framework to the national youth agenda, Chalongkwan suggested. “Having a regulation on compulsory education doesn’t necessary guarantee that young people will have equal access to education,” she said. “If the Government is serious about reducing poverty, it needs to do better to expand educational opportunities more equally around the nation.”


Noting that the World Bank can only support decisions that must be made by governments and societies, Chalongkwan calls on her peers to bring the WDR07 messages to political leaders and senior policy makers, whom she said may not fully understand the next generation's needs. (For her part, Chalongkwan plans to recommend the WDR07 as a required reading next academic year at Chulalongkorn, Thailand ’s oldest and most prestigious university).


“It all comes down to us; we have to demand what we think we deserve from our own Government,” she said. “And I think we should start by asking the Government to follow the WDR’s recommendations.”


For more information about the WDR07, please click here

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