Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, at the TN50 Youth Canvas event last week. With them is Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin. PIC BY MOHD YUSNI ARIFFIN

AS a senior citizen with several children now part of “the young generation”, I am delighted to read about the recent launch of the “TN50 Youth Canvas”.

The “canvas” refers to a 472-page document, detailing the aspirations of the nation’s youth.

It reminds me of what my late grandfather used to say when I was in my teens: “Take care of our youth of today. They take care of our nation in the future”.

However, there is a segment of our youth today who do not care about legal and political developments.

Most are focused only on employment opportunities, building a family and a home.

The Youth Canvas by the Federal Government, hopefully, will bring about a change in their outlook on life and galvanise them to rise to the challenges of becoming the next generation of leaders.

Giovanna Lucignano, a young intern at the Bureau for External Relations and Advocacy of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), believed that youth activism and engagement was important because it could bring about important social changes in a nation.

She added that a person did not have to wait to be an adult to be an active member of his community, because the opinion of a youth was critical and should be heard by government leaders.

Writing his piece (in 2009) on youth empowerment in the context of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of The Child 1989 (which came into force in September 1990), James Anglin stated that in North America and many of the European countries, the growing concern then was the very small number of young people prepared to take on the mantle of leadership, thus “forcing” the ageing leaders to stay in office.

That was, of course, a decade ago and, thankfully, things have changed for the better, with many young leaders emerging in several countries.

For example, Tony Blair was 44 when he became the prime minister of the United Kingdom, and Emmanuel Macron was 39 when he became president of France.

The Malaysian TN50 Youth Canvas, launched on Feb 28, is a compilation of the aspirations of our young generation (between 18 and 40 years old) divided into six separate themes — global, equitable, sustainable, united, accountable and compassionate.

The document contains over 60,000 ideas of more than the two million young Malaysians, painting their vision of how this country should look like in 2050. The document is, in a sense, the collective voice of our youth.

They want Malaysia to be driven “by a global outlook” and measured according to “global benchmarks”, ready to become one of “the most advanced nations” in the world by 2050.

They want Malaysia to become “an exemplary Muslim-majority country” willing to act as a mediator between Islamic countries in dispute. They also want Malaysians to hold “leadership roles” in international organisations, such as the United Nations.

In short, they want Malaysia to become an active player in international relations.

A UNDP portal states that the way we engage our youth today will determine the prospects for sustainable development and peace in the future, because they represent a majority of the population in most developing countries, “actively contributing” as political actors, innovators, entrepreneurs and peace-builders.

It is sad that in some countries, they face “social, economic and political barriers”, which prevent them from unleashing their full potential.

To realise their potential “as agents of change”, the youth of today must continue to be engaged and empowered in many areas of civic and political life, and their participation must be welcomed at all levels, the portal added.

The Youth Canvas launched last week must be seen in that light.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had aptly said (when launching the TN50 Youth Canvas): “Malaysia has a dream, and TN50 is that dream.”

Our youth must be continuously engaged and empowered to achieve that dream.

Salleh Buang formerly served the Attorney-General’s Chambers before he left for practice, the corporate sector and, then, the academia.

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