Monday, January 31, 2011

Yes Youth Can

Today I saw a piece about the US pledging $45 million for “youth empowerment” in Kenya. Having done research on the best ways to reach what are termed “disconnected youth” (those out of school, work and with poor social supports) in the US, this was greatly heartening. At least in the US, this demographic of those no longer children but who have failed to make a healthy transition to adulthood -- struggling to get educated, land in upwardly mobile professions and endure the poor luck of being born into abusive households -- these disconnected youth are met with a mixture of fear and apathy from policy-makers. In a political climate concerned mainly with threats from abroad, the sinking of the Dow and the rising of unemployment, these young people, disproportionately minority, are largely forgotten. Combine this with a popular disdain for economic assistance abroad, the $45 million commitment to struggling youth abroad seemed like a pretty impressive coup.

(Speaking of coups…) The bizarre twist is that, despite the importance in terms of future stability and economic development of supporting this precarious demographic, this overture was met not with appreciation but with unequivocal suspicion and outright criticism by both the Prime Minister and the President of Kenya, who have called it an attempt at…… “regime change.” 

To be fair, the assistance is intended to encourage youth to “participate in the development of their country and expand their peaceful participation in the democratic process.” I suppose in a post-Bush era, any meddling tinged with “democracy promotion,” especially in a country with a delicate unity government born out of post-election violence will be viewed with a healthy dose of trepidation. But that’s too bad.

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