Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Afghan Youth Debates: Country Needs Younger Leaders

Afghanistan's political leaders risk alienating the country's youth because of their reluctance to appoint younger, better educated workers to more senior roles in provincial and central government, an IWPR debate has heard.

Sahebzada Nalan, a social affair analyst, claimed a culture of age discrimination – where older candidates were given precedence over younger ones regardless of their suitability or expertise – was damaging for the nation's economic outlook.

Speaking at an event held in the southern province of Kandahar, Nalan told undergraduates that negative stereotypes around taking on younger workers needed to be broken.

He said failing to acknowledge that under-30s were often far better suited to government positions than their older counterparts would result in many problems.

"Increasing in the role of younger people in provincial councils and other government and non-government institutions has been my hope for a long time," Nalan told students. "Delegating authority to young people and respecting their knowledge can bring about real progress. But if young Afghans are shut out of senior roles, it will bring about crisis, corruption, unemployment and poverty.

"Anyone who can contribute to our society should be given responsibility. It is wrong to suggest that young people lack experience and cannot work."

The IWPR debate was held on May 13 at Kandahar University in front of some 60 students. Gul Ahmad Kamin, a young provincial council candidate, said he agreed with Nalan and urged ministers and local leaders to modify their thinking.

He said that young Afghans had been tested in all sorts of ways during the country's recent past, and that they continued to prove their worth in politics, education and science.

"I am confident that the nation will begin electing younger officials this time," he said, referring to the April 5 provincial council elections, the results of which have not yet been made public.

"I am confident that I will get into the provincial council, and I assure the nation that I will fulfill my responsibilities honestly to them and to God."

Sayed Taj Mohammad is a student at Kandahar University and an IWPR trainee.

This report was produced as part of Open Minds: Speaking Up, Reaching Out – Promoting University and Youth Participation in Afghan Elections, an IWPR initiative funded by the US embassy in Kabul.

ARR Issue 488

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