Giving Timorese Youth a Voice and Opportunity in Development

21 Dec 2016

Giving Timorese Youth a Voice and Opportunity in Development Inspirational Talk by the Novel Peace Laurate Professor Muhammad Yunus on 8 October

By Claudio Providas, Country Director of UNDP Timor-Leste

After fourteen years of independence, Timor-Leste welcomes development and shows progress in peace, stability and economic development. A smooth government transition in 2015 is a further signal of the country’s readiness to move forward.

Timor-Leste is blessed with a large portion of young people, the second largest in the region in relation to the total population. They are the future decision makers, leaders, and workers who if educated, skilled and employed, will play a critical role in the sustainable development of this country.

While approximately 1.2 million people live in Timor-Leste, it is also one of the world’s most rapidly growing populations, with over 60% of the population under the age of 30. Timorese  are interested in expanding the economic opportunities to provide employment for new labor market entrants. Youth are also eager in a young and vibrant economy sustained mainly by the oil revenues, to participate in the economic and political life of the country.

UNDP Timor-Leste and the Government of Timor-Leste have partnered in a programme targeting Youth focused on 2 pillars: “Youth voices” (political, economical and social citizenship) and “Youth opportunities” (skills development, employment, and entrepreneurships).

The Social Good Summit kicked off the series as a Panel Discussion with the Prime Minister and youth entrepreneurs on the 16th of September, having a live discussion with youth from all over the country connecting via a video link. The debate was broadcasted live on TV and Youth had an opportunity to interact with their PM, business CEO and other young entrepreneurs.

The event was followed by a two-day Youth Forum on 13th - 14th of October on Wellbeing, Social Entrepreneurship, and Sustainable Development Goals where 300 Youth where engaged in working groups geared to developed their own solutions.

The Youth Forum was launched with an Inspirational Talk by the Novel Peace Laurate Professor Muhammad Yunus on the 8th of October. Professor Yunus inspired Timorese youth to use technology to make changes in the world. He said that anyone with internet access and a smart phone is instantly connected and has unlimited resources at their fingertips.

His main message is that “Youth are not jobs seekers. They are jobs creators.” Youth should not wait for the government to create jobs instead they have the power to create jobs for themselves and for others. What they need are innovative ideas and actions to make them come true.

“You have the power to change the whole world. It all starts in the mind. If you can imagine it, you can make it real.” said Professor Yunus “Imagine doesn’t cost anything. Everything you need in this world is a wish list. Start with a piece of paper and make a wish list. Dream as big as possible and act as small as possible. The things in your list will sooner or later will come true. That is the greatest invention of life.”


Youth Forum on 13 and 14 October                                                                   Dr. Rui Maria de Araujo, Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, gave his closing speech.

During the two-day Youth Forum, youth hear from speakers from the Government, civil societies, and the private sectors about the existing policies and programmes on youth skills development, employment, and entrepreneurship and learn from young entrepreneurs on how to start a business.

Moreover, the young participants also discussed how to use technology and social media to advocate for social change and access to opportunities. The participants also had the opportunity to hear and provide inputs for the Timor-Leste’s 4th National Human Development Report (NHDR) preparation process with its focus on Youth and Wellbeing. They were also given the opportunity to raise their voices and aspirations for advanced youth wellbeing in Timor-Leste, started with drafting a wish list in various areas related to their well-being and brainstormed about innovative ideas to make them a reality.

At the closing ceremony, the Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, H.E. Dr. Rui Maria de Araujo encouraged youth to transform problems in to opportunities by stating that “Timorese youth in 1975 transformed the oppression at that time in to an opportunity for independence, and they took actions to make it reality. Today’s youth should transform problems in to solution in business way.”

The Prime Minister challenged youth to be entrepreneurs by announcing the first ever Prime Minister’s Youth Entrepreneur Award to be launched next year for youth who started their innovative social business to solve social issues and create jobs for others.

The programme next event will be an Innovation and Incubation Camp to be held later November 2016 in partnership with private sector.

Key messages:

  • Mindset change: Aggressive efforts should be done to change youth mindset from job seekers to job creators. The first step is for youth to make a wish list and ideas. Then take actions to make the wish a reality while finding supports along the way.

  • Business development should start in locally. It should be built on existing efforts and existing market. Developing business in agriculture and fisheries is a great start as bringing youth to work in this sector will help accelerate economic growth.

  • A culture of innovation and critical thinking should be promoted for youth to identify social problems and transform them in to business opportunities.  So that they can earn profit while at the same time solving social issues.

  • Technology and social media particularly TV, radio, and Facebook should be harnessed to educate young people on their critical role in advancing the societies in which they live in. Technology and social media would also help communicate the opportunities available to young people and be the means to make their voices heard.

  • Engagement: Youth activities such as this Youth Forum should be done regularly in all municipalities for youth to access information on opportunities and raise their voices.

  • Accountability: Youth should be engaged in the  existing Government’s and civil society partnership on Social Audit to help monitor and report on implementation of government programmes and the SDGs. A youth network for social audit on Facebook should be established and training for youth is required to use the various tools for social audit.

  • Data: Evidence-based  platforms to support “youth voices” through research and data is important to influence decision-making, policies and programmes. The outcome of the Youth Forum will inform the National Human Development report (NHDR) and guide policies aimed at promoting social entrepreneurship, skills development, vocational education for young people and transmission of their skills through different means of communication.

Youth should be involved in advocating the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Youth Wellbeing in Timor-Leste. Therefore, youth were invited to submit their nomination to become “Youth Ambassadors for SDGs’. After the Youth Forum, 5 young people will be selected to be Timor-Leste’s first youth ambassadors for SDGs. They youth were also invited to join an art competition on SDGs where the winning art will be featured as the NHDR 2017 cover. Both initiatives were welcomed by the youth with excitement.


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