Interview with Dina Krauskopf: “In confronting the crisis, we must make youth a priority”
in SHSviews 28-29
Project Director at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO) and consultant to many international organizations on issues related to adolescent development, Dina Krauskopf emphasizes the opportunity that the celebration of International Youth Year offers to young people to enable them to take part in the development of all programmes and policies affecting them.
In the context of the multidimensional crisis the world is living since 2007, what do you think of the fact that, by 2025, 8 out of 10 youths will live in developing countries?
Developing countries are clearly younger. The crisis has taken place in a context where there is less State participation, where risks are accumulated in lower social strata and where the youth population is larger. The situation calls for the development of strategies that involve State responsibility, and centre mainly on development, rather than on economic growth as the means of emerging from the crisis. Therefore, it is strategic to adopt approaches and programmes that stimulate youth participation and empower young people, so they are made part of its solution. This involves abandoning age discrimination, acknowledging young people and their contribution, and moving away from a focus on their problems and stigmatisation.
Young people are pillars in the work undertaken to solve the crisis, because they have the capacity to act as strategic actors in their own development. If they are not given the necessary means to act, the crisis will be structural rather than cyclical, since it is imperative to discard what no longer works to allow new ideas to flourish. As the crisis is confronted, particularly in developing countries, young people must be made a priority, and in particular as regards their inclusion in their country’s projects as citizens.
As from August 2010, UNESCO and the entire United Nations system will be mobilized around International Youth Year. Do you think this campaign will have an impact on public policies addressing young people?
The Declaration of International Youth Year, as from August 2010, will be a firm and necessary strategy. Let us remember that, when the United Nations declared the 1985 as International Youth Year, a significant impact and impetus was given to youth development. Youth research groups were established in Latin America, as well as youth networks, official national and international youth bodies, and Ministries providing services for young people, which did not exist before. The international community and a host of supranational bodies developed frameworks providing operative approaches and guidelines to implement initiatives in the different spheres of young people’s lives. Evidence suggests that approaches to and practices addressed towards youth have developed.
However, there remains insufficient recognition of young people as legitimate interlocutors in policy-making; situations of exclusion and violence exacerbate problems in this respect. The absence or weakness of normative frameworks and State policies hinders an environment in which young people can assert their rights. This second world declaration, through the United Nations’ International Youth Year 2010, has the potential to reinforce and reinvigorate the interest in youth, and represents a necessary stimulus as well as an invaluable support to advancing the position of young people.
Have you observed any significant changes in the practices of young people today compared to those of 25 years ago?
Negative changes have brought about new conditions of existence and life trajectories which are less predetermined. The juvenile period not longer corresponds to a pre-plan for the future; there is a greater individualization; they develop their sexuality earlier. Their practices require that they confront uncertainty using their imagination and that they apply their great capacity to learn. Youth participation is trying to change the present with autonomy and identity, and in turn to bring about social change from it. There have been transformations in the nature of youth participation and in its exercise of citizenship.
The occasional mobilizations that take place at times of transformation are important social expressions, equivalent to traditional social movements: short term actions can take place, with the support of advanced technologies, the flow of information through cyberspace, and palpable results as a goal. They organize themselves to vindicate their rights to inclusion in the workforce, to education and other worlds which are fundamental to them. Environmental issues are a marked priority, and they reinforce the emphasis on social groups which are marginal and discriminated against (because of ethnicity, sexual identity, gender, etc.), on art, culture, the access to recreation and the digital world. The respect for diversity and individuality is constituted at the heart of practices and many are not comfortable with bureaucratic social structures. Rather than supporting themselves on ideologies and parties, ‘youths’ are manifested in ethical and aesthetic expressions, and in the use of public space.
You have worked closely on a project that was coordinated by UNESCO and the Inter-American Development Bank, which aims at identifying best practices in youth policies and programmes which have had a real impact on the development of youth in Latin America and the Caribbean. What are its results?
This UNESCO-IDB initiative is a pioneer project, and is singular in its approach, structure and projections. It has the great merit of having retrieved a number of programmes and projects from anonymity, isolation and fragmentation, and has led to lines of action that establish a strategic approach to and with youth, as well as concerting the cooperation among agencies from the United Nations, the Inter-American system, academic centres of excellence, and governmental and non-governmental organizations working in Latin America and the Caribbean. [...]
The Forum that took place to recognize and discuss the practices that were awarded a prize serves as an important landmark for the decisions and proposals that will be developed in the region, especially now that the partners have established the bases of the publication, being drafted at this time, that will bring together the themes, experiences and guidelines which were discussed throughout the project. [...]
What role is played, or should be played, by organizations such as UNESCO in reinforcing the participation and inclusion of young people, at the political, social and economic levels?
The role of organizations like UNESCO has proved to be of great relevance, in various fields, to promote the inclusion of youths in the development of their societies [...] The generation of information; the publication of books and technical support documents for key actors in the development of programmes and policies; the reinforcement of youth groups and networks of experts who participate in the construction of knowledge; and training on youth for key actors and decisive operatives in the development of policies and programmes at the State and nongovernmental levels; all serve as guidelines that contribute to the projection and consolidation of progress in the field. When laws and policies are approved at the country level, there is acceleration in the processes of participation of adolescents and youths, and these require technical and youth frameworks based on development and rights; on the construction of generational perspectives, methods and compromises; on pertinent management of youth issues; and on intersectoral coordination at all levels.
Placing youth on the agenda of governments and society in general is a long and complex process, in which the organizations of the United Nations have played a significant role, and it is important they continue to play it [...]
Interview by Bérénice Alcade
Director of the Latin American Youth Collective of the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO-Chile), Dina Krauskopf has a long career as an international consultant and researcher on issues related to the development of youth and adolescent programmes and policies for various organizations such as ECLAC, PAHO, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNICEF, the Ibero-American Youth Organization and Family Health International.
A graduate from the University of Chile and Professor Emeritus of the University of Costa Rica, where she is Director of the Institute of Social Research, she is a member of several scientific associations within and outside Chile. She has directed and provided advice to many national and international research projects on youth issues and has participated in the development of youth policies in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Panama. She has published several books, chapters and articles on youth in different countries.