“No one is born a good citizen; no nation is born a democracy.
Rather, both are processes that continue to evolve over a lifetime.
Young people must be included from birth.
A society that cuts itself off from its youth severs its lifeline.”
(UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in his address to the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth, Lisbon, 8 August 1998)

Asian South Pacific Bureau of Adult Education or ASPBAE, a regional association from 240 organizations and 100 individuals that base in 30 Southeast Asia and Pacific countries for adult education, which is established since 1964, celebrated its 40th Anniversary by hold Festival of Learning with theme “Freedom is Learning” during December 13 until 18, 2004 in Yogyakarta

ASPBAE is a NGO that has operational relations with UNESCO and registered in United Nations ECOSOC. ASPBAE is also representative council of UNESCO Collective Consultation in Asia Pacific that handle the issue “education for all” or EFA. Furthermore, ASPBAE is a regional affiliation of International Council of Adult Education (ICAE), a voluntary council that handles promotion of adult education. ASPBAE is also member of Global Campaign on Education, and the founder of World Alliance on Citizens’ Participation and International Forum on Capacity Building.

The issues that become priority in its anniversary were Education for Indigenous People, Education for Peace and Conflict Resolution, HIV/AIDS Education, Citizens Education, Engendering Education for All (EFA) Advocacy Platforms, Community Organizing and Popular Education, Adult Literacy and Social Justice, Migrants Education, also two additional sessions on Engendering Gender and Luncheon on Human Rights’ Issue.

There was an interesting thing should be considered, that from 165 participants who came from 35 Asia and South Pacific countries, those only two participants whose age are under 23 years old, exactly 21 years old, whose experience working in NGO range around 2 until 4 years, were one represented DEMA (Democratic Malaysia Youth and Students Movement) and another represented YASVA Bengkulu. The other one, include “young” for on-going advocacy that he does for years, PRISON SPECIALIST at PARTISAN CLUB, an NGO bases in Jakarta that actively does campaign on HIV/AIDS, is 29 years old.

There was a question in my mind, why it was so limited young people participated in this activity? Whereas the issues that rose up were actual issues surround the young people themselves and stay as a crucial problem that seems almost without solution. For example, do they know that 50% from total HIV/AIDS cases in all over the world, happened at women age 15 until 49 years old? And during 2003 in Indonesia, are reported approximately 80.000 new HIV/AIDS case and approximately an increase of 90.000 until 135.000 cases of HIV/AIDS in 2004. Again, there are 4–6 million drugs user in Indonesia and around 68.000 from these are injected drug users that are in a high risk of being infected HIV/AIDS because they use un-sterile injection together with another 50-100 people and do un-safe sex with another 20-50 people. No wonder that a HIV/AIDS activist predicted that within two years, INDONESIA WILL BECOME THE SECOND BIGGEST HIV/AIDS CENTER IN SOUTHEAST ASIA.

Do you realize young people everywhere that this is the saddest thing I’ve ever heard? That between the controversies on how much expenditure should be allocated for education and military expenses, there are 6000 children lost their chance to educate, because their government had change it with a fighter plane. It is absolutely a very expensive price that should be paid by the young people overall the world!

I try to invite young people all over the world to stay together as a part of solution instead of being part of the social problem persisted. Because young people everywhere: have aspirations and want to participate fully in the lives of their societies; are key agents for social change, economic development and technological innovation; should live under conditions that encourage their imagination, ideals, energy and vision to flourish to the benefit of their societies; are confronted by a paradox: to seek to be integrated into the existing society or to serve as a force to transform it; and are also a social and demographic group at risk with an uncertain future, even though they represent society’s greatest hope. More and more, the problem facing youth challenge not only today’s societies, but future generations as well. They include: limited resources available for funding youth programs and activities; inequities in social, economic and political conditions; gender discrimination; insecure livelihoods; high levels of youth unemployment; armed conflict and confrontation; ethnic prejudice; social exclusion; homelessness; continuing deterioration of the global environment; increasing incidence of disease, hunger and malnutrition; changes in the role of family; and inadequate opportunity for education and training.

The same problem of lack involvement of young people also can be found in maintaining peace here in Philippines. Everybody should agree that young people shall have an active participation in any peace process on on-going armed conflict that happens in their region, such as very long armed conflict between GRP and MILF-MNLF and the GRP and the NPA… I don’t know whether the young people realized this or not, that all of these social problem, including armed conflict between the government and the rebellion, will be their problem soon, because as human, we are growing and will enter “adult world” soon. That, we are securing our future’s life by closing our eyes on these problems.

There is a question arose during the Peace Advocates Meeting with International Alert in Westin Philippine Hotel, that is how to involve young people more in peace process, instead of doing something useless for their life. There is a worried among the peace advocates that peace issue is not something “interesting enough” for young people, therefore young people can easily ignore that without feeling guilty. And I would like to emphasis that we faced also the problem of lack involvement of youth on my on-going advocacy in delivering that human rights issues are issues-for youth-also, we really have to deliver it in very creative ways, and watching documentary movies on it could be one of that way, besides we really try hard to “re-package” all of these in very easy language to be caught by youth and by using quite simple analogy accordance to their daily life to help them to understand more on these issues. And sometimes, before we try to get their attention on what we want, we really have to be ready to be such as friend for their own problem and have enough time and passionate, also ear to hear their sounds of silence.