Currently, the world’s population totals more than 7 billion, and keeps increasing. This change in demographics is often mirrored by growing economic development, as can be seen in the BRICS, which has enabled millions to grow out of poverty, step by step.
However, as extreme poverty decreases day by day, global inequality keeps increasing. Only some parts of the world sustainably accumulate wealth, reinforcing the gap between the haves and have-nots. The poorest and most vulnerable of society still struggle and hardly benefit from a global upward trend in economic growth.
Aware of the ever-pressing issues the world faces as it grows, many youths in Japan and abroad are increasingly interested and engaged in international development, in an effort to understand global trends and have a say in the way the world is shaped. Despite their concern and determination, the opportunities available for those youths to interact with each other and build long-lasting networks are limited.
We founded the International Development Youth Forum in 2012 to provide the chance for youths with a strong interest in international development to meet each other, learn more about development issues outside of their home countries, share ideas on the subject, and work towards building a stronger global society, together.
We also seek to provide more than a one-week conference, and strive to establish a strong, long-lasting network between an ever-increasing group of strong-willed youth to create and implement solutions to international development in their own communities, bringing back home their IDYF experience and newly-gained expertise.
Our goal is to create a better future based on the diverse values and experiences of youth from around the world. We aim to empower youth, and shape them into leaders of a fairer, more sustainable future, through debates, problem-solving, and networking with peers from a variety of backgrounds.
1. Build a sustainable network among youth who are interested in international development
2. Provide opportunities for participants to embrace diverse values and learn from them
3. Accomplish realistic goals and bring about change in society
The past few decades have brought on life-changing, rapid evolutions in technology, from everyday life to space discovery. One after the other, generations of new technology have penetrated each and every aspect of people’s lives across the globe, drastically changing the environment surrounding us one day to another. Some would argue that this makes predicting future trends more difficult now than ever before: forecasts that were once possible are becoming more difficult, such as the surge of positive growth in remote and traditionally destitute regions of the world, or the rapid downfall or entire disappearance of some of the world’s oldest professions. Furthermore, such radical alterations to society pose a pressing need for us to entirely reconsidering our way of life. Such things considered, each and every one of us on this planet is are urged to face and answer this challenge, which isn’t just limited to financial and political elites. On the contrary, the new, relevant debates about technology offer the opportunity to reach all layers of society, both within sovereign countries and between nations and citizens around the world.
Of course, we are not merely passively subject to technological changes taking place around us: each and every one of us can actively bring about significant changes in the way technologies impact us. These changes considerably vary in terms of both their scale and nature. Some are minor and others are massive. Likewise, some are just positive, some are purely negative and still others are seemingly favourable at first but turn out to be the opposite later on. If we are not careful, we can cause a series of environmental problems such as climate change, several nuclear power plant disasters including the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and its consequences, to cite a few.
On the bright side, however, technology can have stunning positive impacts on the society, which I reckon outweigh the negative ones if and when we put our utmost passion, knowledge, experience, and energy into conscious and sustainable technology-development. Bearing this in mind, under the banner of “Design Our Future,” IDYF brings together youth from all over the world, for a week-long conference on the international development. It is an opportunity for them to dive into a pool of diverse values and norms, which broadens their knowledge and serves as the basis to build strong, long-lasting networks. If anything, we believe that IDYF brings together and serves as a formative experience for future global leaders who will contribute to the realization of a fairer, more sustainable future.
In order to realise such aforementioned ambitions for our 6th conference to be held in March 2018, we are dedicated to work towards two main goals. They are:
We also focus on the viability and feasibility of our proposed subjects enables participants to think of realistic solution-making through debate, bearing mind the interaction among various stakeholders, environmental consequences, societal constraints etc. The strong network, partnership and mutual trust we wish to build among participants is, I believe, most conducive to putting the conference-designed solutions into practice, making IDYF a sustainable initiative that reaches beyond Tokyo, and on the long term.
The IDYF philosophy "Design Our Future" is a point of convergence where both of our goals aforementioned come together. In this sense, we conceive it as essential for the Committee members to fully understand and bear this philosophy in mind when they work. The IDYF2018 Committee prides itself in choosing participants who truly wish to build a better future, especially through team effort, and starting with local initiatives. We look forward to receiving applications from all those who want to be leaders of their own fate and their own communities.
Today, roughly 1.3 billion people on the earth, out of the total of 7 billion, live on the daily budget of below one dollar a day (that is, nearly one out of five live below the poverty line). As the 2015 deadline set for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) approaches, the scorecard on the MDG achievements is quite mixed among target categories and among geographical locations within the developing world. It is a duty for those of us who are fortunate enough to have access to education and other means to contribute to the collective effort to build a better world for all, either at the local, national or global level.
IDYF is still in its 6th year since it was established, but human network among its participants and alumni has been accumulating rapidly. Every year, IDYF sets a common theme for discussion, and a group of youth coming from all over the world debate relevant issues from all angles. For those participants from outside Japan, in particular, what they see, discuss and learn through their interactions with Japanese participants and the Japanese society is likely to leave a profound impact for the rest of their lives, no matter what kind of career paths they happen to choose in the future.
Among others, a career in international development is an exciting and rewarding one. As you become a professional in the area of international development, you naturally interact with people with many different backgrounds, such as policy makers of all levels (local, national and international), academics, farmers, workers and laborers, and children. As exciting as those interactions are, they tend to be somewhat constrained by social contexts and social positions where we and they are in. As an academic specializing in development economics, for example, I interact with them as a policy advisor, an academic colleague, an interviewer during field research in an attempt to collect data to be analyzed and to be published in policy reports or academic journals, etc. In fact, it is not easy to interact with all those people free of such social contexts and truly on an equal footing.
Those friends who you initially met as a child or as a college classmate, prior to becoming a professional, are an exception, however. With those friends, you can interact as if you were still college classmates, largely free of social and professional contexts.
Academic knowledge, in any discipline, expands at an enormous speed. In the field of development economics, for example, there have been remarkable advances in theories and empirical evidence accumulated in the past decade. This means that the cutting-edge academic knowledge you learn at college may well become obsolete just 10 years after you graduate. On the other hand, the value of your personal networks and friends that you make at college will never depreciate for many years to come.
After some 30 years spent in the international development field since graduating from a university, I cannot overemphasize how important such friends are. As students, we used to debate about social problems and about how to tackle such challenges, often in idealistic (and, one might say, rather immature) terms. Those young days shared with my friends, however, installed in me an attitude towards life of not giving up the ideals and dreams in the face of harsh realities. To the extent that I have been able to persevere in my professional life, I owe it to those my friends at youth. Today, those friends are journalists, public servants, private businessmen, politicians, academics, housewives, and many more. When we meet, however, we still interact, debate and kid each other as if we were school classmates. Such interactions give not only fun time to refresh myself but also some new and fresh viewpoints and a moment to reconsider some of the views taken for granted within the narrow circle of professionals, enriching my professional life.
How exciting it would be to have such friends scattered all over the world for the rest of your life! Had IDYF existed 30 years ago when I was a college student, I would no doubt have joined the forum without hesitation.
Professor (Development Economics),
Graduate School of Public Policy, The University of Tokyo