Rapid urbanization has brought about the reality that this year marks the very year when the world urban population will equal and eventually surpass the world rural population. With this comes the problems in cities and urban agglomerations that concern the quality of life of the people living in the city or the agglomeration.
Problems od health and the environment are problems which could be solved by efforts of the local government were it not for some forms of corruption that government officials get involved in. This problem of corruption is not something that is limited to the government agencies and offices in the city. Rather, this problem begins in educational institutions when the perpetrators are still young. Hence, a long-term solution to the problems of the city is to start the change in these educational institutions.
Apart from these, youth groups which are advocacies-oriented, issue-based, socio-civic or community-based should be prized and should be given respect befitting an independent group which could release stands, fight for them and initiate programs and projects for reform. In addition to these, a Youth Council should be formed by law in order to implement youth-oriented projects and programs, and at the same time, provide opportunities for the youth officials to be of service to their constituents.
Vigilance of the common people in the actions of government officials and other public figures should also be encouraged. The paper identifies an example of a city whose government had developed a system of checks and balances, and furthered transparency in government operations by posting the city government transactions in the city’s website and by encouraging feedback from citizens.
Empowering the youth to form and run their own advocacy and socio-civic groups, to run the city and to be vigilant is taking advantage of the energy that the youth has, the idealism in the young ones’ minds, the creativity of the youth, and the passion that drives them not just as the future of the land, but as the past, present and future of the land for we all form but one story-the story of our city.
Urbanization, defined as the removal of the rural characteristics of a town or area oftentimes associated with civilization and technology and also defined demographically as the redistribution from rural to urban settlements, is one of the highlights of the different societies in the world today. Because of this, the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations has been issuing revised estimates and projections of the urban and rural populations and of the major urban agglomerations of all countries in the world every two years since 1988 (United Nations, 2008).
The 2007 Revision estimates that the world population will reach a landmark in 2008 when the urban population is expected to equal the rural population of the world for the first time in history (United Nations, 2008). This marks the point after which the urban population of the world will be greater than the rural population. This, added to the fact that the world urban population is expected to double from 2007 to 2050 (United Nations, 2008), calls for the discussion of urban issues in the world-the primary reason why the topic of this essay competition is what it is (World Bank Group, 2008).
The rapid increase in urban population is a reality that is present not only in cities or urban agglomerations of first-world countries but also in those of third-world countries. In 2007, the urban agglomeration where the city I live in belongs ranks seventeenth in terms of population and is among the nineteen with at least ten million inhabitants (United Nations, 2008). The urban population, however, is expected to increase by 2025 when the city is expected to rank fourteenth among the twenty-seven megacities or urban agglomerations with at least ten million inhabitants (United Nations, 2008).
While increase in population is indeed a major problem faced by these urban agglomerations, I believe that the more pressing problem in these urban areas is the quality of life of the people living in the city. In the city where I live, in particular, the quality of the resources available is a major problem especially for the less fortunate members of the community. The large number of vehicles for land transport and the number of factories present in the city contributes to an increase in air pollution and the death of a river passing through the cities in the urban agglomeration.
Government officials could have exerted extra effort to respond to these problems by making use of devices that could mitigate pollution or by imposing stricter and harsher fines and punishments to polluters; nevertheless, with corruption in different levels of the national (and even local) government, addressing these concerns had been set aside in favour of projects such as the beautification of the city where government officials could receive huge commissions as part of the deal. This is, oftentimes, in addition to the fact that these government officials could also make themselves more popular among the voting population of the city through the projects and programs that they implement.
Primarily because of the fact that these government officials and politicians are backed by wealthy financiers who have their own interests, most of these improvements are those that involve infrastructures rather than those that involve the rights and the general welfare of the citizens which could benefit more citizens but which could affect negatively the rich and the powerful; hence, much of the improvements are rather short-term and not long-lasting. Even so, these improvements are still far from ideal with corruption in many government agencies.
Political corruption which is experienced when government officials use their governmental powers for illegitimate private gain includes bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, patronage, graft and embezzlement, but excludes misuse of government powers for purposes of repression of political opponents. This is a reality that exists not only in the city where I live in, but also in many of the major cities in the world. This reality becomes more evident when one views the world map with countries colored depending on the corruption perceptions index of the said country in 2007 (Transparency International, 2008). Looking at the map in which a dark red color signifies the perception of high occurrence of corruption, one would see most of the countries of the world in red as a sign of the persistence of corruption in many countries and cities of the world (Transparency International, 2008). Added to this is the fact that bribery around the world had been estimated to be about one trillion U.S. dollars; worst, the burden of corruption falls disproportionately on the people living in extreme poverty (Wikipedia, 2008a).
The problem of corruption is a serious matter since it undermines democracy and good governance in a supposedly democratic political system. Moreover, corruption in elections and in legislative bodies reduces accountability of government officials and corrupts the concept of representation in policymaking (Wikipedia, 2008a). Furthermore, corruption in public service would also result in the unfair provision of services (Wikipedia, 2008a). As such, corruption is indeed a problem that needs to be addressed.
Where Do They All Start?
Addressing these concerns, however, is rather difficult if we begin looking for quick solutions to solve all the problems of the entire city, more so, of the whole world. Indeed, what people had been used to for several years will not be changed overnight. Rather, change of such magnitude could only be effected by long-term programs that begin when we are young, most of which should begin in our own schools, colleges and universities.
It is essential that these begin in educational institutions b
ecause these play a major role in the development of each individual. Moreover, ever since I became involved in student groups in the University, I have seen how the student groups in the University where I am studying functions. And with that, I realized that the University is indeed a microcosm of the “outside world” and that what happens outside also happens inside the University, perhaps in a different scale, but they do exist.
Such was my realization when I saw how bureaucratic offices can become, when I saw how some organization officers would set aside for themselves some of the freebies given by some sponsors which should have been for the organizations’ members, when I saw how student governments could dwell on technicalities and dirty politics when more pressing issues should have been tackled and discussed, when I saw how students throw their garbage anywhere, when I saw how students refuse to segregate biodegradable wastes from other trash, and when I saw how a number of student leaders have eventually become government officials and managers of private corporations.
Perhaps, the immediate effects of what student leaders do in school affect a smaller population, and maybe, misbehaviours in student governments are not as bad as those in city governments. But this does not mean that we should tolerate these acts. Tolerating small acts of corruption is like approving bigger acts of corruption. When we allow small acts of corruption to grow, we are breeding government officials and managers of private companies who are corrupt and irresponsible. We are telling them that they can escape punishment and retribution for we fail to reprimand them when they are in a smaller environment where most of their actions could be observed.
Seeing that most of the unwanted practices we witness in our cities begin while those practicing them are still young calls for immediate action while the future leaders are still young. As such, the change should begin in the schools, colleges and universities, more specifically, in the student governments, student organizations, student publications and other student groups.
The Youth and Advocacies
The participation of the youth in advocacy groups should not be hindered. These should be encouraged. Empowering the youth to make their own stands and fight for what they believe in is like taking advantage of the energy that they have and giving an opportunity for their idealism to control their creativeness in finding a solution to address the problem.
Activities such as the Model United Nations and projects such as this essay competition should be encouraged for these provide a venue for the youth to express what they believe in. Moreover, the youth should be given a chance to link with each other. The youth groups belonging to a certain city should not be prohibited from coordinating with other youth groups in the same city; moreover, the youth groups should be given the aid they need so that they can coordinate with groups of similar nature in other cities and countries.
Actual exposure work such as those of Habitat for Humanity, Gawad Kalinga (in the Philippines), livelihood programs and other socio-civic programs initiated by youth groups should also be encouraged. These provide opportunities for the young to feel what it means to help.
With what I have written, many could have thought that I am advocating for the existence of youth sectors in different advocacy and community groups. I believe that this is also good; nevertheless, it could be better if youth groups are recognized for what they are as youth groups advocating for a change independent of other issue-oriented advocacy groups or community-based socio-civic organizations. Recognizing youth groups as part only of bigger groups run by adults not only discourages them from initiating activities, but also hinders the progress that an independent youth group can have with the energy, idealism and creativity that they possess.
The Youth in Governance
The participation of the youth and the empowerment of the youth should not be limited to advocacy projects. They should also be given a chance to take part in the governance of a city or a district thereof not as people external to the governing body, but as part of it.
A Youth Council can be established and mandated by the city’s ordinances or the country’s constitution through which the youth could take part not just as an observer, but as government officials. As such, the Youth Council also functions as a government arm that could implement its own projects and operate on the budget set by law. Doing so empowers the young leaders of the city and also trains them for the future when they take over the government.
In addition to implementing their own projects and programs, the Youth Council should also monitor the performance of the city government and provide inputs for every issue discussed. The voice of the youth in the governance of the city should also be heard in the drafting of laws in such a way that these should not be drowned by the elders who belong to the City Council or the body that drafts and approves laws.
The vigilance of the youth in the governance of a city is necessary for the eradication, or at least the minimization, of corruption in the government. Nevertheless, more than the youth, the other citizens of the city should also be vigilant. The city population should keep themselves updated with what could be happening around them.
Moreover, the city governments should provide an opportunity for the common people to take part in the government of the city by helping them be vigilant. In the Philippines, the local government of Naga City posts most of its transactions in its website and encourages the citizenry to view them. Moreover, they city government also posts the cost of everything they use including office supplies on their website, and requests viewers and web page visitors to contact them if they know any supplier that could provide the same object of the same quality at cheaper prices.
Why Do We Empower the Youth?
In most of my suggestions, the youth plays a major role in effecting change in the society. The youth’s passion, idealism, energy, creativeness, dedication and purity of intentions are beneficial for the establishment of a more humane, just, free and healthy environment.
Truly, the youth is a dynamic sector of the society-ever-changing and always on-the-go that putting them in key non-government organizations and government posts could help keep these moving, progressing and improving.
And maybe this is what the Philippine national hero realized when he said that the youth is the hope of the fatherland. Yes, we are, but more than that, we are the city, we are the country. The story of every individual in the city makes up the history of the city, and the story of every young citizen makes up the history of the entire country. As such, the youth is no longer just the hope of the city, rather, the youth has gone further and has become the city-the city of dreams.
And so, the youth calls on the institutions that surround us to empower us and make us truly the past, the present and the future of the land we loved so much and from whom we owe so much.
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Naga City i-Government Team. (2006). City Profile. In Naga City. Retrieved 24 March 2008 from http://naga.gov.ph/cityprofile/.
Transparency International. (2008). Corruption Perceptions Index 2007. In Transparency International: The Global Coalition against Corruption. Retrieved 24 March 2008 from http://www.transparency.org/policy_research/surveys_indices/cpi/2007.
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