Bangladesh is a young country, with a median age of 27 years. Over a quarter of its population is aged between 15 and 29. While there has been much talk of cashing in on the demographic dividend so Bangladesh can become an advanced economy by 2041, the country’s youth clearly need more tools to use in such a transformation. What policy interventions can truly help the next generation take the country forward? How best to prepare for global challenges such as climate change? This issue of WhiteBoard asks whether it’s time to rethink youth policies.

Suruchi Sood and Astha Ramaiya assess the impact of Icchedana, a UNICEF-supported transmedia entertainment-education initiative, aimed at changing attitudes towards child marriage. The success of the social behavioural change communication approach used holds important lessons for communicating with young people.

Talking, and more importantly listening, to youth is at the heart of Rehnuma Karim’s article. She explores ways to get youth engagement right. Community-based youth development interventions are key, with a focus on physical and psychological safety and opportunities for skills development, as well as supportive relationships with adults and authority figures. Neighbourhood youth councils, community service and mental health support at schools are areas where policy reforms are urgently needed.

Syed Saad Hussain Gilani and Nazmul Avi Hossain analyse labour market trends and access to social security in Bangladesh. The country’s young labour force numbers some 27 million but they are in need of more government support. Linking the labour market with social security will be an integral shift for the country. It can be achieved through the four pillars of labour market institutions: employment protection laws, minimum wages, collective bargaining and unemployment benefits.

Ishmam Rayan Haq critiques the way Bangladesh evaluates poverty (via income level) and emphasises the need for a more multidimensional approach. He believes that inculcating the vulnerability factor will help policy-makers design better anti-poverty programmes.

Climate change is a generational challenge. Moin Ghani evaluates Bangladesh’s climate leadership strategy. He argues that now is the time to use international courts to seek climate justice. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the International Court of Justice feature in his analysis. These courts can help Bangladesh address climate change mitigation at the global level, and adaptation at the local level.

Kawsar Ahmed stays on the theme of international law by looking at how Bangladesh can use legal doctrine to smoothen diplomacy. Sam Bidwell and Umran Chowdhury revisit the Commonwealth and assess its importance to Bangladesh at a time of shifting global alliances.

The next generation must be in the conversations that shape their future. There is no alternative to including youth perspectives in policy formulations. This requires systemic change, not just token gestures.  At WhiteBoard, we provide a forum for these exchanges.

Radwan Mujib Siddiq is a trustee of the Centre for Research and Information. He is a strategy consultant and youth advocate. He is also the patron of ground-breaking political history projects such as the graphic novel Mujib and Hasina: A Daughter's Tale, a docu-film. He advises various international organizations and government agencies on strategy and communications. He pursued his graduate studies from the London School of Economics and Political Science.