Filed under: Central Asia Development Social inclusion

For a month our office was taken over by young people, their parents, zillions of questions and phone calls, and expressions of gratitude.

Together with United Nations Volunteers, and the United Nations Population Fund, UNDP initiated a Millennium Development Goals song contest.

Who better to advocate for the Millennium Development Goals than young people, expressing opinions, in their own words, about socio economic challenges such as poverty, hunger, education, gender equality, the environment, and HIV and AIDS.

And what better way to reach out to young people than through the power of music?

It helped to bring together a diverse group of Uzbek and Russian speakers, 13 girls and 89 boys, 127 songs from nine regions, from the ages of six to 32. They wrote their own songs and lyrics, played their own music, and planned their performances.

Young man sings his heart out, as part of song contest, Uzbekistan

Young people (under 30) make up 62 percent of Uzbekistan’s population of 30 million. We want to encourage them to become active and take control of their own lives. (See: It’s time to include young people in development)

The contest provoked interest in the Millennium Development Goals, pushing young people to look up information, deepen their knowledge and understanding of the challenges faced by modern Uzbek society, and other young people around the world.

Songs were full of emotion, voicing the pain of being excluded and outcast, such as injecting drug users. Other themes included living with HIV, a disappearing Aral sea, girls being treated differently from boys, drugs, poverty and exclusion, all mixed together with an ever growing hope, inspiration, and love for one’s country, hometown, neighbourhood, and community.

“The Aral sea was blue, beautiful, irreplaceable and now it is the black heart of the desert” sang Indigo, or “you have to work so hard, with all your soul and heart, education is all you need to succeed.”

Next up, UNDP will help with recording the winning songs from the contest, making videos, and promoting the new young stars via social media and a new website for young people. We’re also inviting new rap and r-n-b singers to join our future campaigns and events.

We all know that young people are the future. They are the next generation of leaders who will contribute to solving development challenges, both large and small.

UNDP will continue to work with young people, promoting volunteerism in communities and projects designed by young people, training and empowering youth from rural areas, and encouraging organizations to launch volunteer programmes for young people.

So happy international youth day from Uzbekistan, and stay tuned for updates from our partnership with young people all year round.

Young people from across Uzbekistan participated in the song contest, crowd at UN office