Youth Integrity Camps: building integrity and ethics among the leaders of tomorrow

Yangon (Myanmar), 11 December 2020
- “This is what the camp has prepared me for: to be aware of corruption, to speak out and to be an honest person.” Zayar Htet, an 18-year-old participant of the first and second Youth Integrity Camps, who is currently studying at the Department of Statistics in Meiktila University of Economics, shared his insights from the camp: “I didn’t have the courage to speak out in the past, but now I’m running a mask campaign during the pandemic, and I’m ready to speak out against corruption in the workplace if I see any.”

With youth being the foundation of any country’s future, their attitude and behaviour will have a defining impact on the lives of coming generations. Values around integrity and ethics will have a strong influence on the direction of this impact, and it is crucial to nurture them and build awareness around realities and dangers of corruption from an early point on. Based on this fundamental notion, UNODC in 2019 worked with the Myanmar Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and Ministry of Education to organise two Youth Integrity Camps (YICs) for more than 250 students from universities in Nay Pyi Taw and Mandalay regions. The camps focused on increasing awareness and instilling the values of integrity within participants and offering a platform for youth to discuss those concepts as they start their careers working in governments, NGOs, or companies. Fundamentally, the aim was to strengthen the youths’ ability as individuals to question existing systems and to ask, “should we be doing it by following past practice, or should we be doing it with integrity”?

To determine the longer-term impact that the camps had on the life of the participants, UNODC in 2020 conducted an online impact assessment. 86% of the respondents indicated that the areas covered in the camps were useful for the development of their capacity to engage in anti-corruption activities. 68% of participants further indicated that they incorporated elements learned from the camp into their individual life. Respondents also indicated that the training provided them with the opportunity to change their perception, attitude and behavior. Daw Mar Lar Tin, a 44-year-old lecturer at the Department of Mathematics in Taung Ngu Technological University who participated to the first Youth Integrity Camp emphasized that: “Since the camp, I have come to realize how approaching the students through education is extremely important. This camp changed my perspective on how to suitably educate people about lawful rights.”

In Myanmar, there are 9,7 million students and youth aged from 15 to 29 make up approximately a quarter of the country’s population, with 55% of the population under the age of 30. Many of them are taking responsibility during times of crisis. For example, Daw Mar Lar Tin, who was interviewed recently, shared her experiences of engaging in local social work programmes during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how her experience at the Youth Integrity Camp has greatly influenced her work. “Recently, I have been participating in a local donation project which consists of helping people in need of financial and food assistance,” she said. “Due to the knowledge and skills that I acquired during the camp, I am able to manage the project systematically and successfully.”

As a key exercise during the camps, participants formed teams to jointly research and elaborate a plan of action for an integrity issue important to them. This enabled them to develop their skills in working with others, consider various leadership styles, and enhance their capacity to do research as well as present and share their work with others. These kinds of projects are typically less seen in the formal education system, and yet, they build crucial skills for young people to critically assess situations and make informed decisions as they transition into the workforce. The continuous and active engagement of the youth after the Camps, through seminars, dissemination of flyers, awareness raising talks, allowed young people to foster new thinking and skills that are embedded into the teachings that they received, and to start to push youth leadership roles.

Educating young people about the disadvantages and consequences of corruption, and benefits of integrity and transparency will ultimately have a significant impact on creating a better society, starting with themselves and their environment. As Zayar Tun Lin, a 21-year-old student from Mandalay University puts it, “before the camp I wanted to be a qualified engineer, but after the camp, I want to be a qualified engineer with integrity.”

UNODC is committed to continue to support the ACC and the Ministry of Education to carry on with youth engagement in combating corruption. Supported by the Government of Sweden, the 2019 Youth Integrity Camps were organized as part of UNODC’s broader anti-corruption cooperation with the ACC and other relevant actors under the UNODC Country Programme for Myanmar which aims to more effectively prevent, raise awareness of, detect, investigate and prosecute corruption.

Click here to read more about UNODC Myanmar’s Country Programme.

Click here to read more about UNODC Impact Assessment on Youth Integrity Camps 2019 and 2019/2.