BRIEFING NOTE YOUTH EMPOWERMENT AND DEVELOPMENT

“This generation of youth is the largest in history. If we invest in their education and empowerment, we can transform our world.” – Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, 26 June 2013

THERE IS A DEMOGRAPHIC INEQUITY. There are over 1.8 billion young people aged 10-24 years in the world today, most living in developing countries. Yet young people are not proportionately represented in positions of leadership in the cultural, religious and political spheres of society and they are left out of decision-making that affects their lives. As a result, many young people, particularly adolescent girls, lack the investments and opportunities that they require to realise their full potential and contribute to their counties. THERE IS AN INVESTMENT INEQUITY. The lack of engagement of young people in the policy making process means that their realities and priorities are not reflected in decision-making. With the political leadership out of touch with The Economist, 2011 the realities of young people, political priorities do not meet the aspirations of young people and as a result public services do not reach young people. Given the large share of young people in the population, this constitutes a massive waste in investment. Given the opportunities and capabilities, young people have the potential for breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty. POVERTY HAS A YOUNG FACE. Young people constitute a quarter of the world’s population but more than half of all people living in poverty and half of all those unemployed are between the ages of 15-24. 1 out of 4 national poverty reduction strategies mention youth as a major group experiencing poverty. 2 out of 3 countries do not consult young people as a part of the process of preparing the strategy. In low and middle income countries, over 200 million young people aged 15-24 have not completed primary education and need a second chance to acquire basic skills for work. Girls and young women still lag behind and are often unable to fully contribute to the development of their societies. In the least developed countries, 30 per cent of women aged 15 to 19 are married or in union due often to forced marriage.

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BRIEFING NOTE YOUTH EMPOWERMENT AND DEVELOPMENT
YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT HAS LONG-TERM CONSEQUENCES. Young people constitute a quarter of the world’s population but more half of all those unemployed are between the ages of 15-24. The global youth unemployment rate, estimated at 12.6 per cent is a record high, with 73 million youth aged 15-24 estimated to be unemployed globally. Many more young people are trapped in informal employment unable to make transitions to decent work. The economic, social and political costs of long term unemployment, under-employment and poor quality jobs are high – with the potential to undermine global economic recovery and growth. After years of unemployment or underemployment, many young people in this generation will not have the skills necessary to make a transition into the workforce after the older generation retires.
ILO Global Youth Employment Trends 2013

MOST YOUNG PEOPLE FACE GRAVE VIOLATIONS OF THEIR RIGHTS. More than a third of young women are married below the age of 18 and complications from pregnancy are the leading cause of death among girls aged 15-19. Nearly half of all sexual assaults worldwide are against girls aged 15 and younger and young people aged 15-24 account for 40% of all new HIV infections. Yes, services for adolescent girls and young women do not effectively reach them, particularly those most in need. THE SITUATION IS MOST CRITICAL FOR GIRLS. More than a third of young women in developing countries are jobless—out of the labour force and not in school. The gender gap in labour force participation is on the rise. Reaching girls during adolescence is critical—decisions made and behaviours established during this period affect their horizons later in life. Adolescence for girls it often comes with increased restrictions—fewer opportunities and less freedom to exercise choice. With more household responsibilities, fewer professional networks and opposition from social norms, girls and young women face multiple barriers to become economically empowered young women. THIS IS A SYSTEMATIC MARGINALIZATION LEADING TO SOCIAL EXCLUSION. Young people face legal, social, educational and political discriminations and vulnerabilities due to the fact of being young, in addition to also facing inequalities on the basis of gender, ethnicity, social and economic status. There is a hierarchical culture that values the experience of an older generation more than the changing experiences of the younger ones. Young people are either ignored as insignificant or viewed as the cause of crime, social instability and conflict. These multiple deprivations lead to a wide-spread sense of exclusion, alienation, demotivation and disenfranchisement amongst young people.

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BRIEFING NOTE YOUTH EMPOWERMENT AND DEVELOPMENT
THIS GENERATION IS SEARCHING FOR IDENTITY AND PURPOSE. To overcome this feeling of alienation, young people are in search of a sense of citizenship, identity and purpose. In some settings, this is provided by religious extremists, causing a rise in fundamentalisms and militancy. In other settings, young people are claiming a secular civic identity for themselves and fighting for civil and political rights. In settings where the political leadership is completely out of touch with the realities of young people, this generation is claiming a national identity and rising up against long-standing regimes. ICT AND SOCIAL MEDIA HAVE CHANGED EVERYTHING. This is the most inter-connected generation in history. Young people are able to express their civic identities across national borders, to find a platform for discussion, association, sharing information and building plans for activism. In 2012, over there were 96 mobile phone subscriptions for every 100 individuals – which means there are almost as many cell-phones as people on this planet. Combined with social media, offers a new dimension in which young people could exercise the freedoms of expression and association in otherwise restrictive settings. YOUTH ACTIVISM CAN BE CHANNELED TOWARDS DEVELOPMENT. Young people around the world have similar aspirations for political, social and economic freedom and they are engaging in activism to create change in their communities. In countries around the world, youth-led movements are taking on political, social and environmental issues. The foremost amongst them are gender equality, health, governance and climate change. This activism can drive the development agenda. Young people can find a sense of purpose in activism aimed at social development and this will have the support of governments keen to address issues of youth unemployment, social exclusion and political participation. Supporting youth activism for development will empower young people and giving them the skills required to be active and engaged citizens. INVESTING IS YOUNG PEOPLE IS THE SMARTEST DECISION A COUNTRY CAN MAKE. In Kenya, for example, if all 1.6 million adolescent girls complete secondary school and all 220,000 adolescent mothers were not prevented from employment due to early or unintended pregnancies, the cumulative effect would add USD 3.4 billion to the gross national income every year. Globally 43% of the world’s population is under the age of 25 and this percentage reaches 60% in the least developed countries. October 2013 | youth@unfpa.org | Page 3

BRIEFING NOTE YOUTH EMPOWERMENT AND DEVELOPMENT
Countries with young populations have a historic opportunity to reap a demographic bonus for their nation’s development, resilience and sustainability. THE TIME FOR ACTION IS NOW. The demands of the new global economy are more rigorous and less and there will soon be more young people making the transition to adulthood than ever before. In the next thirty years, an estimated 425 million young women and men will join the labour force, which means the world will need about half a billion jobs by then. In the next fifty years, the youth population of Africa is set to double – from 204 million in 2010 to over 436 million in 2050. The requirements for their success economically will be stricter and greater. These trends together pose difficult challenges but also present unprecedented opportunities, presented in young people themselves. Entrepreneurship can be a part of the solution, provided that young people have access to finance, mentorship and training programmes, and an enabling environment. ENGAGING YOUNG PEOPLE REQUIRES A DIFFERENT APPROACH. Young people are rejecting the traditional models of leadership that centred on a person or political party hierarchy. Young people are not organizing themselves in formal structures. Broad movements are emerging that are led through consensus-based leadership of a group of people but without a single clear leader amongst them. New modalities for engaging with these activist movements will have to be developed. These can lead to a paradigm shift that not only addresses social integration and inclusion but also revitalizes the development agenda and accelerates the achievement of international development goals. THE WAY FORWARD 1. Young people’s issues should be incorporated in national development priorities. An advocacy agenda for social development should be developed in each country in partnership with young people. There has to be more data on the situation of young people. This data should be generated in partnership with young people. It should look at the issues that concern young people and the extent to which young people are integrated in society. Young people should be at the policy table and create spaces for them to articulate their priorities in decision-making processes such as poverty reduction strategies. 2. Young people’s capacities should be developed so that they have the knowledge of the opportunities that exist for them to participate in the social, cultural and political aspects of society and the skills to be able to participate. Programmes should be put in place to provide young people with education and vocational skills and experience required to make a transition into the workforce and be productive members of the economy, and also to make healthy transitions into creating families through sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services.

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BRIEFING NOTE YOUTH EMPOWERMENT AND DEVELOPMENT
3. Young people should be supported to build networks, form organizations, seek funding, and develop advocacy agendas to be able to participate in all decision-making that concerns them. A mapping has to be done of the movements and networks out there and a strategy to engage them effectively has to be developed. This can be done through developing online platforms and using social media, but will also require changing modalities of working and engagement. 4. Efforts should be aligned towards the systematic integration of young people’s participation in policy, practice, programme, strategic framework and partnerships supported with adequate resources and budget allocation, through changing structures, incorporating youth voices, promoting youth leadership. Programmes to strengthen capacities of young people should focus on strengthening skills that respond to new models of leadership emerging from youth activism, such as consensus-based decision making, building sustainable networks and coalitions, including through ensuring funding and core-support for such networks. 5. Information and communication technology, particularly cellphones, should be used in conjunction with internet platforms to enable communication and information exchange amongst young people and with governments, to promote access to services and to hold governments accountable for their commitments. Communication efforts must capitalize on young people’s emerging civic identity, which should be linked to national development and the concept of citizenship should be tied to human development. Efforts should be made to ensure social media literacy and access for the most economically, socially and politically marginalized young people. In all countries, efforts must be made to promote affordable access to the internet. 6. Finally, young people should be empowered to hold leadership accountable for all of the above. There should be inter-generational dialogues to transform the existing cultures into those that respect and celebrate the contributions and diversities of young people and create avenues for regular exchange of ideas and information between governments, the private sector, civil society, academia and youth-led organizations, networks and movements.

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