Youth as Partners in Development

About half of the world’s population – nearly 3 billion people – is aged 25 years old and below. Almost 90% of this three billion figure live in developing countries and accounts for a sizeable chunk in the global labor force. Addressing the needs of the youth remains a global challenge but far from being just an issue to resolve, the youth also plays an essential role in society—not just as beneficiaries of aid but also as active participants in shaping the future of effective development practices.

Enabling Environment for Youth-led Organisations

Despite the increasing recognition of the important role of the youth in development, many youth and student organizations from around the world still face repression and human rights violations. From issues of campus press freedom, lack of quality education to gender-based discrimination, the youth including young women and girls are continually at odds with the sore reality that they are being ignored, much less heard.

An enabling environment for youth-led organizations throughout the world provides opportunity for them to shape their own development pathways. It reinforces their ability to meet their own subsistence needs by allowing them to actively participate in development initiatives without the threat of repression and abuse of human rights.

Fostering the meaningful participation of the youth in development entails the establishment of democratic spaces that support them as leaders and at the same time engage them as partners in development. Freedom of expression is an important form of enabling environment in itself. It gives them the liberty to defend their own rights and claim what is long theirs for the taking—a voice in the global development agenda. Creating this kind of environment enables young people to lift themselves and their communities out of poverty.

Redefining Roles

As young people continuously constitute high and peaking proportions of many populations around the world, the problem becomes more and more obvious. In Uganda, an estimate of 600,000 new jobs is needed every year in the next 12 years just to keep up with a bulging youth population. If not achieved, ending poverty, hunger, and child mortality will remain all but elusive development goals.

Thinking of it this way takes us a step farther from the answer. Instead of considering the youth as the problem, they ought to be understood as the solution.

The youth, in its ever-increasing numbers is an opportunity to harness their untapped potential for action. As a core sector of society, the youth must be included in development partnerships if we are to create truly inclusive spaces for multi-stakeholder dialogue and exchange.

The meaningful and active participation of the youth in the global development agenda enables them to:

– Exercise, to the full extent their citizenship and contribute in efforts to hold their governments to account

– Shape political processes and help craft policies and services that serve their needs

– Become empowered, be heard and critically engage the world’s problems

Young people are critical, creative and innovative; they have the energy and the optimistic spirit it takes to bring about genuine social change. If given the chance for a meaningful participation in development and decision-making processes, they can be dynamic players in finding solutions to the world’s problems.

The youth’s dynamism is greatly facilitated only by their organization and mobilization around issues that affect not just them as a sector but the community in which they live. They flourish when surrounded by people who value them as partners; by organizations that respect their rights and recognize their contributions.

The youth is not an isolated sector of society. It mirrors the ramifications of the world within which it thrives; it shares the same interests across class, gender and political persuasion but more importantly engages in the same struggle for human rights and development as much as anyone else.


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Rey Asis migrated to Hong Kong when he got elected as regional secretariat member of the Asian Students Association in 2002. He has been in Hong Kong for 11 years now. He currently works as a programme officer of the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants, a regional research institution working for and with migrant workers in Asia Pacific and the Middle East. While Rey has only been with APMM for five years, Rey has spent many of his time organizing and working with migrant workers in Hong Kong.

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