By Marwa Azelmat
The world today is home to the largest generation of young people in history. Almost 90 percent of youths live in developing countries, where they constitute a large proportion of the population.
Connected to each other like never before, young people have already taken action to contribute to the resilience of their communities, drive social progress and inspire political change. To do so, youths have used a full spectrum of approaches in urban as well as rural contexts. Therefore, young people constitute a tremendous and an essential asset worth investing in, thereby opening the door to an unparalleled multiplier effect.
At the same time, young people often work in the shadows with little support. In many countries, youth activists are facing incredible challenges and even life-threatening risks. They experience intersecting forms of marginalisation and struggle with the brunt of a global erosion of human rights and impeded access to justice.
“Youth activists are facing incredible challenges and even life-threatening risks.”
With this large and increasing number of young people across the globe, it is abundantly clear that it is only by engaging with them, working with them, supporting them in standing up for their rights and creating the conditions that allow them to progress and play an active role that the international community will be able to achieve peace, security, justice, climate resilience and sustainable development for all.
Building on its role as an international forum for dialogue and action, the United Nations is uniquely placed to act as a source of protection and support for young people. The UN may provide a platform through which their needs can be addressed, their voice can be amplified and their engagement can be advanced.
“The United Nations is uniquely placed to act as a source of protection and support for young people.”
Youth development and youth engagement are cross-cutting issues in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Security Council Resolutions 2250 (2015) and 2419 (2018) and other international frameworks. The 2030 Agenda acknowledges that young people play an important and positive role in the realization of sustainable development, in the prevention of crises and in the advancement of peace. This Youth Strategy acts as an umbrella framework to guide the entire UN as it steps up its work with and for young people across three pillars: peace and security, human rights and sustainable development. It seeks to significantly strengthen the UN’s capacity to engage young people and benefit from their views, insights and ideas.
The Youth Strategy aims to facilitate increased impact and the expansion of global, regional and country-level action to address the needs of, build the agency of and advance the rights of diverse young people around the world. The strategy also attempts to ensure youth engagement and participation in the implementation, review and follow up of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as other relevant global agendas and frameworks.
In line with ongoing reforms, the UN is committed to strengthen its capacity to meet new demands and deliver effective action for young people. To do so, the UN must intensify its evidence-based advocacy, policy engagement and partnership. The UN must also make efforts to strengthen international, regional and national commitments to prioritize, invest in, engage and empower young people. In this regard, the UN will leverage both existing and forthcoming system-wide initiatives and step up its efforts in the interconnected priority areas outlined below. These areas will be operationalised and further substantiated through the Strategy’s action plan.
The UN Youth Strategy has five principal priorities:
FIRST PRIORITY: Engagement, Participation and Advocacy – To amplify youth voices for the promotion of a peaceful, just and sustainable world
SECOND PRIORITY: Informed and Healthy Foundations – To support young people’s access to quality education and health services
THIRD PRIORITY: Economic Empowerment through Decent Work – To support young people’s access to decent work and productive employment
FOURTH PRIORITY: Youth and Human Rights – To protect and promote the rights of young people and support their civic and political engagement
FIFTH PRIORITY: Peace and Resilience Building – To support young people as catalysts for peace, and security and humanitarian action
A multi-stakeholder model is needed in order to ensure the inclusion of all parties at all levels of the society. This strategy can only succeed if youth, civil society and governments join their efforts in the spirit of a true partnership, making good on their promise to leave no one behind.
Marwa Azelmat is an IT Engineer, who majored in coding and cyber security. She has worked for UNESCO as a Youth Leader and UN Women for the Youth Gender Innovation Agora, where she worked on promoting women in peace and security. Marwa describes herself as a digital peacebuilder who strives to build resilient societies through IT and peace journalism.