Published on Arab Voices

It’s time for an ambitious Global Youth Agenda

By Gloria La Cava and Tobias Lechtenfeld

It’s time for an ambitious Global Youth Agenda

Half of today’s world population is under 25 years old. There are especially large concentrations of young people in Sub-Saharan Africa, much of the Middle East and North Africa and in many parts of Asia. The growing share of young men and women globally has not yet reached its peak and will continue to increase over the next two decades. Eradicating poverty will not be possible if the needs of this young cohort are not treated with careful attention. Recent estimates indicate that almost a quarter of the planet’s youth, between the ages of 15 and 29, is inactive. Furthermore nearly half of all global youth are working either outside the formal economy or not working up to their full potential. In the coming 10 years, 47 million jobs will be needed - nearly 400,000 jobs per month - in order to absorb the young generation into the workforce. Equally important is the growing sense of frustration voiced by youth around the world. A frustration stemming from a lack of opportunities and participation - not only in the economy, but also in the political and social spheres. The challenge is too great to be treated with a business-as-usual approach, and no individual stakeholder alone is capable of offering a comprehensive solution.

As part of its efforts to engage with the youth, the World Bank recently hosted a Global Youth Summit with over 500 participants from over two dozen countries. The list of guest speakers included the United Nations Special Envoy for Youth, Ahmad Al-Hindawi and representatives of Civil Society Organizations, international Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Private Sector, and numerous youth organizations. The event was a great success as it brought together stakeholders in the global youth agenda.

What were the outcomes of this event? How can it help to move the youth agenda forward? How can the World Bank make a meaningful contribution to the Global Youth Agenda? The Summit’s Expert Panel on The Post 2015 Agenda: Addressing the Challenge of Youth Exclusion generated a vibrant discussion. Here are the three key follow-up proposals that emerged from the event.

A Cross-cutting Solution for Young People in the Post-2015 Development Agenda

During the recent UN General Assembly, a first draft of a post-2015 development agenda that looks beyond the Millennium Development Goals was discussed. Based on the UN High-level Report, the delegates from 185 countries saw for the first time the Youth Agenda being spelled out in a clear quantifiable development target: Reduce the number of young people who are “Not in Employment, Education or Training” (NEET). Advocated by several UN organizations and already in use in several member countries of the Organizations for Economic Co-operation (OECD), NEET helps to look beyond the narrow lens of unemployment. The proposed indicator addresses youth inactivity and exclusion in a meaningful way. NEET is easily measureable using standard surveys with questions on employment, education, and training. The World Bank can play a crucial role in enriching the Global Youth Agenda by ensuring that proposed solutions for young people are (i) truly cross-cutting, (ii) in line with the recommendations of the High Level UN Panel Report, and that (iii) the NEET indicator is consistently measured throughout all the World Bank’s survey work, and monitored in poverty assessments, flagship reports, and country strategies.

A Goal for Youth Development

ImageThe development community is in urgent need of a common approach to youth development. It should include efforts to streamline and scale up evidence-based youth investments, mobilize resources, monitor progress, and for the international community to be held accountable for the progress made by young people. The development community must aim for a highly ambitious goal that addresses the lives of half of this planet’s population. Take the NEET indicator for example: reducing the current number of youth that are NEET could mean helping 1 billion youth to find employment, to become entrepreneurs, to obtain relevant training, or to participate in civic engagement initiatives. In other words, 1 billion young people that would need to be engaged and supported over 15 years, between 2015 and 2030 – slightly less than 70 million youth per year. Will that be enough to eradicate poverty? Will it be enough to boost shared prosperity? Probably the goal for NEET should be even higher than 1 billion young people, but these figures provide a sense of the order of magnitude needed.

Youth-led Councils and Platforms to Listen and Learn

The UN Special Envoy for Youth has recently launched a program to encourage governments around the world to set up Youth-led Advisory Groups or Platforms that can support national ministries and local delegations and help monitor the implementation of policies. Supporting this kind of citizen engagement is also a priority for the World Bank, and we have helped set up youth-led advisory groups for our country programs from Peru to Brazil to Macedonia, and more recently in the Arab League. The UN has taken this step one level further and has decided to implement Youth Councils for all UN Country Offices to ensure that programs fully address the needs and aspirations of the generation that will bring change to this world. This is a crucial moment for governments and all development partners to ‘walk the talk.’ Creating partnerships with youth organizations will also be essential in helping to focus on the problems that really matter, and to enable Development Agencies including the World Bank to listen and deliver better solutions.

These are three very concrete ideas to support the Global Youth Agenda. Enabling young men and women to contribute to shaping their own future will be essential, and we will only achieve this together, with strong partnerships.

Can we increase youth participation and reduce youth inactivity in other ways? What are your ideas? Let’s discuss!


Gloria La Cava

Senior Social Scientist

Join the Conversation

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly
Remaining characters: 1000