People aged 10–24 make up 1.8 billion of the world’s population, with nearly 90% of these young people living in developing countries. This is the largest generation of young people in history, and in recognition of its significance, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres made youth a priority from the onset of his mandate.
This commitment was manifested on 24 September 2018 when the Secretary-General presented Youth 2030: The United Nations Youth Strategy
“With Youth 2030, I want the UN to become a leader in working with young people: in understanding their needs, in helping to put their ideas into action, in ensuring their views inform our processes.”
- UN Secretary-General António Guterres
The Strategy is aimed at guiding the entire United Nations (UN) system to empower young people to realize their full potential and to stand up for their rights. It also aims 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.
Globally, there were an estimated 258 million international migrants in 2017. Of these international migrants, 14 per cent were under 20 years of age; this means 36 million young people are international migrants. Whether on their own or with family, adolescents are increasingly migrating in search of security, improved standards of living, education, and protection from discrimination and abuse. Young migrants have a lot to offer. They fulfill many roles in their communities and societies; they are agents of social progress and development; they are crucial to peace-building and security; they are important contributors to political change; and they are crafters of new solutions.
During the President of the General Assembly’s 2018 Youth Dialogue and International Youth Day 2018, many of the youth representatives present were migrants, bringing important migrant voices to the debate and highlighting the need to engage and work with young people and recognize the different experiences that they have..
It is also noteworthy that young migrants are a large constituency whose lives will be impacted by implementation of the Global Compact for Migration, which is the first, intergovernmentally negotiated agreement to cover all dimensions of international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner, and which will be adopted in Marrakesh, Morocco this December.
More generally, one of the greatest opportunities we have today to eradicate poverty and promote prosperity is to take advantage of the shifting demographics in the world. To do this, we need to pay attention to the situation of young people around the world.
While young people are key players when it comes to the future and health of our planet, they currently experience many challenges. For example, 61 million adolescents of lower secondary school age (about 12 to 14 years old) and 139 million youth of upper secondary school age (about 15 to 17 years old) are out of school. Today, nearly 64 million young people are unemployed, and they are three times more likely than adults to be unemployed. Furthermore, young people are not at the centre of political decision making even though more than half of the world’s population is under 30 years old.
Poverty, displacement, conflict, climate change and restricted access to accessible, youth-friendly health services can further compound existing challenges or threats. Young women in particular continue to face multiple barriers when trying to enter the labour force, including unequal pay for work of equal value, and widespread violence and harassment in different contexts.
The UN has set five priorities for the next 12 years in order to operationalize the UN Youth Strategy. The priorities of the strategy include amplifying youth voices for the promotion of a peaceful, just and sustainable world; supporting young people’s greater access to quality education and health services; supporting young people’s greater access to decent work and productive employment; protecting and promoting the rights of young people and supporting their civic and political engagement; and supporting young people as catalysts for Peace and Security & Humanitarian Action.
2018 is a landmark year for shaping the ways in which the international community will approach working with young people for years to come. When given the opportunity, they can effect positive change in several fields. By recognizing this key demographic as the future leaders of tomorrow, the UN Youth Strategy will empower youth to recognize their potential and become the positive agents of change that the world needs. 2018 is also a landmark year for the international governance of migration. We know that well-managed migration provides a net benefit to countries of origin and destination, as well as to migrants themselves. Migrants give more back to the societies that they have moved to, and those they have come from, than what they take out.
As a significant demographic within the migrant population, and one which has so far arguably been largely underserved, young migrants stand to gain significantly from both the implementation of the UN Youth Strategy and the adoption and subsequent implementation of the Global Compact for Migration. Multiple factors have compounded the challenges faced by young people, and young people on the move in particular; these two historic documents can work to realize their true potential — especially in the many areas where the two initiatives see real overlap. In turn, the world stands to gain much from young people and young migrants in particular.
The article was prepared by Amira Nassim, Migration Policy Officer at IOM’s Office to the United Nations.