There are more young people in the world than ever before, creating unprecedented opportunities for global growth, innovation and creative advancement.
To fully realise these opportunities, young people must be well-represented in decision-making processes and structures. Societies that focus policy development and resource investment on creating positive outcomes for children and young people enjoy substantial benefits over the longer term.
However, in most countries, including young people in decision-making is not yet the norm. Issues that frequently arise as priorities for young people are often poorly-understood, represented and funded by those with formal decision-making authority. These typically include: access to high-quality education and training; employment opportunities; technology and access to information; addressing hunger and poverty; health and well-being, including mental and sexual health; and, sports, culture and leisure activities.
Globally, young women face additional challenges accessing resources and opportunities. In addition to facing disadvantages in employment and income equality, young women are at higher risk of early marriage and early pregnancy, which frequently come with the lifetime penalties of poverty and poor health.
These challenges are further compounded for young people with disabilities, those coming from rural or more isolated areas, those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex, those from ethnic, linguistic or religious minority communities and, most particularly, those living in poverty.
WFD has worked to support the role of young people in politics and civic leadership through parliamentary youth caucuses, youth-focused civil society organisations and forums, youth manifestos and electoral debates, and mobilisation efforts targeting young people as voters.
In recognition of the importance of inclusion of the growing global youth population, WFD is currently in the process of developing new tools and approaches to support young people’s participation and leadership. This effort starts with the Commonwealth, where more than 60% of the population is aged 29 or under. Consultations and conversations on what these might look like will begin with four regional engagements with young people throughout the Commonwealth in 2018-19. These will inform the types of assistance WFD develops in the immediate term to support individuals and institutions to enhance, expand and increase the impact of young people in decision-making.
Participants at a Commonwealth Partnership for Democracy conference on youth leadership in Uganda