Thursday, 4 December 2014

A critical moment to engage young people

This post is by Katherine Ellis, Director of Youth at the Commonwealth Secretariat. In 2013, the Commonwealth launched the first-ever global Youth Development Index, which measures the status of young people in 170 countries around the world. This blog has been posted as part of the Wikiprogress discussion on "Youth well-being: measuring what matters!

As the world deliberates on the post-2015 agenda, there has never been a more critical moment to engage young people. The inclusion of youth perspectives, and the energy, diversity and talent that young people bring, is a clear-cut imperative. Young people have an incredible amount to offer to national development processes, and, with the right support and opportunities, can be empowered to realise their full potential.

Today, almost half of the world’s population (48.9%, according to Euromonitor International) is aged under 30, and the proportion is generally much higher in developing countries. It is therefore essential that young people’s capabilities are leveraged and they are recognised as drivers of sustainable development.

At the Commonwealth, we strongly believe that the empowerment of young people is a vital and valuable investment. Through the Commonwealth Youth Programme, we have spent the past 40 years providing assistance to our 53 member governments in the creation and implementation of youth-related policies and programmes.

We provide technical assistance for the development of national youth policies, and advocate for the professionalisation of youth development work. We are also actively committed to expanding the ways in which young people can engage with decision-makers, and in facilitating the establishment of youth-led organisations and networks.

However, attempting to achieve these targets without a baseline from which to measure progress would be a futile endeavour. Accordingly, in 2013 we launched the first ever global Youth Development Index (YDI), a tool to track global progress on youth development in 170 countries.

The YDI is a composite measure that includes basic needs such as health, nutrition and adequate education, along with secondary needs such as political, economic and social participation. It was formulated to help governments, decision-makers and stakeholders identify and learn from areas of success, pinpoint priority investment areas, and track progress over time.

It gauges youth development according to 15 indicators that are grouped into five key domains: Education, Health and Well-being, Employment, Civic Participation and Political Participation. Similar to the Human Development Index, the YDI calculates a score for each country between 0–1 that indicates the national average. It then groups countries into three key categories: High youth development, Medium youth development and Low youth development.

Since its launch, the YDI has also become a basis for data advocacy, highlighting the importance of gathering national statistics on key indicators of youth development. Its findings also underscore the complex and multiple issues facing young people today, and the urgent need to create enabling youth structures and environments.

Young people will be both the heirs and the champions of the post-2015 agenda. We must commit to investing in their participation and empowerment; otherwise, we run the risk of silencing and constraining this powerful generation.

Katherine Ellis is Director of Youth at the Commonwealth Secretariat. With over 20 years in the private, public and civil society sectors with extensive expertise in youth development, organizational leadership and cross-sectoral collaboration, she is responsible for promoting the social, political and economic empowerment of young people across the 53 Commonwealth member countries.’

Follow @ComSecKatherine @ComSecYouth 

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Tuesday, 2 December 2014

How to help the world's youth

This post is by Nicole Goldin, director for Youth, Prosperity, and Security Initiative with the Project on Prosperity and Development at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and director of the Global Youth Wellbeing Index project in partnership with the International Youth Foundation. This blog has been posted as part of the Wikiprogress discussion on "Youth well-being: measuring what matters!". 

Brimming with talent and ideas, today’s youth – the largest and most connected generation in human history – are creating a new global reality, and charting an unprecedented course for themselves and their communities. They are defending democracy, promoting peace,  and with an enterprising spirit, desperately wanting  the opportunity to work hard, build a sustainable livelihood and live up to their potential.  Today’s young people are an inspired generation, poised to drive global prosperity and security not only for themselves and their families today, but their communities and nations for generations to come.
But we know demography is not destiny.  Their fate may be challenged.  The promise in youth is often overshadowed – and in some cases undermined – by absent or ineffective policies, weak systems, poor infrastructure, unsatisfactory education and training, or inadequate investments and avenues of participation that limit the opportunities youth deserve and the world demands.
Fundamentally, however, young people’s needs and aspirations have too often gone largely unnoticed or unheard.  Why? One reason is that we simply don’t have a strong enough understanding of how they are doing or feeling.

To help shed light on how young people are faring around the world, and in turn increase youth-centered policy dialogue and investments, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the International Youth Foundation (IYF), with principal support form Hilton Worldwide, have today launched the inaugural Global Youth Wellbeing Index in hopes of facilitating thought and action by, with, and in the interests of today’s youth.
The index measures youth wellbeing based on 40 indicators comprising six interconnected domains in 30 countries, covering 70 percent of the world’s young people. And there were some striking lessons [findings?]:
– A large majority of the world’s young people are experiencing lower levels of wellbeing – 85 percent of the youth represented in our Index live in countries with below average scores overall.
– Even where young people are doing relatively well, they still face specific challenges and limitations. Spanish youth, for example, face economic exclusion, while Saudi young people grapple with safety and security.
– Though young people may not be thriving overall, they display success in certain areas. Colombian and Ugandan youth, for example, top the ranks in terms of citizen participation.
– Across countries, average scores indicate young people faring best in health, weakest in economic opportunity, and with the most variance in information and communications technology.
There are roughly 1.8 billion young people on the planet, living for the most part in emerging and developing economies and fragile states.  Yet these global youth are not a monolithic group, and face cultural, geographic, economic, and political constraints and opportunities.
While we anticipate young people, policy makers, donors and investors will largely respond within their immediate communities and countries, we hope this index will also help stimulate discussion about the global economic, social and political agenda (including the Post 2015 development framework) for young people, allowing for recommendations that can be acted upon both globally and locally – anywhere and everywhere.
So where should action start? The index also highlights the need to elevate and better connect and coordinate policies and investments concerning young people, and for closer attention to youth satisfaction and aspirations, increasing youth participation and elevating youth voices by highlighting the opinions and outlook of young people themselves.
Of course, providing sufficient opportunities, addressing needs, meeting aspirations and supporting success among millions of youth is a real challenge – especially for still cash-strapped governments still trying to steer their economies back toward sustainable growth. But the potential payoff is huge – not least economically.  Now is the time to invest in strategic policies, partnerships and programs that engage and equip youth to be productive and realize their ambitions.
If this transformative generation can be given the tools it needs to thrive, then we will all be the better off for it.

Nicole Goldin
Twitter @nicolegoldin and @csis

This blog was first posted on CNN, here

Join the discussion on "Youth well-being: measuring what matters!", click here.