International Development Law Organization

Youth Day: No Development Without Youth Development

12 Aug 2014

The United Nations marks International Youth Day today (August 12) – an opportunity to recognize youths’ contribution to enhancing their communities and global society. Half of the world population is under 25. Almost two-billion people are under 14, the overwhelming majority of whom live in the developing world. “If we’re talking about development, it’s simple math to think about youth,” UN envoy Ahmad Alhendawi told IDLO during a recent conversation in New York. “You can’t talk of development without thinking about people, about demographic realities. And beyond the demographic reality, we are talking about a massive wave of ambitious individuals demanding opportunities: better education, healthcare systems, participation. We should not think of young people as a burden: they are, in fact, the greatest asset for the development agenda.” Mr. Alhendawi’s office was created with two aims in mind: to coordinate the youth-oriented work currently spread among various UN bodies, and to advocate globally for youth-friendly policies. In its focus on empowerment, institutional reform and economic opportunity, Mr. Alhendawi’s vision is greatly in sync with that of IDLO. “Look at the laws,” he says. “Do you have a legal framework that’s supportive of young people? Think about the voting age, the ability to organize, to open a business. Secondly, you need investment. What proportion of your national budget goes to youth development? You need to look at education, at the money you spend to create jobs for young people. Thirdly, states must ask themselves what mechanisms they have in place to promote youth participation – in politics, in decision-making processes, and in any structures that allow them to be active members of society.”