New USAID Policy Highlights Importance of Youth Participation

Zambian delegate Rachel Kalaba, 23, center, cheers during elections at an international youth conference organized in part by the U.N. Environment Programme in Bangalore, India, in 2005.

November 2, 2012

New guidance from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) recognizes young people as a driving force in global development and promotes youth participation as partners and leaders.

USAID’s new Youth in Development Policy, announced November 1, supports USAID’s efforts to mainstream youth in development, carry out effective programs and elevate youth participation throughout the world.

The 25-page guidance document begins with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s words, from a February 2012 speech in Tunisia: “Young people are at the heart of today’s great strategic opportunities and challenges, from rebuilding the global economy to combating violent extremism to building sustainable democracies.”

With more than half of the global population under the age of 30 and a majority residing in developing countries, USAID said, the new policy “reinforces that young people must be a central focus when developing country strategies and recognizes the need to support, prepare, engage and protect youth today as well as harness the energy and creativity of young people for positive change.”

As articulated in the new policy, USAID seeks to improve the capabilities of young people to achieve their aspirations so they can contribute to and benefit from more stable and prosperous communities.

“These efforts will not only advance youth development and empowerment, but can also help nations accelerate economic growth and capture a demographic dividend,” USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said. “Harnessing this demographic opportunity is not inevitable. It will require strategic, results‐oriented investments in youth today.”

According to an April 2012 report by the United Nations secretary-general, 1.8 billion of the world’s 7 billion people are between 10 and 24 years old and live primarily in the developing world. Even though considerable progress has been made recently in national youth policies, those policies often lack the necessary investments or are not mainstreamed into national policy agendas, the report said, and young people continue to face poverty, high unemployment, inadequate education, poor health and violence.

“The need to invest in young people is more urgent than ever,” said Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the United Nations Population Fund, according to the World Health Organization website. “Now it is time to take action.”

“Countries still have much to do to fulfill the rights and aspirations of young people,” Osotimehin said.

The new USAID policy promotes research and innovation by, with and for youth. Agency policies, country strategies and partnerships will include youth and will actively leverage the skills, priorities and ideas of young people, USAID said.

The policy joins a series of recent USAID policies that guide the agency’s focus in the strategic planning process on important issues such as gender equality, climate change and violent extremism.

Read USAID’s Youth in Development Policy (PDF, 1.4MB) on the agency’s website.


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