Youth development is of global importance. There are currently 1.8 billion people between ages of 15-29 years in the world. Of these, 86 per cent live in developing countries.
They are a particularly vulnerable group in society. Having not yet had time to fully develop an identity, and facing high uncertainties in the future, achieving a sense of security can be a challenge.
Through skills building and education opportunities youth are empowered to make informed choices in regards to their life and work.
However, when education and/or employment opportunities are limited, youth can become more vulnerable to violence. With a lack of legitimate livelihood options, joining a criminal gang, rebel group or terrorist organisation can become a viable option for survival, particularly with promises of steady income and protection.
This is why youth bulges – a high proportion of youth compared to the rest of the population – are often seen as a risk factor for urban violence. However, IEP research in the 2015 Global Peace Index report (page 33) on the statistical link between youth bulges and peace found that it was not as significant a variable compared to urbanization, the quality of rule of law, levels of income inequality and intergroup grievances.
Whilst definitions vary, the Institute for Economics and Peace defines a youth bulge as the proportion of the population between 15-29 being more than 20 per cent.
Much discussion has occurred on what is important to youth to ensure adequate development and opportunities. Research by the Commonwealth Secretariat Youth Program and the Institute for Economics found that a focus on education, health and wellbeing, employment, civic participation and political participation are all key for positive youth development.
Through investing in these areas, policy makers can capitalise on youth bulges, empowering youth to build on their competencies and capabilities for life. It will enable them to contribute and benefit from a politically stable, economically viable, and legally supportive environment, ensuring their full participation as active citizens in their countries.
Youth are not just passive actors that are “at risk” to forces that threaten peace. Just as youth can contribute to violence, they can also be strong and active players in the peacebuilding process within society.
In fact the UN, in collaboration with Search for Common Ground, explicitly remind us that “Young people are valuable innovators of change, and their contributions should be actively supported, solicited and regarded as essential to building peaceful communities and supporting democratic governance and transition”.
How does your country stack up for youth development? Check out the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Youth Development Index. The 2015 Index will be published later this year.
The Institute for Economics and Peace provides research and analysis for the Youth Development Index.
The 2015 Global Peace Index shows that the world is becoming increasingly divided with some countries enjoying unprecedented levels of peace and prosperity while others spiral further into violence and conflict.
Vision of Humanity is an initiative of the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP). IEP have offices in New York and Sydney. For more specific inquiries related to the peace indexes and research, please contact IEP directly.