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Development Account Projects

Strengthening capacities of policy makers in the ESCWA region to formulate national youth policies and plans of action: Responding to the World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY)


ESCWA countries are gradually realizing the importance of targeting youth as a socio-demographic group by formulating national youth policies and plans of action. However, these countries, regardless of their individual levels of economic development, are still facing structural, institutional and circumstantial challenges hampering their attempts to approach youth and formulate youth policies.

The United Nations General Assembly had adopted in 1995 the World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond (WPAY) (A/RES/50/81) which provides a policy framework and practical guidelines for national action and international support to improve the situation of youth. The WPAY currently includes 15 youth priority areas, gathered in three clusters: (1) Youth in the global economy, (2) Youth in civil society, (3) youth and their well-being. A set of goals, targets and indicators is also proposed under each of these priorities. In its Resolution 60/2 on 'Policies and programmes involving youth', the General Assembly "Urges Governments, in consultation with youth organizations, to develop holistic and integrated youth policies based on the World Programme of Action and to evaluate them regularly as part of the follow-up action on and implementation of the Programme of Action". It also "Requests the United Nations regional commissions to organize, within their existing resources, regional consultations with Member States and youth organizations in order to evaluate the implementation of the World Programme of Action".

Within this framework, youth issues and policies are accorded a special priority within ESCWA and are mainly tackled by the Population and Social Development Section of the Social Development Division. In 2008, the Section has undertaken a 'Regional Inquiry on Responses to the World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY)', aimed at identifying, assessing and analyzing the general, structural, institutional and circumstantial challenges faced by member countries in their efforts to formulate national youth policies. The Inquiry had resulted in the following 4 main findings: (a) Only three Arab countries (Jordan, Bahrain and Yemen) have a youth-focused policy; (b) Most ESCWA countries address youth issues through unsustainable projects depending on available funding; (c) Most ESCWA countries have no coordination mechanism (such as a council) in relation to youth-related activities; (d) All ESCWA countries are in need of capacity building in the area of youth policies. These findings are supported by the study titled "Comparative Analysis of National Youth Policies", which confirms that since the International Youth Year (1985), the Western Asia region "made little progress" as compared to other regions in the endorsement of cross-sectoral and integrated national youth policies.

The project seeks to build the capacity of policy-makers to put in place and operationalise policies that further youth development. Even though the design and execution of programmes and projects focusing on youth is an important component of moving forward youth development, more needs to be done, in the form of formulation and implementation of youth-specific policies following an integrated, cross-sectoral approach/methodology, as advocated for in the WPAY. This is in order to ensure a more overarching/encompassing scope of coverage, a multidimensional consideration of the issues at stake, and the sustainability of the exerted efforts.

The project will focus on filling in existing gaps in areas where efforts are still lagging behind, such as the identification of the needs and priorities of young people, among other things. The project will also attempt to identify a list of regional indicators for monitoring the implementation of WPAY priorities.

The project will advocate for the need to deal with youth as assets and not as problems, and will tackle the lack of knowledge on the modern approaches to youth issues and promote a contemporary vision on the role of youth in development.

The project will benefit from the experience of PAPFAM, especially in terms of the identification of methods to mainstream youth indicators in national planning.  The project will also benefit from the knowledge of UNFPA country offices and of other UN sister agencies.  The country offices will provide ESCWA with lessons learned and best practices gathered from their experience at the national levels, which will serve as a basis for developing a model to build the capacity of countries in policy development.  This is an important aspect that will contribute to the effectiveness of the project and the sustainability of its expected results.


To facilitate and assist the ESCWA member countries to develop and implement national youth policies and plans of action in the context of the World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY).

Expected accomplishments:

  • Strengthened capacity of policy makers to formulate or revise and upgrade existing national youth policies in line with the identified youth priorities.
  • Strengthened capacity of policy makers to formulate a national plan of action for youth or to revise and upgrade existing national plan of action for youth to include a national list of indicators to monitor progress in WPAY priorities.

Implementation status:

This project has brought together key officials working on the development of youth policy in the region, and established a platform for experience-sharing, peer learning, and dialogue on practices in youth policy design and implementation. The project’s key accomplishments in 2012 included the development of knowledge products to be used by officials from member countries. These products include the project’s chief instrument for capacity development; i.e. the reference manual for youth policy development (outputs 1.4 and 1.6). This comprehensive manual include detailed guidelines for policy makers for the design and implementation of national youth policies and programs of action in line with the WPAY framework.

On October 16-18, the first regional workshop was organized in Beirut, mainly to sensitize government officials on the WPAY as a framework for youth policy development. The workshop also included a presentation and a discussion over the content and use of the reference manual for youth policy development, and the feedback was favorable and instrumental in shaping the next steps of the project’s implementation, including the development of supplementary materials and associated technical assistance for five targeted member countries to benefit from the project-developed tools in the national context.

Furthermore, a diagnostic technical report was developed to advise on the status of youth programming in the region and presented in the October workshop. This report (output 1.1) provides a detailed description of youth policies in the region, identifying the existence, coverage span, and priority areas of these policies. The report further identifies gaps in youth policy programming particularly in the light of the recent political events in the region known as the Arab Spring. It will serve as a guiding tool for policy makers on the regional situation and national position when it comes to youth policies, the key issues, and the coverage areas and respective priorities.