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Development Account Projects

Strengthening the capacity of national governments to promote the social inclusion of youth in a context of increasing violence and insecurity, through innovative and evidence-based policies and programmes


All young people aspire to fully participate in social life. Young people represent agents, beneficiaries and victims of major societal changes and are generally confronted by a paradox: to seek integration into an existing order or to serve as a force to transform that order. Youth inclusion is thus one of the challenges that societies in Latin America and the Caribbean are experiencing, and one of the key aspects needed to accelerate the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and other Internationally Agreed Development Goals (IADGs). Social inclusion of youth means reducing their poverty levels through productive employment and decent work (MDG1), promoting gender equality and the empowerment of young women (MDG3), fostering access to reproductive health and improving maternal health (MDG5), as well as reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS among this age group (MDG6).

To promote the social inclusion of youth, the countries of the region must develop comprehensive approaches that combine the dimensions of risk, capabilities, opportunities, belonging and values systems and social participation. Human security –understood as the context under which people can make their choices safely and freely while being relatively confident that the opportunities they have today are not lost tomorrow– must also be considered, as there are few aspects more important for development than security from violence.

Effective youth inclusion must combine the recognition of human rights and the appropriation and exercise of such rights by young people. Several efforts have indeed been undertaken to ensure youth inclusion in the region in the last decades. Nevertheless, the changing socio-economic and political context –which includes increasing youth unemployment and violent environments– has made more difficult to achieve youth inclusion in many countries.

All Latin American and Caribbean countries have a National Youth Institute or other governmental body specifically devoted to the development of public policies for youth,  that are identified as the main potential promoters of youth social inclusion if having enough capacity and authority for policy coordination with other governmental ministers or bodies. These institutions, however, often lack appropriate funding or the necessary human resources to sustain effective youth development policies and programmes and to develop the referred policy coordination. Through the course of the years, ECLAC has provided much technical assistance and set up long-standing relations with these bodies, often in collaboration with OIJ (Iberoamerican Youth Organization), in order to strengthen their capacities.

Furthermore, ECLAC has disseminated knowledge through its RISALC (Network of Social Institutions in Latin America and the Caribbean) online website, which has a specific portal on youth issues, providing comprehensive access to statistical and policy information on youth in the region. ECLAC has also produced several ground-breaking reports on youth development issues. These include the 2008 ECLAC/OIJ report titled “Youth and social cohesion in Iberoamerica” (launched as main technical document in the Iberoamerican Presidents Summit 2008), as well as the 2011 ECLAC/UNFPA report that will be launched during first semester 2012.

With the support of OIJ, ECLAC has been developing an on-line system of indicators to monitor social and economic situation of youth in all Iberoamerican countries.  This instrument, supported by further virtual updating and training-in-use will allow policy-makers, researchers, journalists, youth leaders and other audience to download and consult all specific, relevant and updated information in the most diverse and disaggregated subjects and countries. 

More recently, through its contest on social innovation financed by the Kellogg Foundation, ECLAC has been able to collect information and evaluate more than 500 youth development projects and programmes throughout the region (mainly locally grass-rooted but gaining broader success and replicability). Many of these projects and programmes have been awarded as good practices and their systematization may feed and enrich youth oriented public policy.

These initiatives constitute a strong basis on which ECLAC can build a comprehensive project to strengthen the capacity of national governments, and in particular of National Youth Institutes. Capacity building will be provided in the processing and analysis of quantitative and qualitative data on youth issues, and knowledge dissemination will be improved through the use of online tools, as well as by the organization of workshops and seminars.  Particular efforts will be made to reach out to Caribbean countries, as demonstrated by inclusion of a section on youth development issues in the sub-region in the 2011 edition of ECLAC’s Social Panorama of Latin America, as well as Central American countries.

The necessity to reinforce these initiatives is more important than ever, due to an increasing context of violence associated with crime, which is a common problem of Latin American societies, and an increased priority of Central American governments, as this subregion has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. Apart from the high economic costs that violence levels produce in these countries, they have a negative impact on peoples´ wellbeing, particularly on young people. This population group is overrepresented among both victims and perpetrators of crime and violence. Young people are those most at risk due to their more likely participation in violent activities like street crime, gang membership, drug consumption, possession of weapons, street fighting, etc. Recent data indicate that the problems associated with this situation deserve a prominent place on the agenda of governments in Central America.   

As many of the challenges of youth inclusion described above share common threads with developing countries from other regions of the world, efforts will be undertaken to reach out and link this project with similar initiatives by other Regional Commissions and other UN entities.


To promote public policies for youth development and the achievement of MDGs/IADGs in Latin America and the Caribbean, incorporating the consideration of social inclusion, human security and violence prevention

Expected accomplishments:

  • To strengthen the capacity of governments to assess and design inclusive youth development policies
  • To promote the exchange of experiences and good practices regarding innovative youth development policies and programmes, with a particular focus on social inclusion and the achievement of MDGs/IADGs

Implementation status:

In progress.