The participation of youth in decision making processes at all levels and spheres of society is one of the major themes do be addressed by the 1st World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth (Lisbon, 8 -12 August 1998), promoted by Portugal in co-operation with the United Nations.

The Conference will be an effective forum for global dialogue about youth-related issues and will seek to foster the international community's commitment to study concrete mechanisms of settling problems that affect the youth of the world.

According to the Portuguese Minister Assistant to the Prime Minister, Eng. José Sócrates, the 1st World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth will serve as "a platform for debate on the problems experienced by young people all over the world and to formulate strategies for the future".

One aspect reflecting the importance of the global discussion of youth-related issues is the fact that, in 1995, the world youth population was estimated to be 1.03 billion, or 18 per cent of the total world population, the majority of which (84 per cent) living in developing countries and that the percentage of the youth population of these countries is expected to increase to 89 per cent by 2025.

In many developing countries, young men and women experience increased difficulties in their social integration because of limited opportunities for education and training, viable employment, health and social services and the complexity of problems associated to the unprecedented rates of rural-urban migration, among other factors.

In industrialised countries, young people comprise a relatively smaller proportion of the total population because of generally lower birth rates and longer life expectancy.

One factor, however, is common to developing and industrialised countries alike: young men and women, with their imagination, ideals, considerable energies and vision are essential for the continuing social, cultural, economic and technological development of the societies in which they live.

The Portuguese Secretary of State for Youth, Dr. Miguel Fontes, stated that "13 years have now gone by since the International Year of the Youth and this is the first time that such a large number of political incumbents () will gather together to discuss the problems facing youth at the turn of the century and the solutions required from the various Governments concerned".

The Conference is expected to discuss measures to promote the effective participation of youth in all spheres of society and in the decision-making processes at the national, regional and international levels. To achieve that objective, it is essential to promote the education and training in democratic processes of young men and women, with a view to involve them closely in the formulation, execution, follow-up, monitoring and evaluation of youth policies and programs, in order to ensure their full integration in society.

Youth integration will require access to legislative and policy-making bodies, upholding and reinforcing policies that allow independent and democratic forms of associative life and giving higher priority to marginalised, vulnerable and disadvantaged young men and women.

The 1st World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth will be a major landmark since it will the first major world meeting to bring together Government officials responsible for youth from all over the world.

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