There are currently more than 1.3 billion young people aged 15 to 24-a demographic reality unprecedented in human history. Of those 1.3 billion young people, almost 85% live in developing countries, which account for over 90% of the global growth in the population of cities. 60% of this urban population is projected to be less than 18 years of age by 2030.
UN-Habitat recognizes that the scale of this ‘Urban Youth Bulge’ requires a reformulation of the social contract between young people and their societies. Failure to do so within this crucial ‘window of opportunity’ risks consigning the largest youth cohort in history to the margins of society, with all the risks that entails.

UN-Habitat seeks is to improve the livelihoods of youth, especially those living in slums and unplanned settlements, through their inclusion in governance and the social and economic life of cities. UN-Habitat works towards this by profiling and engaging young people in global, national and local development policy processes.  Furthermore, after a decades-long process to include women in development the central role of women in development is now widely understood.

Youth Programmes

One Stop Youth Resource Centres                                                   

The first One Stop Youth Resource Centre was launched as a partnership between the City of Nairobi, international and local NGOs, and UN-Habitat on International Youth Day, August 12, 2003. The focus of the Centre was to first and foremost be a place that “empowers the youthful generation to have ownership of the development process and be agents of transformation in the city.” Operationally, the One Stop focused on improving the livelihoods of youth in Nairobi through the provision of “youth empowering services” such as employment training, counseling, recreation and cultural activities and as a place for youth and other stakeholders to network.

Due to the success of the Nairobi One Stop, in 2006 UN-Habitat, with the support of the Norwegian government, scaled up the operations of the One Stop Centre in Nairobi, using it as a model for three other cities in East Africa – Kampala, Uganda and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Kigali, Rwanda. To further this agenda, UN HABITAT brought together over 60 youth representatives from the One Stops who came together over 3 days in the Spring of 2007 and developed plans for each of the sites. The workshop developed a series of principles on youth led development– known as the Kampala Principles – under which Centres would be developed.

These principles are:

  1. Youth should define their own development goals and objectives.
  2. Youth should be given a social and physical space to participate in so as to 
enhance their development
  3. Adult mentorship and peer-to-peer mentorship should be encouraged.
  4. Youth should be role models in order to help other youth to engage in 
  5. Youth should be integrated into all local and national development programmes 
and frameworks.

The One Stop has now been in operation for a decade and has had some outstanding results. In Kigali UN-Habitat worked with the  Ministry of Sport s and Culture to establish the Kimisagara Centre. The Kimisagara centre is located one kilometre from Kigali City’s main bus park.  Some successes of the Kimisagara Centre have been in the entrepreneurial training programme. In a one year period from 2011 – 2012,  65 youth started businesses as a result of the training, several cooperatives were established by graduates. In the same period, the apprenticeship training programme trained: 100 youth in driving and tour guide training, with 85% of them receiving heir provisional permit, 35 going on to receive their full licence. Ninety-three completed their tour guide training to certificate level.

As recent evaluation found that Kimisagara Centre demonstrated a well-executed programme focused on youth development and empowerment. UN-Habitat is working with the Government of Rwanda to take the Kimisagara Centre to scale across the country.

Urban Youth Fund

The UN-Habitat Urban Youth Fund supports urban youth in developing countries. It aims to advance the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and the Habitat Agenda. The Youth Fund provides grants of up to USD 25,000 to youth-led organizations piloting innovative approaches to employment,! good governance, shelter and secure tenure.
Of the one billion slum dwellers in the world today, it is estimated that more than 70% are under the age of 30. These young people have few resources available to improve their own living environments. UN-Habitat has found that there are many youth-led agencies in the developing world; for example, in 2013 over 8000 youth-led  initiatives logged on to the Youth Fund website portal.

UN-Habitat has undertaken extensive research on both the recipients of the fund, which now total over 200 from 60+ countries in the developing world, and applicants. Many of the project ideas have been aimed at alleviating poverty,improving employment opportunities, improving the environment and increasing youth participation in decision-making. The fund promotes the poverty-reduction aims of the Millennium Development Goals, and the Habitat Agenda for better, more sustainable and equitable towns and cities throughout the developing world.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that “far too many of the world’s more than one billion young people lack the education, freedom and opportunities they deserve. Yet despite these constraints – and in some cases because of them – young people are mobilizing in growing numbers to build a better future. The international community must continue to work together to expand the horizons of opportunity for these young women and men and answer their legitimate demands for dignity, development and decent work.”

UN-Habitat Youth Advisory Board

The UN-Habitat Youth Advisory Board was established at the World Urban Youth Assembly held in parallel with the World Urban Forum in Nanjing China in 2008. The Board is elected every two years at the WUYA and is made up of 14 youth, a young mana and woman representing each of the world’s 6 regions and 2 representatices form informal settlements. .The Board comprises 12 Advisors, two per UN-Habitat region and will include one youth observer representing young people with disabilities with another two observer members, one youth representative from informal settlements and one external advisor, appointed by UN-Habitat.
Members of the Advisory board are elected at the World Urban Youth Assembly to serve for a period of two years. The Board advises UN-Habitat on strategies to engage young people in sustainable urbanization and urban development, and may represent youth in local, national and international fora. The Board also seeks to strengthen youth participation and advocacy in youth-led initiatives.
To better integrate the views of urban youth into the World Urban Forum., effective August 2009, the World Urban Youth Forum has been transformed to the World Urban Youth Assembly.