Expert voices Vol 21, No. 07 - July 2017

Promoting the skills of young people

Every year on 15 July, the importance of youth skills development is in focus at the UN and around the world. This is the day when the World Youth Skills Day is being celebrated, putting a spotlight on the need to promote education, training and jobs for young people. Ahead of this year’s event, UN DESA Voice spoke with Elizabeth Niland, Social Affairs Officer in UN DESA’s Division for Social Policy and Development, about our joint efforts to promote youth development around the globe.

How does the UN work to help empower youth around the world?

“The Focal Point on Youth (in the Division for Social Policy and Development (DSPD) in UN DESA) aims to build an awareness of the global situation of young people, as well as to promote their rights and aspirations.

The Focal Point also works towards greater participation of young people in decision-making as a means of achieving peace and development. In co-chairing the Inter-agency Network on Youth Development, we work with over 50 UN entities to enhance collaboration and coordination on youth issues across the UN System.

Through the UN Youth Delegate Programme and our work with youth civil society, we promote youth participation at the United Nations and beyond. Our World Youth Report also helps shine a spotlight on pressing issues for youth around the world.”

What are some of the most pressing challenges for young people around the globe today?

“‘The transition from youth to adulthood marks a key period characterized by greater economic independence, political involvement, and participation in community life. However, the socioeconomic and political environment in which young people live can have a serious impact on their ability to engage,’ stated the World Youth Report 2016.

For example, unemployment  and under-employment  are a concern almost everywhere. Youth are three times more likely than adults to be unemployed and despite great efforts, youth unemployment still hovers around the 13% mark globally, and as high as 30% in some regions. Meanwhile, a staggering number of young people are not in education, or training, and many education systems are ill-equipped to meet the changing and diverse needs of today’s labour market.

Many youth have also lost faith in their political and governance structures, reflected by declining levels of electoral participation. Street protests and demonstrations, demanding more open and effective governance reflect a general dissatisfaction with ‘business as usual’. Ensuring youth are empowered to participate and be the leaders of today and tomorrow is critical to building strong and sustainable institutions.

For vulnerable and marginalized youth, and those who face enhanced discrimination, such as indigenous youth, youth with a disability, girls and young women, migrant youth, youth with mental health conditions, and so forth, these issues and access to participation in all aspects of life can prove even more challenging. Efforts to ensure inclusivity of all youth at all levels, is critical.”

Can you give some examples of efforts taken to help young people develop their skills and abilities so that they can better cope with these different challenges?

“The Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth, led by ILO, is the first-ever, comprehensive United Nations system-wide effort for the promotion of youth employment worldwide. It brings together the vast global resources and convening power of the UN and other global key partners to maximize the effectiveness of youth employment investments and assist Member States in delivering on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. You can read more about the initiative here.”

How does the World Youth Skills Day play a role for young people, and what does it aim to achieve?

“Youth Skills Day is an important opportunity for highlighting the role that skills development plays in youth development and working towards better employment opportunities for young people. Ensuring youth are equipped with the skills to meet the demands of today’s and the future labour market is critical for creating the foundations for strong and stable societies.”

For more information:

Focal Point on Youth, Division for Social Policy and Development (DSPD) in UN DESA

Stay updated on efforts to promote youth development with the Youth Flash Newsletter

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