What does the UN mean by 'youth' and how does this definition differ from that given to children?
By that definition, therefore, children are those persons under the age of 14. It is, however, worth noting that Article 1 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child defines ‘children’ as persons up to the age of 18. This was intentional, as it was hoped that the Convention would provide protection and rights to as large an age-group as possible and because there was no similar United Nations Convention on the Rights of Youth.
Many countries also draw a line on youth at the age at which a person is given equal treatment under the law – often referred to as the “age of majority’. This age is often 18 in many countries, and once a person passes this age, they are considered to be an adult. However, the operational definition and nuances of the term ‘youth’ often vary from country to country, depending on the specific socio-cultural, institutional, economic and political factors.
Within the category of “youth”, it is also important to distinguish between teenagers (13-19) and young adults (20-24), since the sociological, psychological and health problems they face may differ.
How many youth are there in the world today?
As you can see from the table, it is interesting to note that despite an increase in absolute numbers, the proportion of young people in the world is actually dwindling! This means that the number of young people in the world between 1980 and 1995 has dropped as a proportion of the total population. In fact, during the 1990s, the annual growth rates among the world’s youth population have slowed down in every region of the world except Africa.
|Year||Youth Population||Percentage of Total Global Population|
Where does the world’s youth live?
Despite mass urbanization, the majority of youth live in rural areas in sub-Saharan Africa, south-eastern and south-central Asia and Oceania.
- Youth population: 525 million young men and 500 million young women
- Youth illiteracy in the developing countries: 57 million young men and 96 million young women.
Regional distribution of youth, 2005
Source: World Population Prospects, 2006
|Global youth population
|Latin America & the Caribbean||561||16.9||95||9.3|
Has the United Nations adopted any declarations, conventions and covenants concerning youth?
|Contents of Conventions, Covenants, Recommendations||Date|
|Universal Declaration of Human Rights||1948|
|Declaration on the Promotion among Youth of the Ideals of Peace, Mutual Respect and Understanding between Peoples||1965|
|International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights||1966|
|International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights||1966|
|The Convention on the Rights of the Child||1979|
|The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women||1979|
|United Nations Guidelines for Further Planning and Follow-Up in the Field of Youth||1985|
|United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (The Beijing Rules)||1985|
|Declaration on the Right to Development||1986|
|United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty||1990|
|United Nations Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency (The Riyadh Guidelines)||1990|
|The Rio Declaration on the Environment and Development and Agenda 21||1992|
|The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action||1993|
|Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development||1994|
|Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action of the World Summit for Social Development||1995|
|World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond||1995|
|Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women||1995|
|The Habitat Agenda and The Istanbul Declaration of the Second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II)||1996|
|Rome Declaration on World Food Security and World Food Summit Plan of Action of the World Food Summit||1996|
|Braga Youth Action Plan||1998|
|Lisbon Declaration on Youth Policies and Programmes||1998|
|ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work||1998|
|Special Session on Social Development (Copenhagen+5), Geneva||2000|
|Dakar Youth Empowerment Strategy||2001|
As you can see above, the United Nations has adopted several Declarations and Programmes of Action at the various world conferences it held throughout the early 1990’s. Many of these make specific references to youth and the rights they should be afforded.
What does the UN identify as priority youth issues?
- Hunger and poverty
- Drug abuse
- Juvenile delinquency
- Leisure-time activities
- Girls and young women
- Full and effective participation of youth in the life of society and in decision-making
Five new issues were identified in the World Youth Report 2003 that have now been adopted by the General Assembly.
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Youth and Conflict
- Intergenerational Relations
The Library section on this website, contains the World Youth Reports, as well as UN documents in all official UN languages.
Can I work at the Focal Point on Youth?
The Focal Point on Youth is unfortunately unable to offer you a job. You can find out more about gaining employment at the United Nations at the Office of Human Resource Management. From time to time the Unit accepts interns through the UN headquarters internship programme – more information can be found on our internships page.
Can I partner with the Focal Point on Youth?
The Focal Point on Youth on Youth is part of the United Nations Secretariat. Our main task is to assist the General Assembly in setting priorities and developing policies towards youth development. We don’t have funding to assist youth organizations, nor do we have country offices to facilitate direct support.We do work together sometimes with youth organizations in certain projects. One example is via the toolkit “Making Commitments Matter”, which is drafted to encourage young people to become involved in the review of the World Programme of Action for youth (global youth policy document) by the General Assembly in 2005. You can download this toolkit for free (in English/ French/Spanish/Portuguese) from our web site.
If you wish to formalize your relationship with the United Nations, you can apply for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). International, regional and national youth and student organizations in consultative status with the UN (ECOSOC) are able to make oral statements and submit written statements on items on the agenda of ECOSOC meetings. ECOSOC is the only body of the United Nations that has a continuing mechanism to accredit NGOs a consultative status. Several United Nations Agencies make use of this list when inviting NGOs to participate in their meetings. You can read more about the procedure to request for consultative status with ECOSOC at: http://www.un.org/esa/coordination/ngo/
If you wish to receive more news about the youth agenda of the United Nations, you can subscribe to our free information service called Youth Flash (in English only). You can subscribe via our website by visiting the Youth Flash Newsletter.
To find out more about our work, please refer to the Youth website.
Where can I find funding for my project/programme?
Youth organisations located in LDCs, with a development focus, might be interested in the United Nations Capital Development Fund, which is a UNDP partner and works to reduce poverty in Least Developed Countries through a variety of innovative approaches in both local governance and microfinance initiatives.
In addition, a number of NGOs and other organisations may be able to assist with funding:
Peace Child International (www.peacechild.org)* assist with funding for many youth projects.
For youth organisations led by females, the Global Fund for Women (www.globalfundforwomen.org)* supports organizations which demonstrate a clear commitment to women’s equality and female human rights; show concern about the way women are viewed and view themselves in society; are governed and directed by women; consist of a group of women working together; and are based outside of the United States.
For US-based youth projects, the National 4-H Council has a Youth Grants Program* which offers grants for youth in local communities, in counties, and on the state level. These grants provide opportunities for young people and adults to take action on issues critical to their lives, their families, and their communities. Youth take the lead in the design of the project, the proposal writing process, the implementation, and the evaluation of funded projects.
There are many other organisations which support youth-related projects and initiatives. One way of finding them is by looking in search engines, such as Google.*