Despite the progress that has been made over the past 20 years to improve the situation of young people around the world, they still face daunting challenges.

That’s what the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi said on Friday at a meeting of the UN General Assembly to mark the 20th anniversary of the World Programme of Action for Youth.

The high level event was attended by government ministers, senior UN officials and youth delegates from around the world.

Cathrine Hasselberg reports.

The World Programme of Action for Youth, adopted by the General Assembly 20 years ago was described by the UN Envoy on Youth as a “milestone” in articulating a vision to support youth development.

Ahmad Alhendawi said the programme directs both the national and international responses to youth needs and provides the first global framework for effective national youth policies.

He said over the past two decades there has been a dramatic increase in the number of countries with national youth policies, laws and programmes on youth.

However, Mr Alhendawi added, more needs to be done, pointing out that many young people still don’t have full access to quality education, health services and meaningful political participation.

“Globally one in eight youth are unemployed; 126 million youth cannot read or write and another 63 million adolescents of lower secondary school age are currently out of school and an estimated 600 million young people are living in conflict zones or fragile states and every minute a young woman is infected with HIV.” (23″)

The UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth also pointed out that more than 500 million young people live on less than US$2 a day.

Cathrine Hasselberg, United Nations.