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On December 17th, 1999, the United Nations General Assembly backed the recommendation of the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth that August 12th be declared the International Youth Day (IYD). The support came from the UN in its resolution 54/120, which outlines policies and programs regarding international youth. Today, the hardships and opportunities facing the youth of the world are a central development issue.

The present number of young people in developing countries is the highest it has been in our world’s history. The UN estimates that the world population, already high at 7.2 billion in mid-2013, is expected to increase by nearly one billion people within the next twelve years. Much of the overall increase in populations is predicted to take place in high-fertility countries, particularly in Africa, as well as other countries with large populations including Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines, India, and the U.S. Currently the majority of poorer regions’ population is extremely young, with children under age 15 making up 26% of the total population, and youth aged 15 to 24 accounting for an additional 17%.

Because the number of youth in developing countries is at an all time high, countries will be posed with the challenge of providing education and employment to large numbers of children and youth. The enormous social, political, and development challenges this issue presents is prompting the creation of specific youth development programmes in many countries, both developed and under-developed.

The annual celebration of the International Youth Day (IYD), therefore, plays a significant role in raising awareness around the globe on the issues facing our youth. It further sparks discussion and reflection on ways to address the problems effectively.

This year’s International Youth Day is titled “Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward”. In the area of migration, youth are recognized as one of the most mobile social groups. According the UN, the number of international migrants aged 15 to 24 reached 27 million by mid-2010, accounting for 10 percent of all international migrants. Despite this, very little is known about the challenges and opportunities faced by these young migrants and other youth affected by migration.

There are many reasons why young people leave their home country such as fleeing prosecution or escaping economic hardships. While migration can lead to the opportunities people are searching for, it can also pose serious risks. Poverty, unsanitary, and over-crowded living spaces are common for migrants. Many also experience the challenge of finding decent and regular employment, particularly when exploitation and discrimination are present. Young women in particular face the threat sexual abuse and exploitation. Because of this, it is important that awareness is raised about the living conditions and experiences of these young people, and the role that youth programs and organizations can have in the lives of young migrants and young men and women in general. International Youth Day was declared to serve that very need.

Ali Warlich

Sources: All Africa, UNFPA
Photo: Caritas