How to help the world's youth
April 3rd, 2014
02:27 PM ET

How to help the world's youth

By Nicole Goldin, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Nicole Goldin is director for Youth, Prosperity, and Security Initiative with the Project on Prosperity and Development at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and director of the Global Youth Wellbeing Index project in partnership with the International Youth Foundation. Follow her @nicolegoldin and @csis. The views expressed are her own.

Brimming with talent and ideas, today’s youth – the largest and most connected generation in human history – are creating a new global reality, and charting an unprecedented course for themselves and their communities. They are defending democracy, promoting peace,  and with an enterprising spirit, desperately wanting  the opportunity to work hard, build a sustainable livelihood and live up to their potential.  Today’s young people are an inspired generation, poised to drive global prosperity and security not only for themselves and their families today, but their communities and nations for generations to come.

But we know demography is not destiny.  Their fate may be challenged.  The promise in youth is often overshadowed – and in some cases undermined – by absent or ineffective policies, weak systems, poor infrastructure, unsatisfactory education and training, or inadequate investments and avenues of participation that limit the opportunities youth deserve and the world demands.

Fundamentally, however, young people’s needs and aspirations have too often gone largely unnoticed or unheard.  Why? One reason is that we simply don’t have a strong enough understanding of how they are doing or feeling.

To help shed light on how young people are faring around the world, and in turn increase youth-centered policy dialogue and investments, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the International Youth Foundation (IYF), with principal support form Hilton Worldwide, have today launched the inaugural Global Youth Wellbeing Index in hopes of facilitating thought and action by, with, and in the interests of today’s youth.

The index measures youth wellbeing based on 40 indicators comprising six interconnected domains in 30 countries, covering 70 percent of the world’s young people. And there were some striking lessons [findings?]:

- A large majority of the world’s young people are experiencing lower levels of wellbeing – 85 percent of the youth represented in our Index live in countries with below average scores overall.

- Even where young people are doing relatively well, they still face specific challenges and limitations. Spanish youth, for example, face economic exclusion, while Saudi young people grapple with safety and security.

- Though young people may not be thriving overall, they display success in certain areas. Colombian and Ugandan youth, for example, top the ranks in terms of citizen participation.

- Across countries, average scores indicate young people faring best in health, weakest in economic opportunity, and with the most variance in information and communications technology.

There are roughly 1.8 billion young people on the planet, living for the most part in emerging and developing economies and fragile states.  Yet these global youth are not a monolithic group, and face cultural, geographic, economic, and political constraints and opportunities.

While we anticipate young people, policy makers, donors and investors will largely respond within their immediate communities and countries, we hope this index will also help stimulate discussion about the global economic, social and political agenda (including the Post 2015 development framework) for young people, allowing for recommendations that can be acted upon both globally and locally – anywhere and everywhere.

So where should action start? The index also highlights the need to elevate and better connect and coordinate policies and investments concerning young people, and for closer attention to youth satisfaction and aspirations, increasing youth participation and elevating youth voices by highlighting the opinions and outlook of young people themselves.

Of course, providing sufficient opportunities, addressing needs, meeting aspirations and supporting success among millions of youth is a real challenge – especially for still cash-strapped governments still trying to steer their economies back toward sustainable growth. But the potential payoff is huge – not least economically.  Now is the time to invest in strategic policies, partnerships and programs that engage and equip youth to be productive and realize their ambitions.

If this transformative generation can be given the tools it needs to thrive, then we will all be the better off for it.

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Topics: Youth

soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

    Young persons with poor economic prospects don't need to be heard: they need to listen to successful persons who are older.

    April 3, 2014 at 2:57 pm | Reply
    • Jeff "banasy©" Roem

      They can't all be rich like us lolololol

      April 4, 2014 at 12:34 pm | Reply
  2. THORN

    You want to help the youth, try contraception. Here's the ugly truth, with all the new efficiencies, you may all be unique but, sadly, not required. We need to get rid of between 3 and 5 billion as quickly as possible. I will soon be dead, our family is silently self annihilating over time, fairly short period of time. A growing economy is BAD as it depletes resources unsustainably. Consolidation and shrinkage is the new mantra.

    April 3, 2014 at 6:32 pm | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      @ THORN:
      You are correct about the desirability of contraception. I recommend extensive employment of this blessing to the world's youth.

      April 4, 2014 at 8:12 am | Reply
  3. The GOP Solution

    The GOP Solution: Turn all the Old, Sick, Poor, Non-white, Non-christian, Female, and Gay people into slaves. Then whip them until they are Young, Healthy, Rich, White, Christian, Male, and Straight. Or until they are dead. Then turn them into Soylent Green to feed the military during the next "unfunded/off-the-books" war. And don't forget the GOP all time favorites........TAX CUTS FOR THE RICH!!!..........and........GET RID OF SS AND MEDICARE!!!

    April 3, 2014 at 6:51 pm | Reply
  4. These are Palin Voters From Alabama


    April 3, 2014 at 7:08 pm | Reply
  5. Ferhat Balkan

    All the decisions we make right now will impact the lives of our children in the future. Will we continue to destroy our environment? Will we continue to engage in needless wars? Will we invest or cut back in education? Bridging the gap between the poor and rich and providing the same level of opportunity to all children, regardless of their economical status. Making sure that they learn from our past mistakes and understand the importance of cultural values and mutual respect. To have them embrace science and technology. What we do now to help them take those first steps will shape the future of humanity in many years to come.

    April 3, 2014 at 7:28 pm | Reply
    • harry leg

      Great ideas, unfortunately the wise old men making the decisions are too busy filling their pockets with money. Graft and corruption loom heavily on planet earth.... Nobody gets out alive and you cannot take it with you but these wise old men
      are really too stupid to understand of the future...

      April 6, 2014 at 3:42 pm | Reply
  6. Unga Ramires

    One quote......“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
    John Lennon

    April 16, 2014 at 7:51 pm | Reply
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