Reimagine the Future – The Power of 1.8 Million Young People
I have said it before, and I will say it again: Young people are not only the future, they are very much the present. And they are the ones who will define the world as we know it and as we want it.
Here, a couple of days after the release of UNFPA’s State of the World’s Population, The Power of 1.8 Billion, and on today's release of UNICEF’s The State of the World’s Children: Reimagining the Future – the latter celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child – Women Deliver calls for an increased focus on the rights of children and particularly the rights of young people.
We owe it to them, and we owe it to ourselves. Young people's opportunities, needs and choices – including reproductive choices – is defining development and will transform the future.
Young people are innovators, inventors, the first adapters, the first movers, the leaders, and the change makers.
And there are a lot of them – 1.8 billion between the age of 10 and 24 years old. This is the largest generation of young people ever and means 1.8 billion opportunities for progress, as we see it.
While we have seen tremendous progress since the Convention on the Rights of the Child was agreed 25 years ago, the world’s children and young people are still facing issues of violence, child marriage, trafficking, unplanned pregnancy, unemployment, and are denied their basic human rights, such as access to education, and sexual and reproductive health and rights. We know that putting an end to these challenges requires investment in adolescents and young people. This is imperative, in order for them to lead the lives they want and contribute to society, but also for sustainable development more generally.
It is important to note, that young people are not to be only passive recipients of investment, but are indispensable partners in development. It is crucial to make sure that their voices are heard, that they are at the negotiation tables and in the political processes, and that their needs are taken seriously at all levels. Only that way they can live their full potential.
Reimagining the Future is an innovative report and an innovative approach. Much of the content was curated from UNICEF’s series of ‘Activate Talks,’ which brought together innovators from around the world to highlight specific challenges and concrete actions to realize children’s rights.
Both reports shine a light on the work ahead of us and are critical tools to allow us to take advantage of the 1.8 billion opportunities to progress the world for our children. UNFPA’s The Power of 1.8 Billion, details how countries can take advantage of growing young populations. Countries with increased access to modern contraceptives and health care can shift from high fertility and mortality rates to lower ones, creating a bulge in their working-age populations. That bulge has the potential to render into economic success as more working-age people have the capacity to become employed or start new businesses.
As The Power of 1.8 Billion highlights, young people face numerous challenges in less-developed countries, challenges that are even greater for girls and young women. According to the report, one in three girls is married before the age of 18, young women are twice as likely as men to contract HIV, and only 22 percent use contraception. These are the exact challenges that we must face to better the world for our children. As UNICEF’s The State of the World’s Children report points out, much has changed in the decades since the first indicators of child well-being were presented, yet much work is ahead of us. The report provides the necessary data to support advocacy and action on behalf of the world’s 2.2 billion children, giving governments the facts needed to base decisions and actions to improve children’s lives. While new ways of collecting and using data will help target investments and interventions to reach the most vulnerable children, data cannot change the world alone. We need to continue to identify the need, gauge progress, and support advocacy to ensure decision-makers use the data to make positive change.
You too can be a part of the change. Go read, explore, and share UNICEF’s The State of the World’s Children report and videos – it is worth it. Take that data and evidence and turn your attention to UNFPA’s The State of the World’s Populationand explore the 1.8 billion opportunities for innovation, change, and progress. Amplify your ideas and raise your voice through social media using the hashtags #EVERYchild and #innovation. By helping to create a global conversation around innovation as a means of reaching the most disadvantaged children and young people, you are helping to put innovation for equity at the centre of the global agenda.