“Young people are a wellspring of ideas for innovation. They are today’s thinkers, problem-solvers and catalysts for peace,” said Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, in a statement issued on International Youth Day on 12 August 2012.
“On this 2012 International Youth Day, let us acknowledge the power for peace and development of young women and men across the world. Young people will inherit the world tomorrow, but they are already changing it today,” she said, calling on governments to involve young people in policy development.
“IFSW supports the call by UNESCO to involve young people in policy development”, said Rory Truell, IFSW Secretary General. “IFSW, together with our partners promoting the Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development, endorses the general development and implementation of policies aimed at strengthening young peoples’ participation in policy formulation, the development of programmes of action, and implementation and assessment of such programmes.”
Half of the world’s population is under 25. The majority (almost 85%) of the world’s youth live in developing countries, with approximately 60 percent in Asia alone, according to UNESCO. A remaining 23 percent live in the developing regions of Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean. By 2025, the number of youth living in developing countries will grow to 89.5%. UNESCO and other global agencies argue that it is therefore necessary to take youth issues into consideration in the development agenda and policies of each country. Despite mass urbanization, the majority of youth live in rural areas in sub-Saharan Africa, south-eastern and south-central Asia and Oceania (Source: World Population Prospects, 2006).
Irina Bokova commented that the challenges facing young people are steep. “They are hardest hit by the world’s inequalities and injustices. Too many live in poverty, unable to realize their potential. Too few are gaining the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to find employment in rapidly changing job markets, where the capacity to learn and adapt is essential. This is a political priority everywhere, and it calls for carefully constructed policies. On International Youth Day, I call on all Governments, youth organizations and the international community to mobilize and to engage young people in the policy-making that affects them. This is essential for building sustainable, peaceful and prosperous societies,” Irina Bokova concluded.
The IFSW policy statement on ‘youth’ recognises that social workers make a significant contribution to work with young people, not only in directly assisting them, but also in identifying and suggesting remedies for problems faced by them. Many such problems are linked with wider social, economic and developmental issues facing all societies and their populations. Policies, therefore, which explicitly inhibit social workers from engaging in work which aims to change the structural conditions hampering the development of young people, should be challenged professionally.