How Can Countries Realize the Full Potential of Youth?

Carmen Barroso, Regional Director

As Thomas Friedman points out in the New York Times, today’s generation of young people — the largest cohort the world has known — has an unprecedented opportunity to transform economies, politics and community life as we know it. But Friedman’s assessment of what is needed to convert this youth bulge into a “demographic dividend” misses a critical component of what young people need to realize their full potential: a guarantee of their human rights, particularly their right to health and bodily autonomy, and their full participation in the development of global and national policies that affect their lives.

In December, thousands of young people from around the world gathered at the Global Youth Forum in Bali for a United Nations-sponsored meeting to chart their vision for global development. The resulting Bali Declaration is a bold and rights-based call for programs and policies that uphold and protect human rights and bodily integrity, and eliminate employment and educational inequity.

If we are to hold young people accountable for building “broad societal prosperity,” then policymakers and governments must be held accountable to implement young people's vision for global development and upholding the rights they want, need, and deserve.

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