Entering adulthood is never easy. For the 1.8 billion youth in the world today– the most in history– the challenges are particularly daunting. Not only are more than one-fifth of global youth not in employment, education or training, and a quarter affected by violence or armed conflict, but the world itself is facing existential threats to global peace and security. Climate change, economic inequality, and social and political polarization are just a few of the mounting dangers that must be reckoned with in the coming years. To overcome these challenges, the current generation of leaders must better understand, engage, and empower young people as partners– and leaders– in global development efforts.
Better integrating the voices and perspectives of youth in international institutions and initiatives is itself an ambitious task. Young people today remain largely excluded from development programs, ignored in peace negotiations, and denied a voice in most international and domestic decision-making. Yet it is critical and urgent that we do so. Young people today are connected to each other like never before, and are more committed to innovation, social progress, and a sustainable future. They are using and building disruptive new technologies, global social networks, the sharing economy, and clean energy networks. They exemplify the ability of innovation and creativity to transform our world. Investing in these young agents of change is not just essential, it has the potential for a tremendous multiplier effect.