Helen Jones MBE, Director of Youth Affairs and Education Programmes at the Royal Commonwealth Society, explores the youth development landscape in the Commonwealth and highlights the vital role of young people as partners in development and implementation of the new global development agenda.
The current youth generation is the biggest the world has ever seen. Over 1.2 billion people in the Commonwealth are under 30 years of age, representing 60 per cent of the total population, many of whom live in the least developed countries and small island developing states. The current demographic profile of the Commonwealth, with many countries having a significant ‘youth bulge’, presents a one-time window of opportunity to achieve higher rates of economic growth from educated, healthy and gainfully employed young people – if they can be adequately invested in and empowered as partners in development.
However, millions of Commonwealth young people continue to be excluded from access to resources, life opportunities and decision-making. They are disproportionately affected by poverty, inequality and marginalisation and face particular risks and vulnerabilities as they grow to adulthood. Youth unemployment remains a major Commonwealth challenge. Urgent Commonwealth action is required given that the long-term costs and consequences of persistent youth poverty and inequality are enormous for peace, prosperity and the resilience of societies.
Given that so many of the global youth population live in Commonwealth countries, the Commonwealth can add real global value if it can harness its collective endeavours to more effectively empower young people to drive change and achieve development goals…
*Statistics within article correct at original publication date of CHOGM 2015 Report.
Helen Jones MBE
Director of Youth Affairs and Education Programmes at the Royal Commonwealth Society