Youth as relevant stakeholders in public policy making as a way of achieving sustainable development goals “2030” Delivered at the UN-Geneva Conference (Abia State) by Amb Grema Sulaiman A•
Today’s generation of young people is the largest the world has ever known. One in every three people alive today is under the age of thirty, and around ninety per cent of young people are living in developing countries, mainly in Asia and Africa. In a number of countries mired in conflict – and sadly Syria and others come to mind, the lives of youth are badly impacted.
• In Yemen, for example, a Least Developed Country experiencing a major conflict right now, forty-six per cent of the population is under sixteen. Yemen’s youth have hopes and dreams which cannot be fulfilled in a nation at war. Peace is badly needed for development.
• In Afghanistan, nearly two-thirds of the population is under the age of 25. Afghanistan too is a Least Developed Country, and the insurgency there is at its highest level since 2007. Young Afghans have been prominent among the growing numbers of refugees making their way into Europe.
• According to International Monetary Fund forecasts, by 2035 the number of people in Sub-Saharan Africa joining the working age population (ages fifteen to sixty-four) will exceed that from the rest of the world combined. In the informal migration from Africa across the Mediterranean to Europe are many youth seeking opportunity because of a lack of prospects at home. This is a development challenge: big development investments are needed in the migration source countries, and international solidarity for that is required.
Meanwhile in many developed countries like Japan, the population pyramid is being turned upside down. When this year’s Keio University graduates were born, the ratio of people over sixty five years of age had only just exceeded one in every ten people. Today, almost one in every four people in Japan is over that age. When this year’s graduates are in their forties and in the middle of their careers, over-sixty-fives will make up one-third of Japan’s population.
The challenge of creating enough jobs and opportunities for the large global youth population entering the labour market is one of the major challenges our world faces. But there are others too, like:
• inequalities, which are growing in the majority of the world’s countries, with few exceptions, and the fact that hundreds of millions of people are still living in extreme poverty;
• protracted conflicts, which are badly destabilizing countries from the Sahel to the Horn of Africa and from the Maghreb to Iraq and Afghanistan. Radical insurgents from Boko Haram to Al Shabaab on the African continent and Al Qaeda and IS in the Middle East are making life unbearable for those on whom they prey. War and conflict bear a huge responsibility for generating the displacement of almost sixty million people from their homes in our world today;
• the devastating impact of natural disasters where disaster risk reduction either hasn’t been undertaken or hasn’t been adequate; and
• global environmental challenges, including the costs of climate change, are also mounting. The impact of climate change threatens all countries, but especially the poorest and the most vulnerable.
All these challenges call for bold approaches to building a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world. The alternative is a world characterized by even more turmoil and instability than the one we know today. No one can feel comfortable in such a world: the problems of one country or region – economic, social, or political - do spill over into others.
So I urge all the international organizations and communities engaged in creating and implementing policies should involve the youth as relevant stakeholders. Thank you
(Amb Grema Sulaiman A)
SSS political and international affairs EYC-CJC, Member of the Geneva Institute of leadership and public policy, Member of the Commonwealth Africa Initiative and pioneer of Edubox Global.