Worldwide Action Required for Global Youth Development

22 November 2016


Reported by Ryan Hamnett, MRC-funded CSaP Policy Intern (September - December 2016)

A recent report on the state of global youth development has suggested that while traditional indicators of progress such as governance and income remain important predictive factors, work still needs to be done across the globe to ensure the best possible prospects for the youth of today and the future.

The Global Youth Development Index (YDI) and Report, produced by the Commonwealth Secretariat Youth Division research team headed by CSaP Policy Fellow Abhik Sen, is the first of its kind to specifically focus on the needs and progress of the world’s youth. The report’s focus addresses one inadequacy of the Human Development Index, which has been instrumental in shifting global focus from a purely economic standpoint to a perspective of individual well-being when evaluating national progress and quality of life.

By providing an evidence-based overview of the state of development in 183 countries containing nearly 1.8 billion young people, defined as 15-29 years old, the report hopes to identify areas that still require attention and investment, and how young people might play a part in fulfilling the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the UN. The YDI itself assesses the youth of each individual country based on five criteria: education, health & well-being, employment & opportunity, political participation and civic participation.

The report describes global youth development as “modestly encouraging in some spheres and worryingly inadequate in others”. Despite 142 countries demonstrating improvement in their YDI in the past 5 years, large global inequalities persist for the world’s youth, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, which dominates the bottom of the YDI rankings table. This is exacerbated by the presence of violent conflict, which is more prevalent in many of the poorest areas of the world and can negatively impact youth development directly through deaths, injuries and displacement, and less directly such as negatively affecting access to healthcare and education.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Western nations tended to achieve the highest YDI scores, with Germany coming first in the YDI rankings and the remainder of the top 10 being predominantly occupied by other European countries. However, all is not necessarily well in these countries, as they attained scores worse than even the lowest YDI scoring nations for indicators on drug abuse years of life lost (YLL) and mental disorder YLL.

While the current outlook appears grim, the report also highlights “young changemakers”: individuals striving to improve the conditions for some of the poorest young people in the world through volunteer activities and political activism. Through these case studies, the report hopes to demonstrate the power and motivation that young people possess to effect change in the world.

Abhik Sen

United Nations