The Guardian Development Talk Point 11 August 2011

Talk Point: what does worldwide youth discontent reflect? | Global development |

From riots and looting in London to student protests in Chile, there is growing disquiet among the world’s youth. Is this a failure of development? Let us know what you think
Burning debris during demonstrations in Santiago, Chile.
 Burning debris during demonstrations in Santiago, Chile. Photograph: Pablo Villagra/AP

With riots and looting in British cities, student protests in Chile, the central role ofyoung people in the Arab spring, youth involvement in anti-austerity protests in Spain and growing frustration over gloomy employment prospects in Greece, youth discontent has grabbed headlines across the globe.

What needs to happen to address the challenges affecting the world’s youth? What is the role of young people and youth-led organisations in tackling these challenges? And with similar issues facing both the north and the south, how do these problems change the way we think about development projects and priorities?

This August marks the end of the United Nations’ first international year of youth, aimed at putting young people at the very centre of international debates and encouraging their participation in global development efforts. And Friday is international youth day, with over 300 events planned worldwide. But beyond the media headlines focusing on youth, has the international community paid enough attention to the economic and social challenges facing teenagers globally?

This month, we travelled to Egypt to look at the challenge of youth unemployment and learn more about a project designed to ease the transition from school to work by plugging the skills gaps of new graduates.

And earlier this year, we reviewed Unicef’s State of the World’s Children report, which argued that much of the progress towards meeting the millennium development goals (MDGs) will be compromised unless attention turns to focus on the world’s 1.2 billion 10- to 19-year-olds. “In the global effort to save children’s lives, we hear too little about adolescence,” said Anthony Lake, Unicef’s new executive director. “Surely we do not want to save children in their first decade of life only to lose them in the second.”

Meanwhile, Harvard professor Calestous Juma argued that lowering the voting age to 16 in African countries would help young people’s voices to be heard:

Over 40% of the [African] population are under the age of 15. More than 20% are between the ages of 15 and 24. Three out of five of Africa’s employed are young people, according to the International Labour Office. Young peopleaccount for 36% of the overall working age population … Lowering the voting age to 16 for all African countries would not only reflect the demographic structure of the continent, but it would also expand political participation.

Is Juma right? What needs to be done to tackle youth unemployment? What examples have you seen of interesting development projects tackling issues that affect teenagers? And does the current news agenda – streaming coverage of worldwide youth disaffection – reflect a failure of development?

Let us know what you think. If you have any problems posting a comment, or if you would prefer to comment anonymously, email us and we’ll add your thoughts to the debate.


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