UN-Habitat recognizes the global importance of youth in urban areas and young people as active participants in the future of cities. UN-Habitat was tasked by its Governing Council (GC Res. 23/82) to work together with member states and other UN agencies to enhance youth engagement in the UN system in April 2011. UN-Habitat followed this up with the last meeting in Oslo, Norway, in December to establish a new initiative: Youth 21 – Building architecture for youth engagement in the United Nations System. It attracted governments, United Nations bodies and youth-led organizations.
Weeks later, the Secretary General announced plans to appointa Special Advisor on Youth: "Our agenda starts with economic empowerment for women and expanded opportunities for young people. I will appoint a new Special Advisor for Youth to engage young people and spearhead our efforts", over the next five years, to build "the future we want".
Substantial numbers of youth officially defined in the United Nations system as being in the 15-24 age groups, live in countries where at least one-third of the population subsists on less than two dollars a day. Many are concentrated in urban areas with limited access to basic social services. In a world where already half of the population is urban, with projections showing that this will reach two-thirds in little over a generation from now, it is already estimated that as many as 60 per cent of all urban dwellers will be under the age of 18 the year 2030.
UN-Habitat takes over as co-chair of the UN Inter-agency Network on Youth Development, moving into a rotating seat held by the International Labour Organization (ILO).
The Network comprises various UN entities, represented at the headquarters level, whose work is relevant to youth. The aim of the network is to increase the effectiveness of UN work in youth development by strengthening collaboration and exchange among all relevant UN entities, while respecting and harnessing the benefits of their individual strengths and unique approaches and mandates. In the framework of the World Programme of Action for Youth and its 15 priority areas, the Network advocates for, supports and reviews progress on the implementation of UN resolutions, conventions and the internationally agreed development goals that are youth-related. The network also contributes to increasing the understanding and visibility of the UN System's work on youth development. In particular, the Network:
- Provides a forum for cooperation and support;
- Provides an opportunity for ongoing exchange of information on the UN system's work on youth development, including through knowledge management initiatives and tools;
- Strengthens and supports cooperation to promote youth development, through joint advocacy, initiatives and other forms of cooperation;
- Draws on the members' networks and relationships with governments, youth-led and youth-focused organizations, donor agencies, civil society organizations, multilateral organisations and others, to advance youth development;
- acilitates and supports youth involvement and participation in the UN System and its programmes or initiatives at all levels.
The main objectives of the UN Inter-Agency Network are:
- To identify key joint priorities and plan collaboratively to implement related initiatives;
- To share good practices and expertise and to promote effective cooperation among the entities in programming at country and regional levels;
- To identify global strategic opportunities, ensure coordinated input, facilitate and support sustainable follow-up mechanisms.