A new United Nations report has urged governments around the world to invest more in young people and pay closer attention to their concerns as the world becomes increasingly urban.
The latest State of World Population 2007report, published last week by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said that with the population of the planet growing increasingly urban, the future of cities was dependent upon the future of young people, and specifically on the role policy-makers play in severing the cycle of unemployment and poverty.
The report said in 2005, the population of cities and towns was 3 billion, and that within the next 23 years, this number was set to increase to 4.8 billion as rapid urbanization occurs. The scale and speed of this phenomenon is creating mega cities of unprecedented size. Many of the new urbanites will be poor. Their future and the future of cities in developing countries will therefore depend on decisions made now in preparation for this growth.
The fact that this century is undergoing a trend of urban migration, presents an opportunity to enhance development and promote sustainability. But if the opportunity is missed, the urban wave could deepen poverty and accelerate environmental decay. Therefore investment in young people was key to ending generations of poverty while offering youth lives of opportunity, free of poverty and violence.
“Several of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers completed by developing countries in the past few years have years have outlined youth employment strategies focusing on youth entrepreneurship training, micro-credit schemes, the development of vocational training and career guidance services, youth leadership training, youth targeted labour-intensive programmes, and the acquisition of ICT skills,” the report said.
If many countries followed this example they would be able to create more employment opportunities for young people and attain one of the Millennium Development Goals of halving poverty by 2015.
Services such as education and medical facilities would also have to be provided to ensure that a stable working and living environment was created to ensure the active participation of young people by stimulating economic growth and reducing poverty.
“The importance of helping youth find productive and decent employment has become a prime motivation of international youth policy-making and development efforts,” it said. “Young people can make their best contribution if cities provide a social safety net, including housing, health care and education opportunities.”
From providing access to education to involving young people in urban planning to creating safe spaces for young girls in their communities, governments will therefore need to embrace young people’s resourcefulness and allow them to act as agents of economic growth. As Bing, a young man from China was quoted as saying: “To a large extent success depends on the environment you are in. That’s why I wanted to come to the city, where you can be successful.”
Governments world over will therefore have to find ways to utilise the enthusiasm and skills of their urban youth to allow for economic, social and cultural development. This is turn will promote the corroboration of youth culture and in this world of globalization lead to a sense of cultural identity and national pride.