UN-HABITAT on Tuesday unveiled a groundbreaking US$2 million fund to finance inspiring youth-led development projects around the world.
The Opportunities Fund for Urban Youth-Led Development, announced at the Fourth Session of the World Urban Forum in Nanjing, China, was created to engage the partnership and leadership of young women and men in achieving sustainable urbanization. The Fund is initially being financed through a US$2,000,000 grant over two years, provided by the Government of Norway. Other governments and donors are being invited to contribute to the fund.
“Youth are the future of our cities, but often are rendered voiceless due to unemployment, lack of education and other issues,” said Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of UN-HABITAT. “Through this new fund, we are recognizing the urgent need to bolster youth-led initiatives, and are at the forefront of a growing movement to place youth at the center of sustainable development strategies.”
The exciting event, featuring a series of illuminating speeches from international leaders in the field of youth-led development and performances from prolific young artists from across the globe, drew in a crowd which demonstrated the recognition which youth have achieved at this year’s World Urban Forum. Extra seating was required for scores of youth leaders, civil society representatives, government officials and private sector participants intent on being involved in this unique project. David Woollcombe, director of Peace Child International, underlined the uniqueness of this fund within the UN system, urging other agencies and governments to follow Norway’s example in supporting youth, as he says, “the world’s last remaining ‘superpower’”. Luis Zamorano, Director of Urban Infrastructure, Ministry of Social and Urban Affairs, Mexico agreed, offering to host the second global conference on Safety and Cities. As the Mayor of Dar es Salaam, Mr. Adam Omar Kabisa, stated, “Youth are leaders of yesterday, leaders of today and leaders of tomorrow.” Today marked a turning point in the history of international development: Youth integration must be considered crucial to the success of any future programme.
Young people are poised to play a crucial role in achieving sustainable urbanization in the world’s rapidly expanding cities and towns. According to the United Nations World Youth Report 2007, children and youth under the age of 24 make up nearly 40 percent of the global population. Nearly 18 percent are between the ages of 15 and 24, with 85 percent of these youth living in developing countries. The average age in the 10 least-developed African countries is 16 years or younger. This expanding demographic not only represents an unprecedented opportunity, but also significant challenges. Youth comprise 25 percent of the world’s working-age population, but account for nearly 44 percent of the unemployed. In the Africa region, 27 percent of youth are not in school or working.
“Youth-led development is about young people making a living and future for themselves and their communities,” said Mrs. Tibaijuka. “Any effective response to improve the living conditions of the urban poor and those living in the world’s slums must deal, prima facie, with the challenges facing youth.”