The Importance of Youth Engagement in the Post-2015 Development Agenda

By Zahrah Rizwan

The young population in the world (between the age of 10 to 24yrs) amounts to 1.8 billion representing 18% of the total world population, according to the UNFPA State of World Population 2014 report. This is recorded to be the largest youth population the world has ever known. Taking into consideration the regional distribution of youth, the largest concentration of youth is in the Asian countries, accounting for 60%. The remaining 40% live is reported to be in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and developed countries. It is believed that the world’s youth population between the ages of 15 to 29 will tremendously increase by 2030. It is important to note that the year 2030 marks the end of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will be in function from 2016.

Participation is considered a crucial strategy required in building a sustainable future.  The voices of the marginalized need to be integrated into the decision making process, especially of the youth in developing and under developed countries who account to about 87% of the world youth population. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are critically looked upon due to the failure in engaging the youth in the development process and harnessing the power of the youth.

The youth is considered the future, but it is also important to understand the fact that they are also the present, almost one-fifth of the world’s population.  Youth creativity, energies and ideas are indispensable as what the Secretary General Ban Ki Moon calls “a force for progress.”  The innovation and creativity of youth is vital for the exploration of new knowledge which has been proved by entrepreneurial youth in both developing and developed countries who have actively contributed in the fields of green energy, ICT and the media.

The adolescents and youth of today will be the parents, doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, and diplomats of tomorrow. This in turn makes the role of youth in the post-2015 Agenda essential in shaping THE WORLD WE WANT. The Special Advisor to the Secretary General on Post 2015 Development suggests that the development process will incorporate youth in the “vision and energy [that] will be needed to do the heavy lifting in its implementation.”

It is the responsibility of local and international bodies to invest in mechanisms for the youth to participate in the formation and implementation of the post-2015 Agenda which will contribute to youth empowerment, strengthen the kinds of interventions implemented and, in the long run, ensure greater access to services for those who are most marginalized. The active participation and contribution of the youth is required in the areas of food, energy and water, for instance are three inevitable priorities for the Sustainable Development Goals. Not to mention sustainable consumption and production that will facilitate in curbing carbon emissions and global warming and the consequences of global warming. In addition, the young population can be the messengers of better practices for the next generation.

Social exclusion and a lack of opportunities perpetuate youth disillusionment, which, in turn, effects their transition to adulthood. Youth are also affected by unemployment and underemployment, limited education, poor governance, sexual and reproductive health issues, and limited civic participation. Undeniably, these areas impede sustainable development. Hence, the increasingly large youth demographic in the developing world makes it impossible to discuss any follow-up to Rio+20 and the Post 2015 development agenda without taking into account its needs, its aspirations and its challenges without making youth engagement the center of the dialogue.


  • Mainstreaming youth in the post 2015 development agenda.
  • “Strengthening the Role of Youth in the Post 2015 Development Agenda”.
  • A Space for Peace: Inclusion of Youth and Peacebuilding in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
  • United Nations in Sri Lanka.

About the Author:

ZahrahZahrah Rizwan works as program coordinator – youth engagement at Sri Lankan Youth Climate Action Network, and is a student at University of Colombo majoring in English. Her interests include youth mobilization for development, climate change, civic rights awareness creation.