To empower youth, the knowledge, experiences, and expertise of different generations play a key role. Collective actions and strong relationships between multiple generations allow them to work together and ensure that youth are able to reach their full potential without being burdened by the actions of previous generations. Combined with multi-stakeholders of society bringing in their expertise and contributions, this would help achieve the objectives of sustainable development, resilience-building, and empowerment in an inclusive and collective manner.
“Youth” usually refers to a person between the ages of leaving compulsory education and the age of being employed. However, the definition of the age range for “youth” varies based on the relevant process. For example, the United Nations defines youth as persons between the ages of 15 and 24 for statistical purposes, without prejudice to other definitions by Member States, which allows countries to define the age range as relevant to their own national context. However, the age range for engagement under the Children and Youth constituency of the UNFCCC is open to 35 years, allowing a broader engagement in the youth constituency’s membership and climate activities. In Sri Lanka, the National Youth Policy (2014) defines youth to be those individuals within the age group of 15-29.
Youth Engagement in Development
Youth engagement in sustainable development remains a key aspect. Youth engagement and the contributions of young people could be considered as a key aspect related to inclusivity and accountability, which interlinks with good governance as well as economic empowerment through effective capacity-building and skill development.
The engagement of youth as a key actor in sustainable development and as a contributor to achieving outcomes of long-term social, environmental, and economic development could be focused on a few components. These include aspects such as youth empowerment through education, including capacity-building and skill development; processes that allow for effective engagement of youth through information-sharing or participation in decision-making processes; and economic empowerment through activities that contribute to individual and national development through structured actions such as enhancing employability, providing avenues for creating economic activities, and facilitating through information and opportunities for youth to be able to perform better in economic sectors.
It would also be important to ensure that youth have leadership to envisage better opportunities for themselves and a vision which could contribute to collective good or good practices while also being able to have hopes and dreams for a better future, which presents opportunities that can be beneficial at all levels: individual, local, national, and global.
To achieve these aspirations and concrete outputs related to different components, it is important that actions taken focus on the bigger picture related to sustainable development, climate change adaptation, and long-term resilience. It is also important to ensure that no one is left behind. Different factors may create vulnerabilities, limit opportunities, or raise barriers to engagement, but the solutions provided should be able to encompass these factors in their vision and reach all those concerned.
Intergenerational solidarity will help youth gain better access to knowledge and mentorship from those who have technical knowledge and expertise that could provide guidance and opportunities for creating change or improving oneself. Additionally, solidarity between generations could also allow older generations to expand the scope of their activities and enhance elements of innovation, creativity, and diversity.
For example, actions related to innovation and entrepreneurship could be conducted to support the economic empowerment of youth. This could be through a process that includes youth working with experts in the field, learning from them, and sharing their vision for different entrepreneurial ventures which could be supported by the technical expertise and the experiences of older generations. In doing so, the success rate of a venture could be enhanced, finance invested in ventures could reap better benefits for the economy, and diversity and inclusivity could become a more integral part of these processes.
Intergenerational solidarity can also contribute to eliminating ageism in processes and providing opportunities for youth to contribute and lead change that is ethical and sustainable.
Ageism includes stereotypes, prejudices, and discrimination directed towards people on the basis of their age. This can take different forms and include institutional, inter-personal, or self-directed forms. A Global Report on Ageism published by the United Nations provides that intergenerational contact and interactions provide avenues for reducing ageism. Other areas of focus include policy, laws, and educational activities.
Inclusive and participatory processes could contribute to providing avenues for youth not to become targets and victims of ageism. Interacting with youth and engaging with them through different processes allows other generations to be informed and aware of the youth’s contribution to these processes and actions, their skills and capacities, as well as innovation and leadership through creativity and other expertise that they are able to bring to the table.
It is also important that laws and policies incorporate elements of inclusive and participatory processes which allow youth to contribute effectively to processes at all levels, be it decision-making at the local level or national-level processes. These actions would require effective measures that are implemented with political commitment as well as holistic engagement of different sectors and actors. Actions to be conducted could include investing in evidence-based strategies; enhancing the availability of data and information to better understand relevant contexts and develop outputs from data and evidence; and facilitating in changing the narrative which allows for all actors to contribute to ethical, sustainable, and climate-friendly development with intergenerational solidarity, diversity, and youth leadership.
Note: This article has been published on The Morning as part of the author’s weekly column.
Tags: youth, climate action, equity, ACE, UNFCCC, youth empowerment
Vositha is an attorney-at-law specialising in public international law, with a focus on international environmental law, UN human rights law, refugee law and EU law. She has over a decade of experience in working on climate change, at national and international level.