In 1995, the world youth population—defined by the United Nations as the age cohort 15-24—is estimated to be 1.03 billion, or 18 per cent of the total world population. The majority of the world youth population (84 per cent in 1995) lives in developing countries. This figure is projected to increase to 89 per cent by 2025. The difficult circumstances that people experience in many developing countries are often even more
difficult for young people because of limited opportunities for education and training, viable employment and health and social services, and because of a growing incidence of
substance abuse and juvenile delinquency. Many developing countries are also experiencing unprecedented rates of rural-urban migration by young people.
Apart from the statistical definition of the term “youth” mentioned above, the meaning of the term “youth” varies in different societies around the world. Definitions of youth
have changed continuously in response to fluctuating political, economic and socio-cultural circumstances.
Young people in industrialised countries comprise a relatively smaller proportion of the total population because of generally lower birth rates and longer life expectancy. They comprise a social group that faces particular problems and uncertainties regarding its future, problems that relate in part to limited opportunities for appropriate employment. Young people in all countries are both a major human resource for development and key agents for social change,economic development and technological innovation. Their imagination, ideals, considerable energies and vision are essential for the continuing development of the societies in which they live. Thus, there is special need for new impetus to be given to the design and implementation of youth policies and programmes at all levels. The ways in which the challenges and potentials of young people are addressed by policy will influence current social and economic conditions and the well-being and livelihood of future generations.
STRATEGY AND POLICY SPECIFICS:
In 1965, in resolution 2037 (XX), the General Assembly endorsed the Declaration on the Promotion among Youth of the Ideals of Peace, Mutual Respect and Understanding
between Peoples. From 1965 to 1975, both the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council emphasised three basic themes in the field of youth: participation,
development and peace. The need for an international policy on youth was emphasised as well. In 1979, the General Assembly, by resolution 34/151, designated 1985
as International Youth Year: Participation, Development, Peace. In 1985, by resolution 40/14, the Assembly endorsed the guidelines for further planning and suitable followup
in the field of youth.
The guidelines are significant for their focus on young people as a broad category comprising various subgroups, rather than a single demographic entity.
They provide proposals for specific measures to address the needs of subgroups such as young people with disabilities, rural and urban youth and young women.
The themes identified by the General Assembly for International Youth Year: Participation, Development, Peace reflect a predominant concern of the international
community with distributive justice, popular participation and quality of life. These were reflected in the guidelines, and they represent overall themes of the World Programme
of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond as well.
The Programme of Action also builds upon other, recent international instruments, including the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, adopted by the United
Nations Conference on Environment and Development, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights, the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development and the Programme of Action of the World Summit for Social Development, and the Platform for Action adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women.
The Programme of Action is drawn from these international instruments generally and specifically related to youth policies and programmes. The Programme of Action is
significant because it provides a cross-sectoral standard relating to both policy-making and programme design and delivery. It will serve as a model for integrated actions, at
all levels, to address more effectively problems experienced by young people in various conditions and to enhance their participation in society.
The Programme of Action is divided into three phases: The first phase focused on analysis and on drafting the Programme of Action and on its adoption by the General
Assembly at its fiftieth session, in 1995; the second phase is concerned with worldwide implementation of the Programme of Action to the year 2000; the third phase, covering
the period 2001 to 2010, will focus on further implementation and evaluation of progress made and obstacles encountered; it will suggest appropriate adjustments to long-term objectives and specific measures to improve the situation of young people in the societies in which they live.