February 2, 2013
International Development Week
With 1.2 billion 15-24 year olds in the world – 90 percent of whom live in developing countries – we should view youth as respected, vital assets in Canada’s development projects at home and abroad
International Development Week calls attention to the involvement of Canadian volunteers in sustainable development projects all across the planet. It is critical that we Canadians continue to demonstrate our legendary solidarity as we work shoulder-to-shoulder with citizens of developing countries to reduce poverty, improve quality of life and, in the process, make all our countries more secure.
Youth volunteers – with their contemporary competencies, creativity and flexibility, strong social values and sense of engagement, and singular energy – are smack in the middle of the development scene. Which makes good sense since today’s generation of youth is the largest in history: 1.2 billion 15-24 year olds in the world with 1 billion living in developing countries.
Over and above providing these young people with a life-changing human and practical learning experience, Canadian non-profit organizations are resolutely focused on achieving measurable development results.
One inspiring program – “Youth Leaders in Action” – teams up 18 youth from Canada and a partner country to live and work together for six months in both countries where they contribute to well-planned, community-driven development projects. In one such project, some 160 youths have worked, over the past four years, towards improving the health of young people in South Africa, by working with a local partner organization to create safer homes free of domestic violence and drug abuse and, through youth-managed awareness activities, to lower the rate of HIV/AIDS in these communities.
Another program – “Youth Leaders Initiatives” – provides seed money and mentorship to youth in partner countries to enable them to develop and manage projects that empower local youth, provide opportunities for skill development and employment while addressing local development issues. In one region of Peru, five local youth aged 15-18 are now producing yogurt and jam using regional products, which is enriching this population’s traditional high-carbohydrate diet while supporting the local economy. Some 150 children currently benefit from these low-cost products, and the young entrepreneurs are donating their products to 30 children from underprivileged families, as a social engagement gesture.
Successful, concrete projects such as these make it clear that youth have agency, i.e. unique talents, valuable skills, and a capacity to act and to change lives, including their own. As adults, our role is to develop their capacity to participate and lead. Within the development community, there is increased interest in the participation of youth and a greater recognition that youth are the future of their countries’ development. By 2015, 3 billion people – nearly half the developing world population – will be under 25. This “youth bulge” is a limited window in which to develop a young workforce capable of driving economic development and playing a significant role in the social development of their communities.
Despite this self-evidence, we agree with a well-documented publication of the Students Partnership Worldwide / DFID-CSO Youth Working Group that claims that the demographic importance of this “youth bulge” is insufficiently acknowledged and the needs of youth are being insufficiently addressed. To better address these needs, the development community should adopt an approach to development that is driven by young people, an approach that implicitly values them as partners and assets, i.e. as leaders, advisors, colleagues and stakeholders. Investing in youth leadership, whether at home or abroad, brings tremendous social and economic benefits. Societal change, including behavioral change, is often driven by young people. It is crucial that we engage the young decision makers of tomorrow in the development decisions of today if we want development policies to be truly representative and effective. As Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General, recognized: “Providing for youth is not just a moral obligation, it is a compelling economic necessity.”
Through these important projects, Canadian youth volunteers are developing skills, a sense of personal identity and an international worldview that builds solid citizenship. All volunteers claim that their lives are changed forever by the understanding gained through meaningful development work with fellow Canadians and colleagues from other countries. For all these reasons and more, Canadians and Canadian decision-makers should support our non-profit organizations, especially those with results-oriented programs with and for youth.
Louis Moubarak, APR
President and CEO (interim)
Canada World Youth
Cet article est également disponible en FR.
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About Canada World Youth
Canada World Youth is dedicated to enriching the lives of youth aged up to 35 who want to become informed and active global citizens. CWY offers international transformative learning experiences focused on building knowledge, leadership and skills through participation in sustainable community-driven projects. For more than 40 years, 38,000 youth and 12,000 host families have participated in CWY programs, in Canada and abroad.
CWY is registered with the Canada Revenue Agency as a charitable organization (#118973999RR0001).
Source : Mary McGee, Communications Officer, Canada World Youth, 514 931-3526 # 336, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interviews and information (photos available):
1 800 605-3526 #336
514 931-3526 # 336