December 4, 2016

Opinion piece by CWY President and CEO in response to Global Affairs Canada Policy Review

In September CWY argued in its submission on the review of Canada’s international development policy and framework that youth engagement should be at the centre of the country’s approach to international development. Below is an opinion piece written in September by CWY President and CEO Rita S. Karakas:

The tradition in Canada is for Prime Ministers to wait until the dying days of their mandates before trying to establish their legacy on the world stage. Pierre-Elliott Trudeau embarked on his Peace Initiative to bridge the gulf between East and West, while Jean Chrétien launched his North South dialogue with its focus on Africa and Stephen Harper focused on improving maternal, newborn and child health.

Aware that our world is increasingly complex and interconnected, our current prime minister has adopted a different approach. Justin Trudeau has, for example, reengaged with the United Nations, taken steps to strengthen our ties with China and hosted the Fifth Replenishment Conference of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

The fact that Canada is back on the global stage is welcome news.

But we also have to target our limited resources.

Young people represent about one quarter of the world’s population and are the largest age group in most developing countries. That is why Canada World Youth proposed in its submission to the review of our international development policy and framework that 25% of our overseas development budget be targeted at youth and on the following specific areas where we can make a real difference.

Young women and adolescent girls continue to carry the heaviest burden of death and disability due to complications related to pregnancy and child birth, and as a result the health and rights of women should be at the forefront of our thinking.

Maintaining support for community-based and school-based health initiatives will allow us to target the determinants of health.

While employers value technical skills they also place a high value on socio-emotional skills such as adaptability and teamwork that young people learn through youth-centered models such as experiential, asset-based, non-formal learning opportunities.

Resilience to climate change is about more than technological solutions – it requires social transformation in the broadest sense. Investments in mitigation and adaptation will not trickle down to women and young women if they do not address deep-rooted gender inequality. Initiatives led by Canada should prioritize women and young women’s access to control over land and other productive resources, access to technical training particularly by young women, strengthening rural women’s organizations and networks, and the supporting of enhanced participation by women in early warning systems for environmental hazards.

Although new Information and Communication Technologies are a key tool to engaging youth, we need to remember that studies show that 77% of those over age 25 in the developing world and 70% of youth under 25 years old do not have access to the Internet. In Canada this is a particular important barrier to engagement for indigenous youth. Canada should play a renewed leadership in promoting connectivity, as well as e-literacy and life skills development to ensure positive online engagement.

We should also be supporting livelihood programs that target youth at risk of being recruited by extremist movements, political factions, and/or criminal groups. Ensure that youth are included in peacebuilding efforts

The Prime Minister has placed youth engagement at the centre of his government’s mission, and we applaud him for being his own Minister of Youth and for setting up the Prime Minister’s Youth Council.  As we develop our long-term strategy for international development, we should remember that focusing on youth at home and abroad will pay long-term dividends and that listening to young people will lead to a better understanding of their unique needs and generate programs that have sustainable impacts for them and their communities.

 Read CWY’s recommendations 

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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,

Interviews and information (photos available):

Mary McGee
1 800 605-3526 #336
514 931-3526 # 336