In the wings
Youth Key to Urban Sustainability
There are more people under the age of 25 today than ever before – nearly three billion or almost half of the total global population. The majority of our youth is living in cities and towns in the developing world where nearly 90% of the world’s urban growth is taking place. It is estimated that as many as 60% of all urban dwellers will be under the age of 18 by 2030, with a significant percentage of this growth being the result of youth migrating to urban areas. The theme of this year’s International Youth Day, “Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward”, has never been more relevant or more needed.
The United Nations has found that there are nearly twenty-seven million international migrants who are youth. They migrate for reasons such as crisis within their own country, accessing education or seeking job opportunities. Many of these youth are leaving rural areas and moving to cities. For example, a recent UN-Habitat report found that young Ethiopians migrate from rural areas to cities due to insecure land tenure. In examples all around the world, young people are taking on the responsibility and risks of moving, and it is imperative that governments at all levels develop policies that support them.
Young migrants to cities come face to with many opportunities and challenges to their success. Youth are often searching for jobs and improved livelihoods in cities; migrating there for the economic prosperity cities often bring. It is heartening to know that in India, young migrants in search of work usually find jobs, with less than 1% of migrants failing to find employment. Yet, this is not always the case globally, with many youth finding themselves living in unfavourable conditions in slums and informal settlements, with jobs that are often insecure.
To meet this demographic challenge, creative solutions to improve urban policies to take advantage of and harness the potential of youth are needed; policies and practices that will allow us to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and the new Post-2015 Development Agenda.
Unfortunately the current model of urbanization in most of these countries has not been very successful. We therefore need to rethink our current approach to create more productive and more sustainable cities by focusing on strategic issues including urban legislation, land tenure, urban planning and designing, urban economy and municipal finance to prepare the cities to be places that generate jobs for its ever increasing population. Youth issues should be at the center of this urban transformation.
No developed country has achieved any level of prosperity without urbanization; cities account for approximately 70% of global GDP, and as much as 55% of the GDP in low-income countries. It is anticipated that 80% of future economic growth will take place in cities. Well-designed cities provide an “urban advantage” where the proximity of goods, services and resources allows more efficient and effective production than in more spread-out areas. Youth, who are in the most productive times of their lives, are perfectly positioned to leverage this advantage, and cities – and therefore nations – would benefit by enabling them to do so.
We at UN-Habitat believe that youth are leaders, not just leaders of tomorrow, but also of today. This year we celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the establishment of the first One Stop in Nairobi, Kenya. Every year our Urban Youth Fund provides support to over 200 youth-led agencies for their work in innovation. We have implemented new programmes and research on youth information and communication technology and governance, and have launched a “Youth and Land” initiative to explore through youth-led solutions related to issues such as tenure. Through the Youth 21 initiative we have worked with member states, youth and civil society to develop a blueprint to assure youth are heard at the international level. These programmes put youth at the centre of their own and their communities’ development.
We congratulate the Secretary General for his appointing of Ahmad Alhindawi as the first ever Envoy on Youth, and are encouraged by the next step the United Nations has taken in engaging youth through the creation of the Economic and Social Council regional and international forums.
UN-Habitat calls on other United Nations agencies and partners to continue working towards engaging youth at all levels, from the local to the international. Recent demonstrations around the world highlight the frustration of youth, but with those frustrations is also a desire to be positive change agents, partners who are willing to come to the table with concrete ideas and commitments to a more sustainable future. It is imperative we greet them with open arms and not closed fists. Our today and tomorrow depend on it.
Youth and Information Technology in Sustainable Urban Development
We live in a rapidly changing world, and one of the principal forces driving that pace of change is the continuing information and telecommunications revolution. This transformation is not just changing our economies and cultures, but is also changing the face, shape, size and functions of cities world-wide. Even if we do not yet quite know the exact shape of things to come, we all share a collective and instinctive feeling that this future will be radically different from the world we know today, and that it will certainly be much more urban than in the past. It is for this reason that the theme of the 4th meeting “Youth and Information Technology in Sustainable Urban Development” is very important, particularly to the Ministers tasked with Housing and Urban Development.
It is quite clear that today’s generation of young people, at 1.2 billion, is the largest the world has ever known. An overwhelming majority of this number live in developing countries. This demographic phenomenon offers an unprecedented opportunity for innovation and development. Yet, too many young people, some of whom are highly educated, have inadequate, unchallenging or no job opportunities. A large number of youth have no immediate prospects and are increasingly getting discouraged; even becoming distrustful of existing institutions and leaders. Economically empowered youth can greatly contribute to good governance and democracy. Through empowerment, many youth can access opportunities that will improve their living standards, get involved in decision making and thus play a key role towards achieving Millennium Development Goals 7 and 8.
If these issues are not addressed urgently, the social pressures associated with the Arab Spring phenomenon may be replicated in many more countries. The host country of the 4th Conference, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, being aware of this situation, has decided to address it in a timely manner, hence the choice of the topic for this conference: Youth and Information Technology in Sustainable Urban Development.
Stressing the importance of youth issues, the UN Secretary-General has made working with and for young people a priority of his five-year action agenda. This is clear from his call to the United Nations system to deepen and scale up the youth focus of existing programmes, with particular attention to employment, entrepreneurship, political inclusion, citizenship and protection of rights, as well as to education, including on reproductive health. The youth want recognition. They demand meaningful employment and closer engagement in the governance and decision making processes of their respective cities and countries. Youth exclusion and deepening alienation have negative implications for cities. Both experience and research have shown that excluding a large swath of the healthy population from production and services does little to advance sustainable development. Youth should be factored into the broader development process.
The perception of the youth as a group peripheral to the national discourse tends to obscure their potential contribution, particularly their energy, innovative potential and skills.
Youth should be seen as positive human power and not as a problem. Youth with the right skills and knowledge in information and communication technology constitute a particularly potent asset for countries and cities.
Lastly, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Government and people of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan for their hospitality and warm reception, for successfully delivering the conference which committed to implement the Amman Declaration and sponsor a resolution which was adopted in the just concluded 24th Governing Council in April 2013 in Nairobi.
Open Online Courses
The Boy Genius of Ulan Bator and Massive Open Online Courses – New York Times
Massive Open Online Courses from the Massuchusetts Institute of Technology makes the materials used in the majority of the university’s undergraduate and graduate courses—more than 2,150 in all—available free of charge on the Web to any user in the world.
MITOpenCourseWare receives an average of 2 million web site visits per month from more than 215 countries and territories worldwide. To date, more than 150 million individuals have accessed MITOpenCourseWare materials.
Vancouver’s Youth-Driven Arts Festival
The cornerstone of The Cultch’s Youth Program is the annual IGNITE Youth Arts Festival. Every year, for one week in the spring, The Cultch is taken over and transformed by young people. During that time, hundreds of young artists from across the Lower Mainland are involved in what has grown to be Vancouver’s largest youth-driven arts festival. The festival includes showcases of music and dance, the world premiere of three one-act plays, film, a visual arts exhibit, variety shows featuring improv, drag, circus arts, and much more. The most remarkable thing about the festival is that it is organized entirely by a group of dedicated young arts enthusiasts: The Cultch’s Youth Panel
Kids Up Front
Kids Up Front provides opportunities for less fortunate youths to experience art, culture, and sports by creating opportunities for Canadians to contribute to creating possibilities for youth. For many youths these events become defining moments, helping to create a sense of belonging and build self-esteem and resiliency.
Since 2004 alone, Kids Up Front has provided more than 230,000 experiences to disadvantaged children and their guardians across Greater Vancouver, worth more than $6.4 million. Working with 110 agencies that provide social, educational and health-related programs, we are able to reach the most vulnerable children aged 18 or younger. The experiences we provide with your help opens these children’s eyes to the possibilities that life has to offer, and gives hope that one day these dreams can be turned into reality.