The case for youth: How youth can change the world

We have over 1 billion ways to create a better, brighter future for everyone. With 1.8 billion youth aged 10 to 24 alive right now, it’s the largest global population of youth in history!

global-goalsTo achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a set of Global Goals adopted by 193 countries (including Canada) to end poverty, tackle inequality and fight climate change –the passion, voices, and skills of youth are more critical than ever. There’s no better time to unleash the power youth!

When given the opportunity, support and space to make a difference, youth can – and will – rise to the occasion! At Plan International, we see this in our work around the world every day. See how empowering youth is helping address some of the most pressing global issues, and setting us on track to achieve the SDGs.

Ending poverty and fueling economic growth

Global Goal 1, No Poverty, and Global Goal 8, Economic Growth.

Goal 1 & Goal 8

Poverty is often passed from one generation to the next. Breaking the cycle of poverty means empowering children and youth with the knowledge and skills to help them reach their full potential.

With the global youth unemployment rate at 13.1%, providing youth with education and training opportunities can reduce the number of unemployed young people and ensure youth have the ability to gain meaningful employment in order to create a brighter future for themselves, their families, communities, and even country.

A young woman writing in a book.

Nipa, 18, launched her own business, selling hand-made motorcycle grips in Bangladesh. Thanks to business skills training and mentorship provided through Plan International, Nipa’s able to financially support herself and her family, while continuing to grow her business.

Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Goal 3

Good health and well-being

When it comes to spreading community health information, youth are powerful amplifiers! When young people have access to accurate health information – including sexual reproductive health – and resources, they can help prevent the spread of diseases, like malaria or HIV, and promote nutrition, hygiene, sanitation and more.

A teenaged girl smiling.

Andressa from Brazil is a member of Plan International’s health adolescence program, where she helps create a safe space for youth to learn about their sexual reproductive health rights, and discuss related issues.

Quality education

Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Goal 4

We know education is empowerment. Quality education gives children and youth the knowledge, skills, confidence and opportunities to overcome poverty, discrimination and so much more. And yet, approximately 124 million children and adolescents are not in school around the world.

Achieving an education is a challenge for far too many – especially girls, who are often denied their right to learn simply because they’re girls. Working with communities to remove the barriers – both physical and societal – that stand in the way of girls’ education means ensuring girls and boys have equal access to a better, brighter future.

7 barriers that prevent girls from achieving an education.

Removing the barriers that hold girls back from achieving an education is critical to a brighter future for all.

Achieving gender equality

Gender equality, goal 5 of the 17 sustainable development goals.

Goal 5

No country in the world has achieved full gender equality. Millions of girls and women continue to face barriers to education, healthcare, safety and many other basic human rights. Ending inequality means changing mindsets, challenging outdated practices (like child marriage and female genital mutilation) and speaking out against injustices (like gender-based violence). And youth are the agents of change to do these things and more!

By educating young women and men on their rights and on the importance of gender equality, they can champion change in their families and communities – making a lasting difference for generations to come.

Collage of 3 boys.

Alemayehu from Ethiopia, Harly from Nicaragua and Keshob from Bangladesh are 3 young men who believe in gender equality, and speak out to end violence against girls and women and practices like child marriage.

Combating climate change and its impact

Climate action, goal 13 of the 17 sustainable development goals.

Goal 13

Climate change is a global issue that’s not only impacting millions of lives right now (e.g.: the extreme effects of El Niño are causing one of the worst droughts in Ethiopia in over 3 decades), but the long-term consequences will ultimately impact all of today’s youth.

Youth across the globe are speaking out to protect the environment and their future. In particular, youth living in Asia-Pacific countries – a region prone to the most natural disasters – are rallying together to educate their communities on climate change, but also support disaster risk reduction programs and mitigate the impact of climate-related emergencies.

A teenaged girl.

Creating peaceful and just societies

Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Goal 16

According to the UN Refugee Agency, we are now facing the highest levels of population displacement in history. Globally, nearly 34,000 people are forced to flee their homes every day as a result of conflict or persecution. This means millions of children and youth are growing up in the shadow of war and violence.

To help young people move past the trauma they’ve experienced, Plan International is on the frontlines, supporting families from countries such as Syria, South Sudan, and Central African Republic with not only the basics like food and water, but emotional support and education too. By creating safe spaces for displaced children and youth to play, learn, and find reprieve from their chaotic realities, we can replace the fear and danger they may feel with hope, peace and justice.

A group of teenagers holding up a sign that says “paix” (“peace” in French).

Youth living in a refugee camp in Central African Republic hold up a sign that says “peace” in French.

Empowering the global youth population is critical to realizing a brighter future for all. We believe young people have the power and potential to achieve the SDGs, and create a more inclusive, equitable, safe and sustainable world.


More about the SDGs