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There are over 1 billion young people (aged 15-24) in the world today. This amounts to some 18% of the world’s total population.

Recent years have seen escalating global awareness and acceptance of the need to mobilize the creativity, vision and unique perspectives of young people for the present and future development of our societies.

Young people must be considered as the primary actors with whom to develop such partnerships. Any viable youth policy is one in which young people are not just spectators or advisers but are truly involved in decision-making.

Even though the term youth varies in its significance and age range from culture to culture, it may universally be defined as a transitional concept.

The global situation of young people today is characterised by striking paradoxes such as extreme disparities in terms of economic, technological, social and cultural resources which vary enormously across regions, countries, localities and population groups.

Today’s young generation experiences widening social gaps and faces manifold challenges: it is the young who – perhaps more so than any other social group – encounter the uncertainties and risks generated by the process of economic and cultural globalisation.

The pronounced difficulties young people experience in terms of their socio-economic, political and cultural inclusion in an ever more volatile world are the subject of wide-spread concern at both the national and international level.

Those who have the opportunity to go to school are forced to study longer and longer as job opportunities become scarcer, less well-paid and less secure, delaying the age at which they become financially independent from their parents.

Those who do not have the opportunity to pursue their education or who choose to leave the school system at an early age face marginalisation from the broader community from which they may never recover, either as a result of long-term unemployment, or low-paid, insecure and even dangerous jobs.

Every country thus needs effective strategies able to help young people to make the right choices, protect them from exploitation and neglect and ensure their participation in all spheres of society.

A progressive national youth policy obliges traditional decision-makers to work not only for young people, but with them and let their experiences inform the development of appropriate interventions and services.

It is the essential role of governments to ensure that the concerns of young people are taken into account in all areas of government policy and decision-making, and not just those deemed to be ‘youth issues’ and that young people’s views, priorities and desires are encouraged, listened to and acted upon.

Putting the aspirations and needs of young people at the heart both of the policy formulation process and the specific programmes to be developed, is crucial and cannot be avoided.