In 1985, the United Nations General Assembly defined “youth” as those in between the ages of 14 and 24 and set the goal to assist organisations willing to facilitate the entrance of youth in civil society as a way to promote the creation of new generations of engaged citizens willing to contribute to the strengthening of human rights and equality around the globe.
In general, it is fair to say that NGOs work towards democracy building by implementing strategies to enhance social justice at the grassroots level. As such, NGOs target selected groups or communities in order to empower them as political actors and work with them to improve their life. Thus, it is of great importance for NGOs to collaborate with and design initiatives for the youth for two main reasons.
First of all, young people are the next generation of leaders and decision makers and, as such, it is important to establish educational programmes in order to discuss with them the importance of disseminating ideas of social, economic, and political justice, human rights, and equality. Second, young people are among the most vulnerable sectors of the population and, as such, NGOs should take care of them and support their entrance to adulthood, to the job market, and generally to society at large.
Since 2009, the main international agencies such as the UN have been developing new strategies for the youth as a consequence of the global economic crisis. A report published by the International Labour organization (ILO) in March 2013 shows that an estimated 73 million young people will be out of work this year.
Opportunities in the job market are now worse than ever and young people have to face all the problems deriving from being persistently unemployed or underemployed, depending on temporary jobs or on welfare assistance. This is why the coordinator of the ILO Youth Employment Programme, Mr. Rosas, recently appealed to governments and civil society actors to co-operate in order to find solutions for the current precarious status of young citizens. In particular, he called for action in five main areas: employment creation, education and training, targeting the disadvantaged, entrepreneurship, and labour rights.
Regardless of the main goals of your NGO and the areas in which you operate, you should consider the targeting young people in your community with the utmost importance.
First of all, it is important to establish collaboration with them in order to work – on the long term – towards the implementation of strategies able to improve the life of your community. In fact, to engage with young people will ensure that the aims set for your organisation will be taken further by new generations of committed actors.
Second, consider that the current global situation greatly affects young people, who are often discouraged by present difficulties – especially to enter the job market – and make them among the most vulnerable subjects in your community. It is important to develop plans and projects able to make their issues visible so that solutions could be discussed and implemented in collaboration with local and government authorities.