Youth: Essential Partners in Promoting Sustainable Economic Growth and Employment

I recently read an article titled What Keeps Young People Up At Night by Stephanie Thomson of the World Economic Forum. In the article, Thomson stated that "[w]hen the United Nations and the international community were in the process of setting the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), they turned to young people for guidance." Over 1 million young people under the age of 15 participated. Those surveyed were asked to name the 6 most important issues out of the list of 16. Not surprising, a good education topped the list, with better job opportunities also up there at the top.

Rising unemployment rate among youth in many parts of the world is alarming. In fact, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO), youth unemployment rate is three times higher than the adult rate. Furthermore, the ILO's 2015 World Employment and Social Outlook (WESO) report showed that it is young women who continue to be the group most affected by unemployment.

What a tragic waste of skill and energy and passion, because now more than ever before, this younger generation is literally and figuratively hungry not just for change but sustainable change. Not only do they want to take ownership of their own futures, but they understand that development must benefit generations to come.

This more global or communitarian perspective defines all that they bring to the table--their driving force for innovation, their ease at collaboration, their broader goal to bring about not just their own promotion but real social change, and their sense of responsibility to create jobs for more than just themselves.

What keeps me up at night? According to the UN, "Roughly half the world's population still lives on the equivalent of about US$2 a day." And, once again, it is women who take the brunt of these statistics. Job creation, as well as full and productive employment, has an immediate effect in a significant way to the sustainability of families. Having a job means having ownership, being financially independent, being able to put food on the table, and contributing to the economic growth of a community.

I grew up as an Angolan migrant in Johannesburg, South Africa, where there continues to be a huge unemployment rate disproportionately affecting youth and women--especially female refugees from nearby nations as was the case with my family. This is why I, like so many youth arising out of similar circumstances, am passionate and driven to find ways to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all (SDG#8).

We seek connection and a community of like-minded individuals with whom we can build on our ideas, pool resources or create coops. This means we are looking for aware and experienced partners in adults and organizations that can support us, as we too serve the organization. We can't do this by ourselves.

That is why mentorship programs and initiatives in organizations or corporations should be made a top priority at the UN. These programs would give young people access to tools, skills and resources, which will be critical for the successful implementation of the SDG #8. Mentorship programs empower young people giving them experience, expertise and leadership training, as well as support networks.

  • One such program is President Barack Obama's Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), which was started in 2013. With over 200,000 members, the YALI network invests in the future leaders of the African continent.

  • Another notable initiative is TechWomen's Emerging Leaders Program which, "Empowers, connects, and supports the next generation of women leaders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) from Africa, Central Asia, and The Middle East by providing them the access and opportunity needed to advance their careers."
  • As a Global Ambassador for EBW2020, an organization founded by Ingrid Vanderveldt, I have an opportunity to network and learn from women leaders committed to economic, political and social sustainability for women in their communities and worldwide.
  • Unique platforms like the Youth Assembly at the United Nations, and the ECOSOC Youth Forum allow young people from all over the world to share the same frustrations, passions, drive, and energy under one roof on how they can tackle some of the world's most pressing social issues together.

    Youth engagement in global development has never been more crucial in the implementation of the sustainable development goals--after all, it is their future! To achieve this vision, both young and old will need to come to the table, work together and collaborate to, "substantially reduce the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training" (SDG#8).

    About the author: Nina Francisco was born in Luanda, Angola, and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa. She has a Master's degree in Social Entrepreneurship and Change from Pepperdine University. She is a DSP Manager for a nonprofit organization that assists developmentally challenged individuals and is a Global Ambassador for EBW2020. In her free time she thinks of ways she can create social change not only on a local level but on a global one through innovative solutions to some of the world's most pressing social issues.

    This post is a part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in partnership with the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation leading up to the 2016 Youth Assembly at the United Nations, a unique platform created to foster dialogue and generate partnerships between youth, private sector, civil society and the United Nations. The winter session will focus on the role of youth in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. To see all posts in the series, click here.