A generation that cares

11 September 2015
Author: Sarah Kirby

The world has reached "peak youth"; we have the largest global youth population in history. And it cares about the world it lives in. Encouragingly, not only is the UK government listening to young people, but it is acting on what it hears.

One in four people in the world are aged between 18 and 24 (UNFPA, The State of World Population, 2014). As a group, from all corners of the world, we are calling on governments to listen to our priorities and make changes at national and international levels that will benefit us now and in the future.

But will this happen? I think it will. The tide is changing when it comes to the voice of youth being one that is not only heard, but one that is taken as a force of credibility.

The International Citizen Service (ICS) is just one example of youth-led development that is contributing to the vast amount of positive development work taking place within global partnerships. Funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) and led by VSO, the programme consists of young people from the UK and the Global South working together with communities to tackle development issues at grassroots level.

I am one of 15,000 young people who has taken part in ICS globally. But what do we do when we return to our own communities? Personally, I have been involved in a lot of campaigning. Most recently I joined the UK Youth Panel - a group of young people that has joined together to tackle poverty, inequality and climate change through the action/2015 campaign.

For the past six months this group of 20 young people has been organising a major summit to look at young people’s role in the future of our world. On Saturday 12 September, hundreds of young people are coming together at the Youth Summit to discuss how they will lead the fight to end poverty, inequality and climate change.  We have worked in partnership with DFID and development NGOs to put on this huge event, but it has been created by young people, for young people.

The fact that it’s happening ahead of another important summit is no coincidence. At the UN General Assembly at the end of September new goals to eradicate poverty will be set. The Youth Summit is a chance to have our voices heard and come together to talk about youth priorities in development, including job creation, gender equality, global education and climate change. Our generation is lucky to have the ability to connect not only across our own countries, but across continents. This has allowed us to speak about youth priorities and the challenges we are facing in a time when development issues are being considered at the highest international levels.

Young people are arguably the best vehicle for change as we are a generation with the ideas, motivation and ability to create and benefit from the right interventions to ensure positive development happens. It seems that the UK government is starting to agree with us – putting youth at the heart of development on our own doorstep. Now it’s down to us to make sure the world delivers on the promises it makes in September, so that the Global Goals end poverty for good.

About the author

Sarah Kirby

Sarah is policy and campaigns trainee at Bond. She has also worked with Restless Development on the International Citizen Service Programme and is a member of the UK youth panel, part of the action/2015 campaign.