At the Palais de Nations in Geneva, the Committee on the Rights of the Child launched the most important articulation of adolescent rights since the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989. Significantly, the General Comment takes the strongest positions adopted so far by the UN in outlining how age-related legislation should be used, reformed and abolished in terms of governing the ability of adolescents to access services, make independent choices, and realise their rights. This article captures discussions from the launch, provides context and makes our own recommendations.
There is no disputing it: 2016 was a momentous year. Some even call it the “worst year ever”. While there was certainly much that was newsworthy about last year, we dig behind the big headlines and list what we consider to be some of the most important moments for the global youth sector. From new youth research projects, and big global summits on youth, to shake-ups at the United Nations, and calls for new youth policies, 2016 was an eventful year all around, and no less for young people.
Timed to coincide with the launch of the “General Comment on Adolescence”, our final working paper of 2016 explores the debate surrounding age-related legislation. Minimum age definitions directly influence the realities of children, adolescents and young people: when they can make independent health choices, be tried and held in adult courts and prisons, access financial credit for business or consent to marriage. However, as this paper explores, there is a clear lack of uniformity – both in the debate amongst the child rights community and experienced by young people in reality.
The 2016 Youth Development Index – now the only global index exploring the specific situation for children and young people – has been published. This year’s edition is a truly global index, includes scores and analysis for 183 countries. While 142 countries improved their scores, the index sees big changes in the global rankings – including in the top spots – and offers a renewed challenge to policy-makers to ensure they continually respond to young people’s needs. The 2016 YDI is a tough reminder: when it comes to youth, no country can afford to be complacent.
During the quieter summer time, we have updated our Structures, Spaces & Places page, which provides details of the regional forums, global movements and international processes that young people can participate in. This short blog post outlines some immediate reflections from the research process, notably the absence of regional platforms in Asia and South America, confusion over the legitimate youth organisation in Africa, a reduction in the number of global youth events, and the refocusing of youth organisations in a post Post-2015 world.
The third working paper looks at recent trends in child and youth participation. It explores academic literature, recent publications and considers the relevance of traditional participation models – particularly seen in the rise of international youth structures, summits and events – against a wave social uprisings and civil unrest that has demonstrated young people’s willingness confront powerful regimes and institutions. Crucially, youth participation often lacks real power; but when it does, young people can drive real policy, institutional and social change.
The outgoing Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, made youth one of the priorities of his second term, aiming to “address the needs of the largest generation of young people the world has ever known.” We will look back at his entire mandate and the progress made later in the year, but as the campaign for the new Secretary General takes off, it is clear that much remains to be done. Here is our list of ten actions for the new Secretary General to advance youth issues globally.