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In this section we deal with the following main actors of the youth sector at the international level:

3.1.1. Intergovernmental and supranational organizations

3.1.2. The governmental and nongovernmental development aid community

3.1.3. The nongovernmental youth sector

3.1.4. The international youth research community


In an ideal world, international and national youth policy would be made collaboratively among governments that have the executive mandate to prepare and implement policy, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that legitimately represent the needs and concerns of young people, and the academic community, which provides evidence of the situation of youth—in other words, those actors in the Magic Triangle. At the international level, the three elements of the triangle are useful for identifying the actors of the youth field: policy represents the multilateral organizations established for international cooperation among governments and the overseas development aid agencies of individual governments. Practice is composed of international nongovernmental youth organizations and various other forms of youth engagement in civil society that act internationally and can be considered as having global reach. Research includes those academics who are active in intercultural and international studies of a sociological and empirical nature on young people and youth issues worldwide. In this section, we address the work of the main multilateral organizations with youth strategies (the United Nations System, the World Bank Group, the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie and the Commonwealth) and of the development aid community; provide an overview of the very diverse international nongovernmental youth sector; and chart the action of the international youth research community.

Relations among those inhabiting each part of the Magic Triangle are both institutionalized and ad hoc in nature. This section, therefore, also deals with the institutionalized mechanisms of cooperation that have developed over time, through which these institutions and organizations interact bi- and multilaterally. In practice, relations between and among actors (policy, research, practice) have been competitive (issues of funding and institutional survival prevail) or, until recently, simply absent (governmental actors have not been especially well-known for their willingness to cooperate/consult with the nongovernmental and research sectors). Mandates play a large role in what international (especially, governmental) actors in the youth field can do and how they work. Youth policy remains largely the preserve of national governments and, therefore, “international youth policy” exists as an ideal of cooperation and mainstreaming of good practice rather than as a body of enforceable legislation. Nevertheless, awareness is growing that governments should be open to mainstreaming existing good practice and should consider the principles accepted by the largest part of the international community in preparing national youth policies. At the same time, and with increasing frequency, governments are seeking out the technical assistance of international actors (especially the institutional actors) in developing and improving their national youth policies.