This post is by Katherine Ellis, Director of Youth at the Commonwealth Secretariat. In 2013, the Commonwealth launched the first-ever global Youth Development Index, which measures the status of young people in 170 countries around the world. This blog has been posted as part of the Wikiprogress discussion on “Youth well-being: measuring what matters!’
As the world deliberates on the post-2015 agenda, there has never been a more critical moment to engage young people. The inclusion of youth perspectives, and the energy, diversity and talent that young people bring, is a clear-cut imperative. Young people have an incredible amount to offer to national development processes, and, with the right support and opportunities, can be empowered to realise their full potential.
Today, almost half of the world’s population (48.9%, according to Euromonitor International) is aged under 30, and the proportion is generally much higher in developing countries. It is therefore essential that young people’s capabilities are leveraged and they are recognised as drivers of sustainable development.
At the Commonwealth, we strongly believe that the empowerment of young people is a vital and valuable investment. Through the Commonwealth Youth Programme, we have spent the past 40 years providing assistance to our 53 member governments in the creation and implementation of youth-related policies and programmes.
We provide technical assistance for the development of national youth policies, and advocate for the professionalisation of youth development work. We are also actively committed to expanding the ways in which young people can engage with decision-makers, and in facilitating the establishment of youth-led organisations and networks.
However, attempting to achieve these targets without a baseline from which to measure progress would be a futile endeavour. Accordingly, in 2013 we launched the first ever global Youth Development Index (YDI), a tool to track global progress on youth development in 170 countries.
The YDI is a composite measure that includes basic needs such as health, nutrition and adequate education, along with secondary needs such as political, economic and social participation. It was formulated to help governments, decision-makers and stakeholders identify and learn from areas of success, pinpoint priority investment areas, and track progress over time.
It gauges youth development according to 15 indicators that are grouped into five key domains: Education, Health and Well-being, Employment, Civic Participation and Political Participation. Similar to the Human Development Index, the YDI calculates a score for each country between 0–1 that indicates the national average. It then groups countries into three key categories: High youth development, Medium youth development and Low youth development.
Since its launch, the YDI has also become a basis for data advocacy, highlighting the importance of gathering national statistics on key indicators of youth development. Its findings also underscore the complex and multiple issues facing young people today, and the urgent need to create enabling youth structures and environments.
Young people will be both the heirs and the champions of the post-2015 agenda. We must commit to investing in their participation and empowerment; otherwise, we run the risk of silencing and constraining this powerful generation.
Katherine Ellis is Director of Youth at the Commonwealth Secretariat. With over 20 years in the private, public and civil society sectors with extensive expertise in youth development, organizational leadership and cross-sectoral collaboration, she is responsible for promoting the social, political and economic empowerment of young people across the 53 Commonwealth member countries.’