Adolescents and Youth

Towards Realizing the Full Potential of Adolescents and Youth

Today's adolescents and youth are 1.8 billion strong and make up one quarter of the world's population. They are shaping social and economic development, challenging social norms and values, and building the foundation of the world's future. Maturing earlier than previous generations, both physically and socially, adolescents and youth have high expectations for themselves and their societies, and are imagining how the world can be better. Connected to each other like never before through new media and because of globalization, they are driving social progress and directly influencing the sustainability and resilience of their communities and their nations.

While notable progress has been made, many adolescents — especially girls — are denied the investments and opportunities that they need to realize their full potential. For example, 26 per cent of girls (39 million) and 17 per cent of boys of secondary school age (11-15) were not enrolled in school in 2008. About 215 million underage children work full or part-time, while 75 million older youth (15-24) cannot find work.

For millions of young people around the world, puberty — the biological onset of adolescence — brings not only changes to their bodies but also new vulnerabilities to human rights abuses, particularly in the arenas of sexuality, marriage and childbearing. Millions of girls are coerced into unwanted sex or marriage to then also face the high risk of unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV, and dangerous childbirth.

With offices in 140 countries, specialized expertise in demography and in sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, and with a strong capacity for policy advocacy, communications, and programming, UNFPA's contribution to the advancement of adolescents and youth is anchored in five strategic pillars:

  • Enable evidence-based advocacy for comprehensive policy and programme development, investment and implementation
  • Promote comprehensive sexuality education
  • Build capacity for sexual and reproductive health service delivery (including HIV prevention, treatment and care)
  • Take bold initiatives to reach marginalized and disadvantaged adolescents and youth, especially Girls
  • Promote youth leadership and participation

Publications

Fact Sheets

Multimedia

 

International Year of Youth

 

 

 

 

 

 

Initiatives and Partnerships

18 November 2014

Huge potential for economic growth requires fulfilling the promise of youth, flagship report says

UNITED NATIONS, New York – “Never before have there been so many young people – never again is there likely to be such potential for economic and social progress,” Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA’s Executive Director, said today at the launch of the agency’s flagship report, The State of World Population 2014. The vast majority of the world’s 1.8 billion young people – those between ages 10 and 24 – live in developing countries. With proper investment in their education, health, human rights and welfare, these countries could see their economies soar, the report says. more
18 November 2014

Statement of the Executive Director on The State of World Population 2014 report

Welcome to the launch of The State of World Population 2014, “The Power of 1.8 Billion: Adolescents, Youth and the Transformation of the Future.” Never before have there been so many young people. Never again is there likely to be such potential for economic and social progress.   more
18 November 2014

World’s 1.8 Billion Young Can Propel Socioeconomic Development, New UNFPA Report Shows

UNITED NATIONS, New York—Developing countries with large youth populations could see their economies soar, provided they invest heavily in young people’s education and health and protect their rights, according to The State of World Population 2014, published today by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. The potential economic gains would be realized through a “demographic dividend,” which can occur when a country’s working age population is larger than the population that is dependent and younger, the report shows. more