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With the global economic crisis and one out of two young people being out of work in some parts of Europe, the challenges faced by youth have increasingly come to attention of the international community. To achieve social inclusion for young people – or to help them find a place in society where they can contribute in line with their chosen career paths and strongest talents – has become of the foremost global challenges of the 21st Century.
This is why the United Nations, together with national partners all over the world, is investing heavily into the future of the younger generation. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has in fact declared that offering more opportunities for young people should be of the key tasks of the United Nations. In a document stating the top five priorities of his second term, he sets out the necessity to
“Address the needs of the largest generation of young people the world has ever known
by deepening the youth focus of existing programmes on employent, entrepreneurship, political inclusion, citizenship and protection of rights, and education, including on reproductive health. To help advance this agenda, the UN system will develop and implement an action plan, create a youth volunteer programme under the umbrella of the UN Volunteers and appoint a new Special Adviser for Youth.”
In Uzbekistan, where the UN is celebrating its 20th anniversary of working with the government this year, many of Ban Ki-moon’s suggested areas of working with young people are already well developed. On the topic of reproductive health for example, the Y-Peer programme has mobilised hundreds of young volunteers who in turn have reached thousands of their friends. In terms of education and employability, students were given the chance to work with the UN in the digitalisation of geographic information on the ancient city of Bukhara, gaining valuable professional experiences in the process. The UN has also been supporting training for young journalists, helping them to carry the voice of youth more effectively in their media careers.
Young volunteers, both local and international, are already involved in different United Nations projects. Finally, the UN is also encouraging a more active participation of young people in their communities by working with Mahallas throughout the country. All these programmes, as different as they may be, share one common underlying motivation: to help young people find their place in society so they can become a positive force in the development of their country.
There is one area in particular in which Uzbekistan is playing a pioneering role, acting as a trendsetter for the entire region of Central Asia. This is the provision of opportunities for young people to get involved in social innovation. It is no secret that young people, full of energy and enthusiasm, harbour a great potential for creativity. The youthful eye may see solutions where the elder generation has already given up, by relying on new digital technologies for example.
When youth direct their passion and capacity for innovation into social projects, everybody gains: the communities in which new solutions to existing challenges are tried out, young people themselves by gaining new experiences and being acknowledged for their activism, and the United Nations by being able to rely on youthful insights and enthusiasm. Young people have many challenges to overcome on their way into adulthood, but also have a lot to give. The United Nations in Uzbekistan is helping to make sure that by involving the younger generation in its development work, their challenges will become smaller but their contribution to the country even bigger.