Adolescents and Youth

Our world is young - adolescents and youth currently make up 1.2 billion of the global population, and this is projected to increase by 200 million by 2050. Africa’s youth population will rise to 35% of the world’s youth total in 2050, from 20% in 2017. In the Middle East and North Africa region, young people are the fastest growing segment, where some 60% of the population is under 25 years old. South Asia is home to more adolescents – around 340 million – than any other region, followed by East Asia and the Pacific with around 277 million. Never before have there been so many young people as a share of the global population, and never again is there likely to be such potential for social and economic progress.

NRC Jordan
© NRC Jordan

Today some 408 million youth aged 15-29, or 23% of the global youth population, are affected by violence and armed conflict. In times of conflict, quality education ensures that young people gain the relevant skills and competencies they need for whole-person development, for navigating the labour market and becoming actors of change in their communities. It provides a critical opportunity to build on earlier investments in education, or to provide a second chance to those who missed out on educational and social opportunities as children. 

Youth-led consultations have highlighted the difficulty of accessing quality learning, formal education and skill building opportunities as one of the most serious challenges for youth. Young people are calling for access to relevant, equitable and inclusive education opportunities that help prepare them for both life and the world of work. Ensuring multiple pathways across the education continuum (primary, secondary through to tertiary options) from adolescents onwards is vital. 

Adolescents and youth are a diverse group whose needs cut across multiple sectors. To improve access to relevant, equitable and inclusive education we must strengthen the links between sectors, humanitarian and development stakeholders and be intentional about local and youth-led partnerships.  

Key statistics:  

The INEE Minimum Standards considers youth as people between 15 and 24 years and adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19. Definitions and age ranges vary from one context to another depending on socio-cultural, institutional, economic, and political factors, with many countries defining youth up until the age of 35 years. However, “youth” is best understood as a period of transition from the dependence of childhood to adulthood’s independence, and therefore is a more fluid category than a fixed aged group.

This collection was developed with the support of Sophia Kousiakis, NRC. 

24 June 2019 Report
ActionAid International
Restless Development

Shifting Power to Young People- How Young People Can Lead and Drive Solutions in Humanitarian Action

Drawing on lessons and best practice from crises and emergencies across the world, the report emphasises that engaging young people in prevention, preparedness, response and recovery will bring better, more localised and more accountable responses. However, this report also displays how young people face particular vulnerabilities and marginalisation connected to their age and identities.

30 November 2017 Report Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE)

Youth, Peacebuilding, and the Role of Education

Thematic Paper for the Youth, Peace and Security Progress Study. This paper outlines key debates and insights on the role of education in relation to UNSCR 2250 and the youth, peace, and security (YPS) agenda. UNSCR 2250 requires the UN Secretary-General to “carry out a Progress Study on youth’s positive contribution to the peace processes and conflict resolution” and to present the results to the UN Member States.

2 January 2017 Report
International Labor Organization (ILO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Decent Jobs for Youth

Youth in Fragile Situations: Promoting Youth Employment for Peace and Resilience

More than 1.4 billion people currently live in areas affected by protracted conflicts and complex emergencies, which often extend over many years and significantly erode development gains. Under these circumstances, young people may be out of school or college and engage in jobs that are informal, unstable, underpaid, or even high-risk and harmful. 

19 September 2016 Report Women's Refugee Commission (WRC)

We Believe in Youth: Global Refugee Youth Consultations Report

We Believe in Youth details the most pressing challenges refugee youth face and their recommendations on how best to address these challenges. The report is a road map for action for all those engaged in humanitarian response—States, international organizations, international and national civil society organizations, donors, and youth groups.

1 January 2015 Report
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organziation (UNESCO), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UNESCO UIS)

Fixing the Broken Promise of Education for All: Findings from the Global Initiative on Out-of-School Children

Fixing the Broken Promise of Education for All, a report produced by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics and UNICEF, could not be more timely. As the international community renews its commitment to advance every child’s right to education, it explores why global progress has stalled since the early 2000s, when millions of additional children poured into the world’s classrooms, and provides the data and analysis needed to move forward and reach every child excluded from education.

31 December 2011 Training Material Global Education Cluster, Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE)

EiE Harmonized Training Module 17: Adolescents and Youth Programming

At the end of this session, participants will identify challenges and vulnerabilities specific to youth and adolescents in crisis situations; review good practices and specific recommendations for effective, quality programming for adolescents and youth; learn practical ways to promote meaningful participation for adolescents and youth.

1 June 2008 Manual/Handbook/Guide US Agency for International Development (USAID)

Youth Livelihoods Development Program Guide

This guide provides a practical set of suggestions and reference materials to improve youth livelihood development practices and to expand programming in this increasingly important area.

1 November 2020 Manual/Handbook/Guide Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)

With Us and For Us: Working with and for Young people in Humanitarian and Protracted Crises

These IASC guidelines provide a framework for working with and for young people throughout the humanitarian programme cycle (HPC), complete with tips, examples and case studies. In addition, humanitarian actors can use this guidance as a reference to design programmes that respond to their context