Today, we have the largest generation of young people the world has ever seen, with more than 40 per cent of the world’s population under the age of 25. With their dynamism and imagination, young people can transform the social and economic fortunes of developed and developing countries alike. With more than 12 per cent of all 15- to 24-year-olds migrating across borders today, this year’s International Youth Day focuses on how young migrants move development forward.
The face of migration today is a feminine face, and it’s a young person’s face. Young migrants typically see leaving their homes as a chance for new opportunities, greater freedom from traditions and norms, and the possibility of affirming their own identities. Through migration, adolescents and young people contribute significantly to both their countries of origin and their destinations, and their potential to build social, economic and cultural bridges of cooperation and understanding across societies is immense.
However, the journey may be strewn with risks, hardships and disappointments, and young migrants can find themselves in vulnerable situations. In an unfamiliar environment, lacking social supports, some end up dropping out of school or do not access health and social services because of high costs or language or cultural barriers. Others may be afraid to seek health-care information and services because of fear of deportation. Of particular concern are young women and girls who are exposed to gender-based violence, fall prey to traffickers or are forced into child marriage, unwanted pregnancy and other forms of exploitation.
In order to achieve their full potential and contribute to social and economic development, young migrants need access to education, decent work, and health services, including reproductive health services. UNFPA works with its partners to ensure that young people have the highest possible level of health by enabling them to exercise their right to make free and responsible choices on matters related to their sexual and reproductive health. This includes ensuring their access to sexual and reproductive health information and services, including family planning and age-appropiate comprehensive sexuality education, so that they can make informed choices and exercise their reproductive rights free from coercion, discrimination and violence.
UNFPA, as co-chair of the United Nations Inter Agency Network on Youth Development, works with all partners to find innovative ways to assist countries in securing the health, development and human rights of young people, including young migrants. The network has developed a bold action plan to work with and for young people and has called for increased investments in young people. This is a moral obligation and a social, economic and political necessity. We are committed to delivering a world where every young person’s potential is fulfilled – where their human rights are respected and their diversity is celebrated.
Despite their numbers, young migrants are largely invisible in debates and policies on international migration. To maximize the potential development benefits of migration, it is essential to include youth in the migration and development discourse.
With our collective efforts and resources, including those of young people and migrants themselves, we can create just and healthy lives for all young people and for generations to come.