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Formulate national youth policies

Many countries have established youth policies, using the World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond as a guide. In this process, it is imperative to note that the WPAY mentions that governments and youth organizations should promote an “active and visible policy of mainstreaming a gender perspective in all policies and programmes”. In the process of formulating any youth policy, specifically a national plan, governments and other stakeholders may consider the following guidelines:

1. Participation for an inclusive process: involve and empower all stakeholders right from the beginning in the design, implementation and evaluation of youth policy. The participation of youth, NGOs, all related government departments and levels, as well as United Nations agencies can contribute to the success of the policy. The participation of these actors facilitates the creation of a policy that best fits the needs and capacities of youth as a distinct population group, and helps to foster support and understanding of the policy objectives, which are necessary for the implementation.

2. Know the situation and conduct a needs analysis: make profiles of the development situation of young people in your country. The priority areas for youth development contained in the WPAY could serve as a means for organizing this analysis. As the design of youth policy should aim at ensuring the full enjoyment by young people of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, these principles should also inform the analysis of the situation of youth. To sketch an accurate picture of the situation to influence youth policy, it is vital to open a meaningful dialogue with youth on the questions that affect their lives, from the initial planning stages of policy through monitoring and evaluation. In conducting a needs analysis, it is important to make distinctions according to age, sex, rural/urban, education level and family income to identify the most vulnerable groups and to set priorities accordingly. Frequently, data on funding and spending is divided into the two categories of children and adults; tracking the financial resources devoted specifically to youth can improve the impact of the investment.

3. Define vulnerable groups: as part of the needs assessment and situation analysis, determine what groups of youth live in vulnerable situations created by either current circumstances, political conditions or long histories of social exclusion and discrimination. The WPAY and international standards of human rights apply to all people equally, but to meaningfully commit to this principle, policy makers should determine if there are youth who are invisible to existing services or whose needs are not reflected in the national youth policy itself. In some cases, ignoring these groups can impede national economic growth in the long run. Capturing the situation of vulnerable youth can sometimes require expanded data collection.

4. Understand your resources: know what you have and what you need to invest in youth by making a profile of the available and the needed resources in the country that are specific to youth. Resources may include policies, programmes and financial means of the government, NGOs, youth organizations and private initiatives, as well as existing networks, expertise and legal frameworks. Resources also describe the time and energy of different institutions and branches of government devoted to youth. Defining resources also involves examining less tangible elements such as factors which hinder access to services such as poor information, unaffordability, and the trust between youth and service providers. Above all, resources are determined by budgetary allocation. It is necessary to compare the actual needs of young people to the stock of available resources and to make sure costs of policy are taken into account in local and national budgets.

5. Establish a budget allocated for implementation of youth policy: even though youth policy is a cross-sectoral development field that requires action within several departments, ministries and agencies, it is central that the established lead agency have a specific budget for youth policy implementation that can distributed by responsible actors. Failing in this role may lead to a loss of motivation from all the actors, including youth groups, involved in designing and drafting the vision of the youth policy.

6. Learn from past experience: study past successes and failures. Knowledge of what works should be documented and a repository of good practices established; good practices are ways of doing things that have proven effective in one situation and may have applicability in another. Many governments have developed successful policies and run a variety of youth development projects. This research and expertise should be made available to all parts of government. The exchange of experiences can reach beyond the scope of government and may also include civil society and youth organizations.

7. Develop a clear vision to implement youth policy: develop a national action plan based on the needs of youth and the available budget. The national plan or youth policy should be known and understood on the national and local levels to create the necessary political and societal commitment. National policies and programmes may need to be translated to the regional and/or local level, and directed to the specific needs of youth in that area. Establishing and maintaining communication channels improves relationships with beneficiaries and with those who are implementing the policy. These channels can facilitate dissemination of information, but they also exist as a two-way street; experiences from ‘the field’ can enrich a government’s understanding of the situation of youth. Political commitment is also necessary to successfully adopt and enact a national youth policy. Advocacy and outreach are necessary to inform citizens of new programmes and of existing legislation that affect their well-being.

8. Create an institutional structure conducive to implementation of youth policy: establish a lead agency (or focal points in different government ministries) as part of an effective structure to coordinate youth policies. Youth development implies a cross-sectoral approach. A lead agency creates coherence between implemented policies and programmes and ensures coordination between departments and ministries; for example, some programmes may require the collaboration of the ministries of justice, education, and labour. The agency can be a ministry or a department within a ministry with an aim of coordinating the activities on youth matters in order to secure the effective integration of youth policy into national development planning.

9. Engage in partnerships for action: though most youth-oriented policies are led by governments, their design, implementation and evaluation are all dependent on the participation of other stakeholders, chiefly: youth, civil society, the private sector, parents, and sometimes UN agencies and donors, and the international community. Cooperation, institutional support and partnerships contribute to forming more solid investments in youth. Partnerships should be guided by the goal of promoting youth themselves as valuable assets and effective partners. See Part II for more information on partnerships.

10. Increase knowledge and design better programmes through monitoring and evaluation: redefine goals and objectives according to new trends and needs in young people’s lives and according to the achievements and shortcomings of existing programmes. Monitoring may be defined as the routine tracking of priority information about a programme and its intended outcomes, while evaluation is the set of activities designed to determine a programme’s effect or value. Youth can benefit from participating in these exercises. Specific questions related to the needs and aspirations of youth should be included in population censuses or national surveys. In addition, qualitative indicators concerning perceptions, attitudes and aspirations could be developed through special surveys and studies.

Additional Resources

For more information on the design, implementation and evaluation of national youth policy, please refer to: