Youth rights are human rights

Transitions to adulthood are being prolonged or blocked. Especially in times of mass unemployment, and where marriage or home-ownership is out of reach, youth is experienced as a kind of “wait-hood”.

This causes loss of skills and social hope, and greater risk of conflict. But inclusion is not just a means of stability – it is above all a social goal for individuals and communities.

To end poverty is to achieve radical, peaceful, social change. We have a theory of change based on three pillars:

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Empowerment - from individual to collective

  • Youth participation can be integrated throughout a project cycle – whether that project is an event, action, or longer term (“programme”) intervention
  • Involving youth representatives in Reflect!on - Act!on processes and accountability committees at community level
  • Using social media to connect young people and play to their strengths

Solidarity – a human response to a common cause

  • Uniting across generations and other social groups to strengthen movements for change
  • Recognising and defending shared interests – including youth rights

Campaigning – from a one day demonstration, to years of preparation

  • Harnessing people power through organisation, mobilisation and communication around simple, clear and measurable demands
  • Policy dialogue (advocacy) with government and other powerful actors – based on compelling arguments, data - and the practical alternatives of young people
  • The three multi-country campaigns in 2013 and 2014 are Land Grabs; Tax Justice and Safe Cities

For us, “Youth” is a short word for a diverse category. Our definition of youth focuses first on the socio-political identity of young people who are seeking the rights and independence that adulthood should bring. The term ‘youth’ is therefore contested by its very nature, and definitions vary across the world. We use 15-30 as a guide only.

When Activistas in Senegal are running campaigns against land grabbing, they do it as a coalition of youth from directly affected rural communities and youth living in urban areas, recognising that they too are suffering from this practice.

The grabbed land is being used to produce biofuels for European consumers and industries. In turn, Activistas in the UK, Denmark and Greece are campaigning against these practices by raising awareness, and lobbying national and EU parliamentarians.

Søren Warburg, Activista Coordinator

Our inclusive theory of change

As with all our work, ActionAid’s partnership with youth will follow a human rights-based approach (HRBA):

  1. We put rights holders first and ensure participation of rights holders… youth participation
  2. We analyse and confront unequal power… between generations
  3. We work in partnership… with credible organisations, youth NGOs and networks, and donors
  4. We are accountable and transparent… with youth stakeholders
  5. We advance women’s rights… 50% of the “youth” we work with are young women
  6. We critically reflect and learn… from lived experience and expertise, regardless of age
  7. We ensure links across levels – local, national, regional, international… policy developments, and activist social movements

Young people’s capabilities and opportunities (assets), and their needs (practical and strategic), call for unbiased enquiry and respectful dialogue. On the one hand this will take place in schools, communities, clubs and places of work; on the other –in campaigning or protest actions, advocacy, and voting for publicly accountable bodies.

Click the image below to see a larger version of our HRBA village: