This month, USAID released its first policy ever to focus on youth and development. The policy titled, “Youth in Development: Realizing the Demographic Opportunity,” provides guidance on pursuing innovative and cost-effective approaches to empowering youth to contribute to and benefit from their countries’ development efforts. The policy focuses on an integrated approach to youth development highlighting young people’s multifaceted needs in the areas of education, economic inequality, health disparity, and political unrest.

The goal of the policy is to “Improve the capacities and enable the aspirations of youth so that they can contribute to and benefit from more stable, democratic, and prosperous communities and nations.” The main objectives outlined are (1) to “strengthen youth programming, participation and partnership in support of Agency development objectives,” and (2)   to “mainstream and integrate youth issues and engage young people across Agency initiatives and operations.” In reaching these goals and objectives, USAID expects to achieve the following outcomes:

  1. Youth are better able to access economic and social opportunities; share in economic growth; live healthy lives; and contribute to household, community, and national well-being.
  2. Youth fully participate in democratic and development processes; play active roles in peace building and civil society; and are less involved in youth gangs, criminal networks, and insurgent organizations.
  3. Youth have a stronger voice in, and are better served by, local and national institutions with more robust and youth-friendly policies.

The policy also provides a conceptual framework for youth in development and includes guiding principles for achieving the policy’s outcomes and objectives. The conceptual framework includes four elements: (1) support, (2) protect, (3) prepare, and (4) engage. The policy’s guiding principles are outlined as follows:

  • Recognize that youth participation is vital for effective programs
  • Invest in assets that build youth resilience
  • Account for youth differences and commonalities
  • Create second chance opportunities
  • Involve and support mentors, families, and communities
  • Pursue gender equality
  • Embrace innovation and technology by and for youth

As stated by USAID, the new policy “is a critical step towards a fresh approach to development, one that proactively ensures youth can fulfill their dreams for prosperity, freedom, and justice.”