Young people are at the heart of today’s great strategic opportunities and challenges, from the global economy to the environment. Over 60 percent of the world’s population is under the age of 30. Ninety percent of them live in the developing world. And the numbers continue to grow. There is no shortage of challenges facing today’s youth, and finding a good job is a top priority. Today’s young people’s unemployment rate stands at 12.7 percent.
Many are finding, even with high school, college, and often with graduate degrees, they may not have the skills that the global marketplace is seeking. There is an opportunity gap, in a way.
Many young people find themselves on their own. I believe we must not allow this to become a recipe for frustration or even for future instability. And I want to speak for a moment about young women in particular, who often confront unique constraints. In too many places in the world there are still laws, regulations, and customs make it harder for women to start a business, run for office, or even make personal decisions.
Yet while the challenges are daunting, it would be a mistake to view youth only through this lens. As all of you here today demonstrate, youth possess powerful voices for change. I recently heard an official say that the youth demographic will be a dividend if we empower our young, but it will be a disaster if we fail to put in place a policy and framework where they can be empowered.
The United States is firmly committed to empowering young people all over the world and to ensuring that youth have opportunities for the bright future that they deserve. In every region of the world, United States Embassies are creating Youth Councils to convene and give voice to diverse cross-sections of local young people to discuss potential solutions to our shared challenges.
With nearly 40 such groups established thus far, the councils provide a forum for youth to engage in honest dialogue. Those who participate offer input on U.S. approaches to policy matters and embassy-run programs, and seek ways in which the Embassy can assist young people through its work. Embassies also work with these dynamic young people, through direct support and through training, mentorship, and linkages to outside opportunities, to make solutions a reality.
Projects designed and implemented by youth include community development projects, professional skills-building workshops, and social media campaigns calling for greater transparency and accountability in government. I strongly encourage all of you to get involved with these Councils or explore other ways to form partnerships with United States embassies and consulates, and of course with each other, if you haven’t already done so.
We are also working to facilitate job creation and entrepreneurship opportunities for youth in partnership with private sector partners through efforts like the Global Entrepreneurship Program and Partners for a New Beginning. In addition, we are working to create opportunities for young people, and particularly young women, to pursue careers in science and technology through programs like TechGirls and NeXXt Scholars. These are just a few of the many initiatives that we have under way to support youth around the world.
But first and foremost, you must not underestimate the significant power that resides in your own hands to bring change to your communities, countries, and the world. By becoming active in your local area, you can make concrete and profound differences. As Gandhi said, you must be the change you want to see in the world.
So to all of you here today, thank you for your leadership and for being a big part of making lives better for young people around the world. We look forward to hearing about what you and your peers will continue to do in the years to come, and we look forward to working with you to achieve our collective goals. Good luck at the conference, and I very much look forward to learning about the outcome. All the best to each and every one of you.