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Youth FAQ

Frequently asked questions

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The United Nations, for statistical purposes, defines ‘youth’, as those persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years, without prejudice to other definitions by Member States. This definition was made during preparations for the International Youth Year (1985), and endorsed by the General Assembly (see A/36/215 and resolution 36/28, 1981). All United Nations statistics on youth are based on this definition, as illustrated by the annual yearbooks of statistics published by the United Nations system on demography, education, employment and health.

By that definition, therefore, children are those persons under the age of 14. It is, however, worth noting that Article 1 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child defines ‘children’ as persons up to the age of 18. This was intentional, as it was hoped that the Convention would provide protection and rights to as large an age-group as possible and because there was no similar United Nations Convention on the Rights of Youth.

Many countries also draw a line on youth at the age at which a person is given equal treatment under the law – often referred to as the "age of majority’. This age is often 18 in many countries, and once a person passes this age, they are considered to be an adult. However, the operational definition and nuances of the term ‘youth’ often vary from country to country, depending on the specific socio-cultural, institutional, economic and political factors.

Within the category of "youth", it is also important to distinguish between teenagers (13-19) and young adults (20-24), since the sociological, psychological and health problems they face may differ.

Approximately one billion youth live in the world today. This means that approximately one person in five is between the age of 15 and 24 years, or 18% of the world’s population are "youth", and children (5-14 years) comprise of 19.8%.

As you can see from the table, it is interesting to note that despite an increase in absolute numbers, the proportion of young people in the world is actually dwindling! This means that the number of young people in the world between 1980 and 1995 has dropped as a proportion of the total population. In fact, during the 1990s, the annual growth rates among the world’s youth population have slowed down in every region of the world except Africa.

Year Youth Population Percentage of Total Global Population
1985 941 million 19.4%
1995 1.019 billion 18.0%
2025 1.222 billion 15.4%

The majority (almost 85%) of the world’s youth live in developing countries, with approximately 60 percent in Asia alone. A remaining 23 percent live in the developing regions of Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean. By 2025, the number of youth living in developing countries will grow to 89.5%. Therefore, it is necessary to take youth issues into considerations in the development agenda and policies of each country.

Despite mass urbanization, the majority of youth live in rural areas in sub-Saharan Africa, south-eastern and south-central Asia and Oceania.

  • Youth population: 525 million young men and 500 million young women
  • Youth illiteracy in the developing countries: 57 million young men and 96 million young women.

Regional distribution of youth, 2005
World Population Prospects, 2006

  Total population
Youth population
Global youth population
Asia 3,905 16.4 639 62.4
Africa 905 15.9 145 14.1
Europe 728 14.3 103 10.2
Latin America & the Caribbean 561 16.9 95 9.3
Northern America 330 12.4 41 4.0
Oceania 33 3.0 1 0.1
Total 6,465 15.8 1,024 100.0%


Certainly! The following are some examples of how the United Nations system has worked to adopt various instruments and recommendations that deal with youth rights and the protection of youth.

Contents of Conventions, Covenants, Recommendations Date
Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948
Declaration on the Promotion among Youth of the Ideals of Peace, Mutual Respect and Understanding between Peoples 1965
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966
The Convention on the Rights of the Child 1979
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women 1979
United Nations Guidelines for Further Planning and Follow-Up in the Field of Youth 1985
United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (The Beijing Rules) 1985
Declaration on the Right to Development 1986
United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty 1990
United Nations Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency (The Riyadh Guidelines) 1990
The Rio Declaration on the Environment and Development and Agenda 21 1992
The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action 1993
Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development 1994
Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action of the World Summit for Social Development 1995
World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond 1995
Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women 1995
The Habitat Agenda and The Istanbul Declaration of the Second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) 1996
Rome Declaration on World Food Security and World Food Summit Plan of Action of the World Food Summit 1996
Braga Youth Action Plan 1998
Lisbon Declaration on Youth Policies and Programmes 1998
ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work 1998
Special Session on Social Development (Copenhagen+5), Geneva 2000
Dakar Youth Empowerment Strategy 2001

As you can see above, the United Nations has adopted several Declarations and Programmes of Action at the various world conferences it held throughout the early 1990’s. Many of these make specific references to youth and the rights they should be afforded.

Among other youth-related issues, the World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyondidentifies the following ten issues that should be of the highest priority to Governments.

  1. Education
  2. Employment
  3. Hunger and poverty
  4. Health
  5. Environment
  6. Drug abuse
  7. Juvenile delinquency
  8. Leisure-time activities
  9. Girls and young women
  10. Full and effective participation of youth in the life of society and in decision-making

Five new issues were identified in the World Youth Report 2003 that have now been adopted by the General Assembly: 

  1. Globalization
  2. Information and Communication Technologies
  4. Youth and Conflict
  5. Intergenerational Relations

If you want to read more about these issues, click here.

The Library section on this website, contains the World Youth Reports, as well as UN documents in all official UN languages.

The Focal Point on Youth is unfortunately unable to offer you a job. You can find out more about gaining employment at the United Nations at the Office of Human Resource Management. From time to time the Unit accepts interns through the UN headquarters internship programme - more information can be found on our internships page.

The Focal Point on Youth on Youth is part of the United Nations Secretariat. Our main task is to assist the General Assembly in setting priorities and developing policies towards youth development. We don't have funding to assist youth organizations, nor do we have country offices to facilitate direct support.

We do work together sometimes with youth organizations in certain projects. One example is via the toolkit "Making Commitments Matter", which is drafted to encourage young people to become involved in the review of the World Programme of Action for youth (global youth policy document) by the General Assembly in 2005. You can download this toolkit for free (in English/ French/Spanish/Portuguese) from our web site.

If you wish to formalize your relationship with the United Nations, you can apply for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). International, regional and national youth and student organizations in consultative status with the UN (ECOSOC) are able to make oral statements and submit written statements on items on the agenda of ECOSOC meetings. ECOSOC is the only body of the United Nations that has a continuing mechanism to accredit NGOs a consultative status. Several United Nations Agencies make use of this list when inviting NGOs to participate in their meetings. You can read more about the procedure to request for consultative status with ECOSOC at:

If you wish to receive more news about the youth agenda of the United Nations, you can subscribe to our free information service called Youth Flash (in English only). You can subscribe via our website by visiting

To find out more about our work, please refer to our website:

The Programme on Youth does not provide funding for projects and programmes. However, there are a few opportunities for applying for funding within the United Nations System.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has a Small Grants Programme which may be of interest to some youth organisations concerned with sustainable development. Established in 1992, the year of the Rio Earth Summit, The GEF Small Grants Programme [SGP] embodies the very essence of sustainable development. By providing financial and technical support to projects in developing countries that conserve and restore the natural world while enhancing well-being and livelihoods, SGP demonstrates that community action can maintain the fine balance between human needs and environmental imperatives. SGP links global, national and local-level issues through a transparent, participatory and country-driven approach to project planning, design and implementation. Grants are made directly to non-governmental organizations [NGOs] and community-based organizations [CBOs] in recognition of the key role they play as a resource and constituency for environment and development concerns. Though SGP grants are small, their impact is large. More than 3000 projects in 63 countries have addressed adverse environmental changes and enriched the lives of tens of thousands of people, in Africa, Arab States, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean.

Youth organisations located in LDCs, with a development focus, might be interested in the United Nations Capital Development Fund, which is a UNDP partner and works to reduce poverty in Least Developed Countries through a variety of innovative approaches in both local governance and microfinance initiatives.

In addition, a number of NGOs and other organisations may be able to assist with funding:

Peace Child International (* assist with funding for many youth projects.

For youth organisations led by females, the Global Fund for Women (* supports organizations which demonstrate a clear commitment to women's equality and female human rights; show concern about the way women are viewed and view themselves in society; are governed and directed by women; consist of a group of women working together; and are based outside of the United States.

For US-based youth projects, the National 4-H Council has a Youth Grants Program* which offers grants for youth in local communities, in counties, and on the state level. These grants provide opportunities for young people and adults to take action on issues critical to their lives, their families, and their communities. Youth take the lead in the design of the project, the proposal writing process, the implementation, and the evaluation of funded projects.

There are many other organisations which support youth-related projects and initiatives. One way of finding them is by looking in search engines, such as Google.*