Feature story

Addressing the needs of young people critical as world population reaches 7 billion, says UNFPA report

26 October 2011

The State of World Population report highlights the importance of investing in young people and addressing their needs.

Within a matter of days, the world’s population is projected to reach 7 billion. This represents both a great challenge and a great opportunity. We can achieve a healthy and sustainable future for all if we act decisively now, according to the State of World Population Report 2011, published today by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

One of the calls to action in People and possibilities in a world of 7 billion, launched in more than 100 cities worldwide, is making sure that the needs of young people are addressed more effectively and that investing in their future is given a higher priority.

At the report’s launch in London, UNFPA Executive Director Dr Babatunde Osotimehin highlighted that reaching the world’s 1.8 billion people aged 10 to 24 is critical. “Young people hold the key to the future, with the potential to transform the global political landscape and to propel economies through their creativity and capacities for innovation,” said Dr Osotimehin. “But the opportunity to realize youth’s great potential must be seized now. We should be investing in the health and education of our youth. This would yield enormous returns in economic growth and development for generations to come,” he added.

Dr Osotimehin also noted that millions of adolescents in the developing world have little or no access to sexuality education and do not have sufficient knowledge to prevent pregnancies and protect themselves against HIV.

The report, which concentrates on individuals, organisations and communities working to improve conditions for themselves and those around them, shows a number of young people who are making a real difference.

We should be investing in the health and education of our youth. This would yield enormous returns in economic growth and development for generations to come

Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director, UNFPA

In a chapter which describes youth as a “new global power reshaping the world”, Ethel Phiri is introduced as a 22-year old peer educator involved in youth outreach programmes in Mozambique. She runs bancadas femininas, discussion groups at schools, markets and other community areas around Maputo supporting young people with issues relating to sexual and reproductive health and HIV prevention.

People and possibilities in a world of 7 billion focuses on a wide range of population trends and their implications. It examines ageing populations, high rates of urbanization, poverty and inequality, environmental sustainability and rising international migration in a variety of countries with different contexts.

Although different countries are dealing with different challenges, the report maintains that the world must pull together to effect real and lasting change. “We all have a stake in the future of humanity,” stressed Dr Osotimehin. “Every individual, every government, every business, is more interconnected and interdependent than ever, so what each of us does now will matter to all of us long into the future. Together we can change and improve the world.”