Looking at the 2019 UN Youth Report: Obstacles, Opportunities, Answers

Looking at the 2019 UN Youth Report: Obstacles, Opportunities, Answers

In February, Australia’s youth representative to the United Nations, Kareem El-Ansary, released the 2019 UN Youth Report report detailing consultation with 7,000 young people across the country, asking: What will our future look like if young people are heard today?

What is clear, is that while young people represent a diverse, complex, and rapidly changing demographic cohort, there is increasing consensus around their concerns, challenges, and priorities. 

The report renews focus on the degree to which young people want to have a say, and updates the conversation to today’s context, while its findings join hand-in-hand with the work of hundreds of individuals and organisations across Australia.

The foremost priority for young people engaged by El-Ansary’s Listening Tour was the issue of education and its relevance to the lives of young people today, not only in its capacity to skill and prepare young people to find meaningful employment in a changing economy, but also to navigate the increasing complexity of 21st century living.  

This is deeply aligned with the National Youth Commission Australia’s emerging findings. Mired by inequity in funding models, outdated curricula, and insufficient or ineffective pastoral programming, Australian schools are failing to deliver for young Australians, particularly in regional and remote areas.

In fact, all of the priority areas raised by the report, climate insecurity, mental health, discrimination and bullying, domestic violence, gender equality, drugs and alcohol, employment, healthcare, and housing, have been echoed at hearings for the National Youth Commission Australia’s Inquiry into Youth Employment and Transitions. 

What does this mean in the COVID-19 context?

It’s important to note that these complex problems are all amplified by the current COVID-19 crisis and global recession. In our planning and response for both the immediate and the long-term effects of the current crisis, it is critical that we address the pre-existing issues highlighted by El-Ansary’s report and the National Youth Commission Australia’s findings alike. 

It is now clearer than ever that youth employment and transitions invoke a web of interdependent social, cultural, economic, and political hurdles. Indeed, as El-Ansary surmises,

“[f]or the first time since World War II, our generation may well be worse off than the one that came before, with challenges like social media, economic instability, uncertain employment and housing markets and a rapidly changing climate […]”.

This prediction is swiftly becoming a reality. Last week tax expert Professor Robert Breunig (ANU) said it is inevitable that young Australians will bear the majority of the cost of COVID-19 stimulus and support packages, while simultaneously “enduring a drop in their future incomes.”

Where to from here?

Critically, El-Ansary’s report not only identifies the challenges that young people face, but highlights their hope and potential in overcoming these hurdles. The Australian community will need to work together, and from the ground up, if it is to weather the immense challenges that resonate across industries, governments, locations, and identities. The National Youth Commission Australia will consider the recommendations proposed by El-Ansary as further evidence in its Inquiry into Youth Employment and Transitions.

While the National Youth Commission Australia has and will continue to engage with expertise and lived experience across the country, due to COVID-19 the focus in the coming months will be to bring experts and young people together virtually to work through some of the most complex aspects of employment, education and transitions. Follow the National Youth Commission Australia to find out about upcoming opportunities to bring your ideas into action and work for a better future for young people everywhere.