A Sudanese student writing on a chalkboard at a school in Kassala, Sudan. Photo © World Bank
This Saturday is International Youth Day 2017, a global UN holiday celebrating young people around the world. The theme of this year’s global holiday is “Youth Building Peace”, with the focus on the “contributions of youth in conflict prevention and transformation as well as inclusion, social justice, and sustainable peace”.
One of the most essential tools for young people throughout the world is a quality education. 264 million children and youth were out of school in 2015, with many of those children having been displaced due to conflict or emergency. When youth and children do not receive a quality education, they lose out on the opportunity to develop their skills and create the conditions for a better life. Missing out on an education can perpetuate cycles of poverty across generations; in fact, if all “adults completed a secondary education, the global poverty rate would be more than halved.”
The private sector can and must play a role in ensuring that children and youth learn the skills needed for a future workforce. By investing in skills development and training, business can utilize its core competencies to assist children in developing countries and communities impacted by crisis.
For business, investing in education is not just the right thing to do, it also increases their bottom line. Among the many benefits include increased economic growth, a stronger workforce, and sustainable societies. With the focus of International Youth Day 2017 on “Youth Build Peace,” equipping young people around the world with a quality education enables them to address the salient issues of today. Young people who are trained in 21st century skills such as collaboration, creative thinking, and communication can work better to address the roots of violence and extremism.
The Global Business Coalition for Education (GBC-Education) is bringing together the business community to invest in youth and children throughout the world. Pearson, in partnership with UNICEF, is reaching over 3,000 students in Myanmar and Vietnam to provide them with essential skills training. HP has committed more than $20 million to enable better learning outcomes for 100 million children by 2025.
Microsoft is bringing technology and curriculum resources to humanitarian organizations who are supporting displaced populations, helping people learn digital literacy and computer skills. Western Union is working to teach 10,000 refugees proficiency in business and entrepreneurship, in addition to reshaping the public’s image of people displaced by crisis.
Girls’ education and skills development is another focus of the Coalition. Standard Chartered is empowering girls through its Goal programme, an initiative that delivers skills training to young women throughout Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
International Youth Day is an important moment to remember that our future depends on the next generation. The time is now to make the change that we want for society; by giving young people the opportunity to push themselves to their highest potential, the international community will see a more prosperous, peaceful, and sustainable world.