Empowering Youth in Asia and the Pacific


 Young people across Thailand are speaking out about corruption. Photo: Alex Conesa-Pietscheck, UNDP BRH

In response to the worldwide phenomenon of young men and women calling for meaningful civic, economic, social and political participation, UNDP’s Youth Strategy 2014-2017 recognizes the involvement of young men and women in participatory decision-making and development processes as vital to achieving sustainable human development. Identifying development challenges and issues facing youth today, the strategy offers recommendations for strategic entry points and engagement of a broad range of partners in addressing youth empowerment.

UNDP has been providing extensive support to national policy development and implementation in the five regions, through the provision of evidence-based policy guidance and programmatic support and by promoting active participation of youth, including the most marginalized and vulnerable in all spheres of society.

UNDP supports the capacity development of young people and youth-led organizations, and the development of youth caucuses in government, parliament and other bodies. We engage with relevant stakeholders through outreach, advocacy, thought leadership, global networks, and policy debates, in particular in the context of the post-2015 development agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. We also support the mainstreaming of youth issues in development planning and inter-ministerial and inter-sectorial coordination.

In July 2016, UNDP launched its first Youth Global Programme for Sustainable Development and Peace – Youth-GPS (2016-2020), a 5-year global programmatic offer on youth empowerment.

Young people in Asia and the Pacific


According to the Regional Human Development Report published in 2016, more than half of the world’s young people live in Asia and the Pacific.  It is a region facing up to the challenges of extreme poverty and climate change, but brimming with economic dynamism and a youthful workforce. What’s more, nearly a billion people in Asia are below the age of 15, particularly in South Asia and Southeast Asia. This means that by 2050, it is projected that the region will have more work­ing-age people, and fewer older and younger dependents than at any point in its history. This ‘youth bulge’ offers the region a unique opportunity to lift millions more out of poverty and ultimately close the gap with the developed world.

While the region has witnessed enormous progress in recent years, studies show that youth continue to face challenges, from the inequitable provisions of services and employment opportunities, to social and political exclusion, and persistent gaps in gender equality. Many countries are now confronting complex and interconnected challenges, such as the ageing process, growing youth populations, poor labour markets, climate change and rapid rates of urbanization, all of which are placing enormous pressure on the next generation.

In response, governments and international organisations, private sector and civil society organisations are increasingly introducing initiatives that harness the transformative energy of youth through social entrepreneurship and innovation.

UNDP in Asia and the Pacific, prioritizing youth participation in the implementation, monitoring and reporting of the Sustainable Development Goals, is approaching these challenges through three core areas, in line with the corporate UNDP Youth Strategy: (i) enhanced economic empowerment; (ii) enhanced civic engagement and political participation; and (iii) strengthened engagement in disaster preparedness, crisis response, and resilience building in crisis/conflict context. 

Success Stories

MOU signing ceremony in Hong Kong, Sep 29, 2016.
UNDP, Baoshang Bank to foster entrepreneurship and innovation among youth

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the China-based Baoshang Bank today announced a new partnership to fund and nurture entrepreneurship and innovation among youth in Asia and the Pacific. The partnership sees youth as a major driver for sustainable development in the region, and will seek to empower youth to overcome key barriers to participation in economic, civic and political life in their communities.more 

Young advocates join UN agencies to make ‘Case for Space’ in Asia-Pacific

Jointly hosted by a number of leading UN agencies and civil society organisations, the forum, #Case4Space: Youth at the Heart of the SDGs, saw vibrant discussions on the trend of shrinking “civic space” both online and offline in the region, poor rates of parliamentary representation for youth, and the lack of voice in society that undermines the commonly voiced notion of young people as the “leaders of tomorrow.”more 

Four Lessons for Startups from the Social Good Summit in Dili

Harnessing the power of communication technology, the main hub in Dili connected to three rural districts to ensure participation from youth in remote locations and was broadcast live on prime-time TV. more 

A mile in Maiya's shoes

A shoe-making enterprise started with training and support from UNDP’s MEDEP has not just enabled a mother of two to help pull her family back on its feet after the earthquake, but also changed the dynamics within their home—for the better more 

#WeAre2030: Youth Champions in Asia and the Pacific

Claudio Providas

Claudio is the UNDP Timor-Leste Country Director. He got his start in the United Nations as a UN Volunteer 25 years ago and is passionate about entrepreneurship as a means for young people to gain skills and experience. Read more.  

Fadhil BM

Fadhil Bakeer Markar is the communications focal point for the UNDP Country Office in Sri Lanka. He is also a staunch advocate for young people living and working in Sri Lanka. From TEDx Talks to advocacy initiatives, Fadhil has done it all! Read more.


Haoran Zheng is currently working on innovation with a focus on young people in China. She is passionate about human development and believes we all have a role to play in the empowerment of young people. Read more.


Evidence-Based Policy Workshop_2017

Government officials, youth development practitioners and youth leaders representing 17 Asian countries shared their experiences about evidence-based approaches of their youth development policies and programming.

Many participants have recognized young people and evidence-based youth policies as “essential components” of their nations’ development, and called for recognition and investment by Asian leaders. Learn more.


More than 40 young peacebuilders, from 20 countries, gathered in Bangkok to craft recommendations for sustaining peace in Asia and the Pacific.

The participants, some of the region’s most driven peace advocates, were brought together as part of a series of regional consultations for the United Nations Secretary General’s Progress Study on UN Security Council Resolution (SCR) 2250. The Asia-Pacific United Nations Interagency Network on Youth convened the meeting by gathering young activists, government representatives and peacebuilding practitioners on Youth, Peace and Security. Learn more.

UNDP_Sri Lanka_Youth_Voice

The #Case4Space photo competition, 15 March – 5 May, is aimed at raising awareness and advocating for civic space in Asia-Pacific through photography. Lasting for 8 weeks, the competition will release a weekly question that relates to one of the Case for Space themes. The top 25 photos with the most likes (wows, and/or hearts) will be judged by a panel of independent artists, development professionals and UN staff. From the top 25 photos, ten will be selected for printing and display at the "Evidence-based Policies on Youth Development in Asia" workshop taking place on 29 May-1 June in Bangkok, Thailand. The photographer with the top photo will be win a fully funded trip to present their work to the workshop participants. Learn more.

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