Empowering Youth in Asia and the Pacific


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

Today, the world is home to 1.8 billion young people, the largest generation of youth in history. Over half of them live in the Asia-Pacific region. Young people are more interconnected than ever before, and many are leading political, social and economic change in their communities and societies around the world. The 2018 UN Youth Strategy recognizes that young people are positive agents of change, and that they represent an immense and valuable potential that governments and institutions should nurture and invest in. At the same time, it recognizes that young people are facing great challenges and risks, disproportionately carried by girls and young women in many parts of the world.  

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, particularly 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.  


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 aging 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: (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

Strategies & Reports

  • Youth Entrepreneurship and Financial Inclusion

    This working paper provides an overview of youth entrepreneurship and access to finance in South and Southeast Asia – with a specific focus on the developing economies of Cambodia, Myanmar, and Lao PDR – and offers more in-depth insights into barriers to finance and financial service usage for youth. more 

  • Youth Volunteerism and Skills Development for Economic Empowerment in the Asia-Pacific Region

    This Issue Brief explores to what extent youth volunteerism contributes to the economic empowerment of young people in Asia and the Pacific, due to the skills which may have been developed during volunteering. It is a result of a desk study on volunteering and youth unemployment and underemployment throughout the region. more 



Asia-Pacific Forum on Youth

The Asia-Pacific Forum on Youth was held in Beijing on 1-3 August 2018. The event was co-organized by China Youth Daily, China Youth Center for International Exchange, and KAB National Promotion Office, and brought together 300 national and international participants from more than 30 countries including government officials, UN representatives, incubators and enterprises, researchers and young entrepreneurs to take action on the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda.  

“2030 Agenda is not just the product of lengthy discussions among policy experts and diplomats sitting in meeting rooms of New York,” said Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, during her keynote speech. “Young people played an important role in shaping this agenda. They are and will be the main torchbearers for its implementation.” more >

Group Picture Youth CoLab Winners

Youth Co:Lab Summit

The Youth Co:Lab Summit, which took place in Bangkok on 26-28 March 2018, brought together the young winners from the innovation challenges that took place in the 2017-2018 Youth Co:Lab National Dialogues, as well as representatives from government, private sector and the social entrepreneurship community. It laid the groundwork for longer-term regional engagement by UNDP and other partners to empower youth on social innovation and entrepreneurship, and help create an enabling environment for young people to have meaningful and sustained engagement with the SDGs. more >

Young Human Rights Defenders Summit

The Young Human Rights Defenders Summit took place on 6-8 December 2017 at UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub, during the week of International Human Rights Day. It was the culmination of a two-month long campaign to show solidarity with young human rights activists, led by Amnesty International, Action Aid and UNDP under the Case4Space initiative. Twenty-five young human rights defenders from the region were invited to participate in the Summit, which consisted of three full days of capacity building sessions on campaigning, security, action planning and other issues relevant to the work of activists within the context of shrinking civic space. Ayesha*, one of the participants, who lives as a refugee in Thailand, said about the event: “I feel like I am not alone. There’s many other people in the region who are doing similar things, even though I didn’t know about them before. I hope we keep in contact.”
To find out more, visit Case4Space or Young Human Rights Defenders.  

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