Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward

Young people account for nearly one third of international migrants today. Migration is changing the world map and the face of modern society. It has enormous potential for the rapprochement of peoples, intercultural dialogue and development. However, it raises immense challenges in terms of exclusion, poverty, exploitation and discrimination.

  In order to unleash potential of young people, we must consider them to be key partners...      

Irina Bokova
UNESCO Director-General
International Youth Day 2013

It is vital to improve knowledge of such migration in order to design public policies that are more appropriate and more efficient. Social science research is of the utmost importance. It has revealed striking changes in migration flows in the last 20 years, with the number of migrants, particularly women and young people, on the rise. International Youth Day, with youth migration as its keynote, coincides with the launch of the World Youth Report on that theme, which gives unique insights into young migrants’ impact on the future of nations.

In order to unleash potential of young people, we must consider them to be key partners in the formulation and implementation of youth policies. New tools have increased our methods of consultation, participation and dialogue: let us use them! The National Conference on Youth Migration and Development, held in Chennai, India, with UNESCO’s support, is an example of a forum for exchange, enabling young people and researchers to share their experiences, as at similar forums held this year in Samoa on youth employment, in the Russian Federation on intercultural dialogue and in Kyrgyzstan on young female migrants. Therefore, I am pleased to announce that the eighth UNESCO Youth Forum will be held at the Organization's Headquarters in Paris from 29 to 31 October 2013. Everywhere, young people are standing up for their rights: one such example is the young Malala Yousafzai, who has fought for girls’ education. Let us give them the means to be heard!

The intensity of migratory movements in a globalized and interconnected world calls for stronger cooperation and solidarity among States. It also calls for greater access, within societies, to quality education, democratic participation and intercultural skills that help people to live together, especially in cities, where more than half of the world’s population lives.

Owing to their rejection of poverty, the hazards of global warming and the desire to live a life of dignity and to enforce their rights, millions of young people wish to build a better future for themselves by crossing borders. On this Day, I call on all of UNESCO’s partners and all Member States to work together to convert this great energy into a force and an asset for peace, respect for the rights of the individual and development.

What do we mean by "youth"?

When carrying out its Youth Strategy, UNESCO uses different definitions of youth depending on the context.

For activities at the international or regional level, UNESCO uses the United Nations’ universal definition which defines “youth” as persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years. This is to ensure statistical consistency across regions.

For activities at the national level, for example when implementing a local community youth programme, “youth” may be understood in a more flexible manner. UNESCO will then adopt the definition of “youth” as used by a particular Member State.

Why Youth and Migration?

Young people are recognized as one of the most mobile social groups in the context of migration – they form about 30% of international migrants! Yet very little is known about the livelihood struggles and opportunities that migration presents for young migrants and other youth who are affected by migration. We need to raise awareness about the situation of these young people and the role of youth-led organizations in addressing migration issues!

World Atlas of Youth Policies

Zoom in on the map to look at youth policies worldwide

This mapping of Youth Policies has been undertaken by the International Institute for Educational Planning in collaboration with the UNESCO Youth-led Social Innovation Team.

Join the celebration

  • Educational radio or TV show. Contact popular local/national radio stations to request a slot to have a discussion with distinguished individuals and youth migrants.

  • Organize a public meeting or debate to discuss the risks and benefits of youth migration.

  • Organize a Google+ Hangout to bring together young people and relevant stakeholders to discuss experiences of youth migration.

  • Organize a concert on youth migration and development to promote International Youth Day. Invite your local musicians.

  • Create an “info point” about youth migration-related issues in your town/village, at your high schools or university centers.

  • Organize an exhibition. Get permission to use a public space for an arts exhibit, which showcases the challenges of young migrants today or how young migrants including returnees are contributing to development at home and abroad.

  • Write to your Minister of Youth to inform him/her about the challenges young migrants and young people face in their daily lives and to suggest solutions.

  • Tell us! What are your recommendations for how the United Nations can better partner and work with young people: youth(at)