By Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin
A social media revolution is unfolding before our eyes, forever changing the way we connect. I see this whenever I travel; the young boys of Lagos preoccupied with their cell phones; a young girl tweeting from a health-care clinic in Bogota; a young Liberian nurse taking notes on an iPad. I also see how my own children connect with friends on Facebook.
At the same time, we are living in a world faced with huge social challenges. Last year, the world reached a historic milestone with seven billion people, 1.8 billion of which are youths aged 10 to 24. And of this young population, 90 per cent live in developing countries. This generation, the most interconnected generation ever, continues to grow rapidly and the challenges they face are ever more daunting. About half of all young people survive on less than two dollars a day. More than 100 million adolescents do not attend school. Every year, 16 million adolescent girls become mothers. Almost 40 per cent of the 6,800 new HIV infections each day are among young people. And every three seconds, another girl is forced or coerced to marry.
All this, and I cannot help but be optimistic when I see the commitment of young people around the world. Over the next decade and beyond, if we are to solve the most pressing issues of our time, we need to tap into the dynamism of youth movements and young social entrepreneurs, for they have the potential to disrupt inertia and be the most creative forces for social change. We need to ask ourselves: how can we – UN Agencies, governments, the private sector, NGOs, academia – empower the youth to drive social progress in the developing world through new and innovative projects?