Global growth and poverty reduction over the next 20 years will be driven by today's young people.
Youth have fresh ideas; they come up with different points of view, with simple solutions to what we sometimes see as complicated problems.
Many of them are not having the opportunity to put their ideas to the test.
Many in this group are having serious problems obtaining productive employment. Globally, about 600 million young people – 45% of all youth – are not employed or not engaged in education or training. Most live in developing countries where opportunities for work are scarce.
There is real danger of a lost generation of discouraged youth. A recent ILO study identified a strong correlation between youth unemployment and violence in Latin America. Unemployment and underemployment while young leads to lower lifetime income, drives young people out of the labor force, and can lead to crime, violence and social unrest.
The development of our countries will depend greatly on what we invest today in youth.
An early start
I worked for the first time when I was 15 years old. I was a young entrepreneur, teaching private math classes, pre-ballet classes to children. I did translations and freelanced as a tourist guide in Bogotá, Colombia. I combined work with school, in a moment when it was not common for a young girl to be working.
I was lucky. My parents, and the education system I grew up in, supported my dreams.
But most young people in Latin America are not that lucky. Throughout my time in Plan, I´ve talked to young men and women who are desperately trying to make a difference, to break out of the poverty cycle and study, get a decent job to support themselves and their families. I´ve seen many succeed with Plan International's support, and become entrepreneurs. All they needed was a little push,
Taking a stand
That is why we are participating in the World Bank discussion taking place in Lima, Peru. We will comment on how youth, civil society, governments, and the private sector can join together to advance youth employment in a sustainable, effective and inclusive manner. Young people from El Salvador, Brazil, and Peru will be part of our panel that will be moderated by Glenda Umaña, a former CNN journalist.
Although we might not have the final solution, we do know that youth, governments, private sector and civil society will need to work together to achieve decent employment, and entrepreneurship solutions, for young people – and this can't wait any longer.