Youth – Asia’s Prized Asset for Change

By Chris Morris

Around 60% of the world’s youth ―or about 700 million young people― live in Asia and this huge demographic group will ultimately determine the future of our region.

How we nurture this precious asset is of crucial concern to ADB and our management clearly recognizes this.

At ADB’s first “Youth Debate” at the 44th Annual Meeting, in Hanoi in 2010, Vice President for Knowledge Management, Ursula Schaefer-Preuss, stressed the significance of young people as an economic resource to the region.

This message was reiterated at the last Annual Meeting in Delhi by newly appointed President Takehiko Nakao who highlighted the economic importance of youth, and the need to incorporate their views in shaping the future development agenda.

One area where we have been working hard to engage youth is in the water sector. Since March 2013, ADB has directly engaged more than 1,500 young leaders from more than 20 different member countries in its water youth empowerment activities. Working with young people in this sector is vital because they are disproportionately affected by many of the water challenges facing our region. Unleashing their energy, innovation and leadership can help the region protect, and sustainably optimize, its rich water resources.

There’ve been lots of achievements already in the sector. We’ve seen the establishment of youth water groups and the preparation of proposals for young people to lead water operations. ADB is also supporting young Asians to be key players in the 7th World Water Forum in the Republic of Korea in 2015, and it has helped increase financing opportunities for young Filipinos. Globally, ADB is now seen as a leader in supporting young people engaged in water-related work.  

On a broader front, ADB is also working to raise the capacity of young people to actively engage in development and policy discussions. To this end, we are moving to strengthen our youth partnerships and helping to increase the ability and willingness of our member countries, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders, to prepare and manage youth development projects.

In future, ADB’s youth support will expand further. We will seek to foster further dialogue, and knowledge exchanges with young people, both within ADB and externally. We will support increased youth engagement in regional and local events, as well as participation in ADB project preparation and implementation activities. And we will also work with governments and the private sector to help mobilize youth to drive future change.

Most Asian economies (with just a few exceptions) have relatively young populations, which favor youth-led economic growth and sustainable development for years to come.

With this in mind, ADB will continue to work closely with young people so that they can play a pivotal role in driving sustainable economic change in the region.