The UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), through its High-level Committee on Programmes (HLCP), has produced two major products on the subject of youth: the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth (2015) and the System-wide Action Plan on Youth (2013).

Decent Jobs for Youth

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO), more than 123 million young people were working, yet in poverty, and one-fifth of young people were not in employment, education or training. Young people aged 15–24 were around three times more likely to be unemployed than those aged 25 and over. The youth employment crisis had been a stubborn reality in most countries and in all regions. In 2020, the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak aggravated this already persistent problem, destroying jobs and employment prospects, disrupting young people’s education and training, and affecting their mental well-being (see ILO’s publication Youth & COVID-19: Impacts on jobs, education, rights and mental well-being).

In a joint effort to tackle this unrelenting challenge, CEB had endorsed, in November 2015, the strategy for the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth, the first-ever, comprehensive UN system-wide effort for the promotion of youth employment worldwide. Today, Decent Jobs for Youth brings together the global resources and convening power of a broad range of UN system organizations and other global partners to maximize the effectiveness of youth employment investments.

Led by ILO, Decent Jobs for Youth envisions a world in which young women and men have greater access to decent jobs everywhere. It aims to facilitate increased impact and expanded country-level action on decent jobs for youth through multi-stakeholder partnerships, the dissemination of evidence-based policies and the scaling up of effective and innovative interventions. The initiative supports the UN Youth Strategy’s priority area “economic empowerment through decent work” (see below) and assists Member States in the implementation of youth employment-related goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Decent Jobs for Youth was launched at the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum on 1 February 2016 by the UN Deputy Secretary-General and the ILO Director-General.

Development of the global initiative

In October 2014, the CEB’s High-level Committee on Programmes (HLCP) had agreed that the youth employment crisis was a universal challenge to which many organizations of the UN system could contribute, and thus the Committee had supported the proposal to develop and launch a global initiative on decent jobs for youth. A time-bound inter-agency Task Team, under ILO’s lead, subsequently worked to devise the strategy for Decent Jobs for Youth. The strategy was approved by HLCP in October 2015 and endorsed by CEB in November 2015.


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System-wide Action Plan on Youth (Youth-SWAP)

In response to Member State requests that the UN system intensify efforts towards a more coherent, comprehensive and integrated approach to youth development within the context of the World Programme of Action for Youth, a System-wide Action Plan on Youth (Youth-SWAP) – a framework to guide youth programming for the UN system – was developed by the United Nations Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development (IANYD), informed by input from youth and other relevant stakeholders. In April 2013, it was endorsed by the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB).

The Youth-SWAP focused on joint action by the UN system on the issues of employment and entrepreneurship, political inclusion, civic engagement and protection of rights, education, including sexuality education, and health. It aimed to deepen the youth focus of new and existing programmes of the UN system and to promote joint programmatic work. This 2018 report provides an overview of major highlights of efforts by United Nations entities, individually and jointly, in promoting the goals of the Youth-SWAP and addresses important lessons learned.

In September 2018, following a collaborative development process involving the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, the UN system (through IANYD) and youth themselves, Youth2030: The United Nations Strategy on Youth, was launched. Reflecting changing realities and needs, the Youth Strategy expands on and replaces the Youth-SWAP, acting as an umbrella framework to guide the UN system as it steps up its work with and for young people across the three pillars of peace and security, human rights, and sustainable development in all contexts, in a coordinated, coherent and holistic manner.

Development of the SWAP

The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and UN-Habitat led the Inter-Agency Network on Youth and Development (IANYD) in the preparation of a System-wide Action Plan on Youth (Youth-SWAP). It was guided by the World Programme of Action for Youth, which provided the overall policy framework and guidelines for national action and international support to improve the well-being and livelihoods of young people. In March 2013, the High-level Committee on Programmes (HLCP) recommended that CEB endorse the draft Youth-SWAP with the understanding that additional issues related to youth might be reviewed and addressed during the preparation of the implementation plan. The Youth-SWAP was then endorsed by the CEB in April 2013.

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  • Education and Learning
  • Sustainable Development
  • Sustainable Development Goals
  • Youth
  • Chief Executives Board (CEB)
  • High-Level Committee on Programmes (HLCP)

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