Why USAID’s new youth policy will boost development

A young man works at an automotive shop after completing a short automative course offered by the U.S. Agency for International Development in Mindanao, Philippines. The USAID has launched its first policy on youth in development to make the young people a driving force in development. Photo by: Rojessa Tiamson-Saceda / USAID / CC BY-NC-SA

Those of us who are parents know that the sun and moon rise around our children. Those working in development know that young people have the strength to move the sun and the moon … and sometimes more.

Today, the U.S. Agency for International Development launched its first policy on youth in development to make young people a driving force in our development. I’m excited about this because it creates a specific place for youth as partners and leaders in global development — and this in turn can help us achieve sustainble results for their families, communities and countries.

Young people must be front and center in development throughout the world. They are critical to alleviating poverty with economic growth, fighting disease and defending human rights. They are also an essential part of promoting peaceful democracy, protecting the planet and fostering innovation. Think back to the Arab Spring and other crises: Often, it was the determination of youth that inspired us to care.

I saw this first hand as mission director in Colombia, where engaging and preparing young people was a central tenet of our approach to citizen security. Whether it was retraining youth after they demobilized from an illegally armed group or supporting the internally displaced, targeting youth was critical to achieving larger development objectives.

USAID’s new “Youth in Development” policy strengthens our commitment to elevate the voices and power of young people in all aspects of our work. They must be a central component in all development planning. Our policy joins a series of others on important issues such as gender equality, climate change and violent extremism that USAID has recently created to direct us and our missions’ focus in the strategic planning process.

I am heartened by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent words, “With more than half the global population under the age of 30 years and with the vast majority residing in developing countries, young people are at the heart of today’s great strategic opportunities and challenges.”

This youth policy takes these sentiments one step further and makes young people a driving force in our development throughout the world.

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About the author

  • Susan Reichle

    Susan Reichle is the International Youth Foundation’s president and chief executive officer. She came to IYF in 2017 after 25 years with USAID as a foreign service officer, including serving in Haiti, Nicaragua, Russia, and Colombia as well as Washington. As the assistant to the administrator for policy planning and learning, Susan spearheaded policy development, including the agency's first youth and development policy.