The United Nations: Working with and for youth

In 2012, the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban ki Moon made working with and for young people a priority of his Five-year Action Agenda for his second term in office.

In doing so, the Secretary-General called for the development of a United Nations System-wide Action Plan on Youth (Youth-SWAP) to help bolster the work of UN entities on youth development issues.

The main aim of the Action Plan is to enhance the coherence and synergy of United Nations’ system-wide activities in key areas related to youth development. It builds on the specific mandates, expertise and capacities of individual United Nations entities, pooling the strengths of the whole United Nations system and promoting joint programmatic work.


What is the United Nations System-wide Action Plan on Youth?

The Youth-SWAP provides strategic guidance to the UN system as a whole in its work on youth within the framework of the World Programme of Action for Youth. It provides an opportunity to promote joint programmatic work on youth development and to identify ways in which activities undertaken by individual entities can complement each other.

The Youth-SWAP focuses on the following thematic areas: 

For each thematic area, the Youth-SWAP includes one overarching goal, which represents the long-term objective to which the UN System should contribute in this area. Moreover, each thematic area consists of a set of primary and secondary outcomes towards which to work. You can read through the Youth-SWAP framework which details its goals and outcomes .


How is the Youth-SWAP different from the World Programme of Action for Youth?

The Youth-SWAP is in fact closely aligned to the World Programme of Action of Youth (WPAY), which is the main mandate for UN work in the area of youth development. 

The WPAY, adopted by the General Assembly in 1995, provides a policy framework and practical guidelines for national action and international support to improve the situation of young people around the world. The WPAY covers fifteen youth priority areas and contains proposals for action in each of these areas.

Whereas the WPAY focuses on the development of youth policy and activities by Member States at the national level (with the support of the UN), the Youth-SWAP focuses primarily on activities carried out by the UN system entities in the field of youth.

In addition, although the Youth-SWAP focuses on a smaller number of thematic areas than the fifteen priority areas outlined in the World Programme of Action for Youth, the remaining WPAY priority areas are addressed within the goals and outcomes contained in the Youth-SWAP.