International Youth Day: Youth Development- A Human Rights’ Approach.

September 01, 2014.


By: Frances Madueke


The Nigerian National Youth policy (2001:2), defines youth as comprising all young persons between the ages 18 and 35 years who are citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (UNFPA, 2003). This category of individuals represent the most active and yet the most vulnerable group of the population, meaning that at this period young people are known to be full of strength but due to their inexperience and immaturity they are susceptible to harm both physical and emotional. A considerable amount of a nation’s population is mainly constituted by people in this age bracket on which the majority of the nation’s building falls on. They are also known to make up the major resource base for any country that wishes to embark on any form of development. Dike (2010) suggests that investing in the youth is the only way to ensure the future growth and development of any country. He also recommends that increasing the number of young people that must be trained and as quickly as possible to provide leadership in agriculture, industry, government and rural development projects is essential for the growth and development of any nation.

At the previous year’s international youth day where the theme of the day was “Youth migration: moving development forward”, the United Nations officials discussed how human rights can help with the social and psychological challenges the youths face in their everyday life activities. Human rights are commonly understood as being those rights which are natural in the mere fact of being human. In an article posted by the Icelandic human rights centre (ICHC) as shown on their website, it explains that the concept of human rights is based on the belief that every human being is entitled to enjoy his/her rights without discrimination and that certain characteristics differ human rights from other rights and these characteristics are in two respects which include: Firstly

·            They are inherent in all human beings by virtue of their humanity alone (they do not have to be granted or purchased) and are inalienable (within legal boundaries) and

·            They are equally applicable to all.


·            The main duties originating from human rights fall on states and other authorities not on individuals.


The United Nations describes human rights as rights natural to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, religion or any other status. In essence, everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination. They include the right to life and liberty, freedom of opinion and expression, freedom from slavery and torture, the right to work and education. It is important to note that these rights have been classified into a number of different manners, however, international human rights stresses that all human rights are universal, indivisible and interrelated which implies that no right is more important than the other (Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, 1993:5). These different types of human rights include:

·            Classic and social rights

·            Civil, political, economic and cultural rights

·            Fundamental an d basic rights

·            Individual and collective rights

·            First, second and third generation rights.


A survey which sought to research the issues young people face in their workplaces as well as find out how much they felt they knew about their employment rights revealed that out of the 151 young people ranging from ages 16 to 24, 52% said that they did not feel they were fully aware of their employment rights, 88% said that more needed to be done to inform young people of their employment rights and to prepare them for work (Mitchell, 2012). Another survey conducted by Jon Robins as part of an innovative public legal education project titled Mossbourne students and the law: ‘Young people don’t know their rights’, showed that almost 8 out of 10 pupils reckoned it was ‘ok’ to break the law, this could be because they feel they are not treated right. Drawing conclusions from these findings, it is safe to say that young people are more likely to put up with being badly treated and/or discriminated or left with no other choice but do whatever they feel is more convenient whether or not is right especially as with the fact that they are scared of the consequences. At this point it can be asked ‘how can the knowledge of human rights promote youth development?’ In an attempt to answer this question the term ‘youth development’ will briefly be described. Youth development refers to the deliberate or planned efforts of communities, government agencies, schools, adults or even the youths to provide opportunities to improve and/or develop their interests, skills, and abilities into their adulthoods (Abiodun & Tiamiyu, 2012; Dash, 2011). In other words, it is the process through which young people acquire the mental, social, and emotional skills and abilities required to pass through life (University of Minnesota Extension Centre for Youth Development, 2013).

In the process of having their skills and abilities improved, the full knowledge of their rights and how they can be expressed is of great importance. A lack of protection, respect and fulfilment of human rights can make them vulnerable to human rights abuses and prevent them from contributing their energy and skills to development. The secretary-general Ban Ki-moon in his message at the previous year celebration, emphasized the positive contribution young people make to their societies economically which enriches the social and cultural fabric but these major contributions are often inhibited by cases of racism, discrimination and human rights violations. “Of the annual total of about 214 million international migrants, young people amount to more than 10 percent, yet too little is known about their struggles and experience.” The Director-General of the International Labour Congress, Guy Ryder, highlighted the relation of human rights and development in his words- “youths can bring economic boost and social development when it takes place in conditions of freedom, equity and security.” He also added that when these conditions are not met, many young people are trapped. He also added that countries should undertake measures to protect their young people.


Development as it is known is an all-round process. It helps in economic boost, enlightens the citizens about their environment, educates them about their political and legal rights and most especially protects them socially. Social protection as underlined by the UN is not merely a set of economic policies in the workplace and in the areas of production. Rather, it is also a set of measures in the social sphere which allows substantial contributions to the generation of frameworks of equality, by reducing the gaps in inequality and the eradication of poverty and social exclusion. On this note, the use of social protection benefits as a measure to protect the young people from becoming trapped in social and economic challenges, empower them to seize opportunities, help the working-class group to adjust to changes and deal with unemployment is highly recommended.

Although the obligation to protect and prevent violation of the human rights requires the engagement of governments, employers’ organizations and trade unions, other stakeholders including the citizens need to empower and educate themselves on how to protect their human rights by knowing what the human rights are and how to express them judiciously. There is also a call for all the stakeholders to respect and value the expressions of human rights; this is greatly needed in the work-places. “Most companies and/or organisations do not value the opinions of young people and instead use them as a means to the end, as an advertisement”. Young people’s opinions should be valued equally and their youthful strength not taken advantage of. Being leaders of tomorrow, obtaining the goal of sustainable future should always be borne in mind when dealing with young people because they contribute a major deal in a nation’s building.

Finally, shaping effective policies for decent promotion of expression of human rights should be made and this can be based on recognizing and addressing the vulnerabilities of the citizens especially the young people who are the most vulnerable group of the population.



Abiodun, B.Y and Tiamiyu, R. (2012) Transforming Nigeria: Business Education a Panacea for Youth Empowerment and National Development. [Online]. Retrieved on 6th August, 2014 from:

Dash, S.S (2011) Youth in Crisis: Inculcating the Entrepreneurial Culture Amongst the School kids of Malawi and Commonwealth of Dominica. [Online]. Retrieved on 6th August, 2014 from:

Dike, V.E (2010) Addressing youth unemployment, underemployment and poverty in Nigeria: the role of technical and vocational education in national development. [Online]. Retrieved on 6th August, 2014 from:

Mitchell, S. (2012). Knowing your rights: employment issues facing young people. [Online]. Retrieved on 7th August, 2014 from:

Robins, J. (2012). Mossbourne students and the law: Young people don’t know their rights. [Online]. Retrieved on 6th August, 2014 from:

The Scottish Government, 2002. Involving Young people in Environmental issues and decision-making. A young person’s perspective. [Online]. Retrieved on 7th August, 2014 from:

United Nations Population Fund (2003) Adolescent Health and Development in the Context of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. New York: UN

University of Minnesota Extension. (2013) Keys to Quality Youth Development. [Online]. Retrieved on 5th August, 2014 from:


About Frances Madueke

Frances Madueke hails from Imo state. She is a graduate of University of Hull where she studied Health professional studies (MSc). Her major passion is healthcare promotion and education, she believes that with every person getting involved we can live healthier and happier lives.

Writing is another passion of hers that she uses in her spare time to discuss life situations and events around her. Her writing ranges from fictions to factual articles. You can follow her on twitter @miss_tchey and mail her via [email protected]