Today is International Youth Day, a day to celebrate youth and their numerous contributions to their communities, nations and the world.

The theme for 2013 is Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward. Many of you are familiar with the global statistics on youth–of the seven billion people on the planet, at least half are under the age of 30, and that youth and children comprise up to 70 percent of the population of many developing countries. But, are you aware of the statistics on migration?

Young people in the village of Bunyakiri, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). By helping young people to develop positive beliefs and attitudes, a USAID project can prevent future acts of violence, and can ultimately contribute to a more peaceful and equitable future for DRC. Photo credit: J. Harris, International Medical Corps

Young people in the village of Bunyakiri, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). By helping young people to develop positive beliefs and attitudes, a USAID project can prevent future acts of violence, and can ultimately contribute to a more peaceful and equitable future for DRC. Photo credit: J. Harris, International Medical Corps

Today, more people are on the move than at any time in history. As of 2010, 214 million people, or three percent of the world’s population, were living outside their countries of origin. Twenty-seven million of the international migrants are between the ages of ten and 24. The vast majority of these young migrants live in the developing world.

Many USAID programs support young migrants or potential migrants. This includes our anti-trafficking and human rights programs, which help mitigate the risks associated with migration. However, I would like to draw attention to our broader youth development programs, which aim to provide youth with the support structures, skills, knowledge and opportunities they need to navigate the challenges they face while growing up. These programs help youth develop the resilience and self-confidence they need to overcome obstacles and become agents of change. While this is important for all youth, it is critical for youth at risk, including young migrants, who have additional hurdles and stress factors.

Below are highlights of some of our successful programs in this area.

In Kenya, the Yes Youth Can! (YYC) program is owned, led, and managed by youth. It was created to engage young people impacted by the post-election violence of 2007 and 2008 in improving their own lives and the lives of people in their communities. Youth organize themselves in democratically elected bunges, or parliaments. These bunges, now active in 20,000 villages, provide a structure through which youth can engage. The program bore fruit during the 2013 elections. YYC youth organized a national campaign which resulted in 400,000 young people applying for their national ID card, which is required to vote. Youth also supported a peace caravan that culminated in messages in the national media that included peace pledges from the major presidential candidates.  The messages touched hundreds of thousands of youth immediately before the election and played a role at keeping violence to the lowest level in years.

USAID has planted the seeds of youth self-empowerment elsewhere. In Bosnia, Peacing the Future Together supports youth conflict resolution and leadership in ethnically mixed communities through “youth banks” that provide young people opportunities to develop skills while working together on youth-led initiatives, thereby boosting their confidence as agents of social change. A Ganar targets at-risk youth in fifteen countries across Latin America and the Caribbean, using soccer as a tool for teaching life and employability skills. Finally, in Jordan, Youth: Work Jordan strengthens the life, employability, and entrepreneurship skills of the most vulnerable youth in disadvantaged urban communities through training, job placement, mentorship, and civic engagement programs.

For more information on these and other USAID programs, visit our Youth Impact website. Also stay tuned for updates related to the implementation of our Youth in Development Policy. Finally, join the conversation on Twitter using #IYD2013.