Today's generation of children and youth is the largest in history, with nearly half of the world's population of 7 billion under the age of 25. Among them, more than 90 percent live in the developing world.
With the right care and development, children and youth have the potential to become active and productive young women and men. But for too many of them, difficult challenges stand in the way.
Services that are hard to access or that lack quality can undermine the well-being and survival of children and youth. For many, violence, exploitation, and neglect are all too common, particularly in situations of fragility and conflict.
This is particularly true for girls and young women, whose rights are all too often abused. As a result, many of them are less educated, less healthy, and less likely to lead productive lives.
No matter where they are, children and youth are entitled to live in safe environments, free from the violence and discrimination that affects far too many in the developing world.
CIDA understands this basic principle, and, in keeping with its commitment to deliver international assistance that is more efficient, focused, and accountable, has developed a Children and Youth Strategy that will help more of the world's children and youth thrive and make positive contributions to their societies.
Demographic urgency: Children and youth are a great resource, offering developing countries significant prospects for development. Still, a growing youth population brings with it significant economic and security pressures, particularly in areas where services and opportunities for employment are limited. Countries with a large proportion of young people face growing demands for jobs, health services, and education, but they aren't necessarily equipped to keep up. Where expectations and needs go unmet, youth may turn to crime or violence.
Child mortality: In many developing countries, children are 12 times more likely to die before they reach the age of 5. It is the result of many factors, including poor water quality and inadequate sanitation, malnutrition, and diseases that could be prevented or treated with proper health systems. Close to nine million children under the age of 5 die every year from these preventable causes. Basic interventions that save lives include immunization, antimalarial bednets, and the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
Maternal mortality: Over half a million women die during pregnancy or childbirth every year. In the developing world, childbirth is also the leading cause of death for girls between the ages of 15 and 19, due to a higher risk of complications during pregnancy. Because a child is four times more likely to die when his or her mother dies in childbirth, maternal health is vital to the survival, health, and development of children.
Violence and abuse: Millions of children and youth, especially girls, experience violence and abuse. Through armed conflict, trafficking, sexual exploitation, harmful forms of child labour, and harmful cultural practices such as female genital mutilation, children's rights in many developing countries are violated. The consequences can include poor physical and mental health, HIV/AIDS infection, poor education, homelessness, and an increased risk of death.
Lack of education and skills: In developing countries, 67 million children — 53 percent of them girls — still have no access to schools or the basic education that gives them the skills required for life and work. The ones that do manage to get to school often receive an education of poor quality. A basic education is a critical starting point and therefore an area that needs to be further developed.
Under-investment in girls: Evidence shows that investing in girls brings better development results than investing in any other demographic group. Investments in the health, education, and safety of young women have a ripple effect that reaches their families, their communities, and, eventually, their children. Still, in many developing countries girls and young women are more likely to marry and have children at an early age, drop out of school, be engaged in prostitution, or experience sexual violence. Addressing the needs of these girls requires more focused attention.
CIDA through its Children and Youth Strategy is placing a new emphasis on the needs of youth in order to help the world's young men and women become healthy, educated, and productive citizens.
Within the Children and Youth Strategy, CIDA will focus on three priorities:
Scaling up efforts on child survival is a vital necessity at a time when nearly nine million children under the age of 5 are dying every year, mostly from preventable and treatable conditions. This means starting with the mother. In the developing world, a woman dies in pregnancy or childbirth every minute of every day, so a focus on child survival means an equal focus on maternal health.
To support child survival and maternal health, CIDA will:
These measures will translate into:
An educated workforce is essential to long-term sustainable development and the reduction of extreme poverty.
Access to education has improved in the developing world, but still today financial, social, health, and security reasons are keeping 67 million children — 35.5 million of them girls — out of school. Getting children to school is a priority, as is keeping them there for the full 10-year cycle of basic education. National education systems also need to be strengthened through teacher training, relevant curriculum, and better learning materials.
CIDA will work toward:
These efforts are designed to create strong education systems that provide more children and youth, girls in particular, with the basic skills they will need to become productive citizens.
In many developing countries, violence, abuse, and exploitation, including child trafficking and the worst forms of child labour, are often widespread. Girls are particularly vulnerable, as are poor and marginalized children and youth.
Without addressing protection and security issues, investments in health, education, and other areas may not bring lasting improvements. As the most vulnerable in society, children have a right to safe and secure environments in which to grow, learn, and play.
To help give children and youth safe and secure futures, CIDA will work toward:
As CIDA works with countries to develop the necessary legal frameworks, more children and youth, especially girls, will be protected from violence, exploitation and abuse. They will have more opportunities to participate in and contribute to their communities. Further, schools will provide safe learning environments where students can develop the skills they need to become productive young women and men.
Canada recognizes the immense worth and hope that children and youth bring to developing countries, and is working to help them fully reach their potential.
CIDA's Children and Youth Strategy, with its special attention on girls and young women, aims for concrete results that will make a significant and sustainable difference for the world's youngest and most at-risk population.
CIDA will review its progress against the Children and Youth Strategy and report this progress and any lessons learned on a regular basis. All activities associated with the development and implementation of this strategy is in compliance with the Official Development Assistance Accountability Act.
Note: If you cannot access the documents that are provided in an alternate format, refer to the Help page.
CIDA's Children and Youth Strategy (PDF, 252.55 KB, 8 pages)
Canada's Aid Effectiveness Agenda: Securing the Future of Children and Youth (PDF, 349 KB, 3 pages)