The Commonwealth Youth Development Index: Any value for youth development?

The Commonwealth Youth Development Index will likely be released next week at the meeting of Commonwealth Youth Ministers holding in Papua New Guinea. Below is a reflective piece prepared by me and Sanyi Emmanuel Sanyi, which is included in the YDI report. 


The Commonwealth Youth Development Index (YDI) provides a measure of youth development outcomes and reflects the status of youth in member countries. But why is the YDI important to young people’s development across the commonwealth?

We present here five critical rationales why the creation of the YDI is of value. The first reason is simply the fact that the time is right. There can be no better time to take stock of the status of youth in the Commonwealth than now. The second is that it provides some understanding of the areas in which member countries are investing their resources in relation to youth. The third reason is that it provides an opportunity for the Commonwealth Secretariat to prioritise its support to governments on youth issues. The fourth reason is that it provides an advocacy agenda on which basis both young people and the Commonwealth Secretariat could engage governments; and fifth, because it serves as a tool for evaluating youth programming at national level.

Now back to the first point: the time is right. There can be no better time than now to create a measure of governments’ youth development investment priorities. In 2013, the Commonwealth Youth Programme marks 40 years of existence. While these past forty years have been marked with success and failures in programme delivery, events in the last couple of years such as the 2011 Arab spring in the North of Africa, the London 2011 riots and the occupy movement all demonstrate clearly that the youth bulge is engendering new challenges which the Commonwealth and its member governments needs [to give] attention to… A measure of youth such as the YDI provides a basis for better planning and prioritisation of programmes that will ensure that young people’s energies are better utilised for the improvement of their societies.

This leads naturally to the second point. The YDI helps provide answers to the questions: what are the areas of investment of member countries in young people? What areas are yielding the best returns on investment? What areas are lagging? What can be done? The advantage of a cross Commonwealth framework is that it provides a basis for comparisons across countries. In addition, the YDI also provides comparisons across other thematic measures such as the human development index.

Since 1973, the Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP) has been supporting member countries in the development of specific programmes towards youth development. In the context of a youth development index, as indicated in the third point, CYP will be better placed to align its technical assistance with the areas in which countries have the greatest deficiency or need. For some countries, the current CYP initiatives may be suitable, but for others, new programmes might be required. In this way, both member countries and the CYP get the best returns on investment.

Fourthly, the YDI provides an advocacy tool for both young people and the CYP. Young people may not perceive the YDI as a tool that ‘names and shames’ countries on how they are faring in youth development. Rather, it is a useful tool which could enable young people compare their governments’ investments in youth, with the outcomes attained. In addition, the index could serve as an informed basis through which young people could engage their governments on necessary policy changes that would contribute to their wellbeing.

Fifthly and finally, the YDI serves as a tool for evaluating policies. Further to this, it provides the evidence base which could support the scaling-upwards or backwards or even discarding certain existing policies in member countries.

While the YDI could be a valuable tool, it may not serve its purpose if it suffers from data availability deficiency. Therefore the YDI needs to benefit from regular update and capture information and data on domains and priorities that speak to the advancement of youth. This consequently means that investment is also needed for the conduct of research. CYP’s advocacy efforts must therefore include a focus on encouraging governments to disaggregate their data across age and gender to capture data focused on young people.

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One thought on “The Commonwealth Youth Development Index: Any value for youth development?

  1. Menghestab Haile

    This is an excellent summary. Is the YDI now released? can you share the report. We are developing the a similar index in Ethiopia and we would like to benefit from your experience. Regards

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