Today, the world is home to the largest generation of young people in history – between 1-2 billion people. Beyond just accounting for a high proportion of the globe’s population, however, youth are also powerful agents of positive change and crucial drivers of development.
When young people participate meaningfully in the economy, there is greater growth and societies are more cohesive. Additionally, youth tend to be critical, inquisitive thinkers and they have the capacity to expose contradictions and biases, while due to their boundless creativity and enthusiasm, young people have the potential to offer fresh perspectives and propose or develop innovative solutions. What is more, young people, who constitute the majority of the population in many countries, play a positive role in tackling a wide range of issues through advocacy, lobbying, volunteering, or active engagement in community-based or civil society initiatives. Alongside all of the above, a large body of research has affirmed the capacity of young people to build bridges in post-conflict settings.
The centrality of youth to development is perhaps best reflected in its place of prominence within the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is the international community’s ambitious response to today’s most pressing global development challenges. More than one third of the SDG targets reference young people explicitly or implicitly, with a focus on empowerment, participation, and well-being, while paragraph 53 of the 2030 Agenda declares, “The future of humanity and of our planet lies in our hands. It lies also in the hands of today’s younger generation who will pass the torch to future generations.”
Although Eritrea, a relatively young nation located in the Horn of Africa, is blessed with an abundance of natural resources, features rich ethnolinguistic diversity, is situated within a critical geostrategic location, and boasts a long, unblemished coastline along the Red Sea, the country’s people – and most especially its youth – constitute its greatest resource and most precious asset.
Since independence, young people in Eritrea have contributed immensely and in myriad ways to the country’s development and progress. Within education, young Eritreans serve as teachers nationwide, helping to propel the country’s progress in literacy and enrolments. Likewise, Eritrea’s young doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other health professionals administer care to people across the country, improving health and well-being. Like candles, they sacrifice themselves to light the way for others. Young Eritrean graduates in a number of fields also conduct impactful research and develop innovative solutions to promote progress in a variety of sectors, such as agriculture, while young Eritreans are also contributing to national climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts, particularly through their active participation in community greening campaigns and similar initiatives. Notably, young people continue to play a prominent role in raising awareness and changing norms related to important social issues.
Alongside all of the above, young people in Eritrea have remained at the forefront of defending the country’s sovereignty and protecting its freedoms. In this, they are following in the footsteps of past generation of young people who made monumental contributions to Eritrea’s war of independence. Then young Eritreans flocked to join the armed struggle and mobilized to support the independence movement through an array of roles.
Eritrea’s young people are a powerful testament of the driving force of youth within national development. They continue to substantively contribute to meaningful and sustainable change, enriching their communities and the nation, more broadly. Their passion, energy, and fresh ideas are powerful catalysts for progress and the foundation for a more resilient and prosperous future.
Dr. Fikrejesus Amahazion