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In today's rapidly urbanising world, half the global population lives in towns and cities. In little more than a generation from now, it is projected that two thirds of humanity will be urban. And with this urbanisation, urban poverty is growing too. In this first decade of our new urban era, there are approximately 1 billion people living in slums and other sub-standard housing around the world.

One Stop Youth Resource Centre

The global urban population has quadrupled since 1950, and cities of the developing world now account for over 90 per cent of the world's urban growth. Current trends predict the number of urban dwellers will keep rising, reaching almost 5 billion by 2030. Cities hold tremendous potential, they are the engines of economic and social development as well as the main source of countries' jobs. However, cities today can also generate and intensify social exclusion, denying the benefits of urban life to poor youth. Africa's urban population is forecast to double from 295 million in 2000 to 590 million in 2020 – a growth rate consistent with the most rapid urban growth rates in the world.

Globally, young people aged 15-24 years represent 18 per cent of the world's population. Africa houses the largest segment of young people. Available estimates show that in most African countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Zambia the youth and children aged 25 years and below constitute about or over 70 per cent of the population. It is imperative that youth be recognized and supported as leaders within their own communities.

One Stop Youth Resource Centre

By 2020, one half of Africa's population will be living in cities. In many cities around the continent, more than 50 per cent of inhabitants are under the age of 19.2. The lives of young people, in Sub-Saharan Africa are blighted by a combination of intense human injustice and disasters. In addition, youth have over the past 20 years been particularly affected by growing urban poverty, child trafficking, sexual exploitation, high unemployment, and the growing phenomenon of street children. Crime and violence, the breakdown of family life, environmental degradation, worsening health conditions and the transmission of infectious diseases, and the worsening HIV/AIDS pandemic also add to the list.

The Third Session of the World Urban Forum in Vancouver, Canada in June 2006, highlighted the leadership that youth are currently demonstrating on key urban issues such as Information Communication Technologies, HIV/AIDS and employment. There is urgent need for young people to be encouraged and supported to take leadership roles and be empowered to participate in decisions affecting their lives. Young people are also adversely affected by the impact of globalization on values and culture, which in some cases is rapidly destroying local cultural ties and affiliations as well as traditional inter-generational ties.

UN-HABITAT views young people as effective advocates of change, both decision makers and to the general public, and them as catalysts in making a difference in implementing change on the ground. It is within this spirit that UN-HABITAT has engaged youth and youth organizations in order to develop a strategy to engage youth in human settlements work and programmes.

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