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The universal recognition of the rights of young people


Human rights are inherent to all human beings, irrespective of their background or status. This is no different for young people. Currently, young people between 15-35 make up one-third of the world’s population. Yet when it comes to the rights of young people, it is not often clear as to what these rights are. This paper looks into how young people’s rights can be universally accounted for under international human rights law.

We identify the challenges experienced as a result of their age (i.e. being considered ‘too young’ to vote, or to be paid a living wage), experiences of discrimination or inequality during their youth (i.e. facing racial profiling, school segregation), but also the challenges for young people upon turning 18 (i.e. in criminal justice systems, as young migrants, in alternative care systems, or when it comes to military service). To ensure young people can fully enjoy their rights at whatever stage in their life, we argue for:

  • increased mainstreaming of youth rights and the establishment of meaningful youth participation processes;
  • the establishment of a UN Special Procedure mandate on Youth Rights; and,
  • the adoption of a legally binding UN Convention on the Rights of Young People and an accompanying monitoring mechanism.

This paper was developed by the Interest Group on Youth Rights 2022-2023, building on the work of the former Expert Group on Youth Rights 2020-2021.

Would you like to know more? Get in touch!

Jessica Nguyen

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