International Youth Day 2023: Statement by H.E. Dr. Muhammad Al Jasser, President, Islamic Development Bank

Today, the Islamic Development Bank echoes the voices of the youth who form the backbone of our society. Their energy, passion, and desire for progress reassure our communities that our best days lie ahead.

It gives me immense pride and a renewed hope that the youth in the Islamic Development Bank member countries constitute 20% of the population.

International Youth Day 2023 presents an opportunity to celebrate the triumph and challenges faced by the youth. It also reminds us of our responsibilities as multinational institutions to strengthen our effort to empower our society's nucleus. An empowered youth is a beacon of hope.

If supported and directed in the right way, this youth "bulge" is a valuable asset for the socio-economic development of our member countries. The youth are our best investment toward a bright future through their vitality, energy, and innovative ideas.

In this regard, youth are an invaluable component in the Bank's strategy towards achieving its goals and objectives, particularly in light of regional and global challenges.

In the face of the ongoing global economic crisis, adopting the U.N. SDGs mantra of "leave no one behind" has never been more vital. We need to ensure that "no youth is left behind" by fostering partnerships among development actors, businesses, and young people themselves.

These partnerships will generate resources, expertise, and knowledge to harness over USD 185.9 billion in official development assistance (ODA).

The youth in the 21st century face unprecedented challenges. Forced displacement due to migration, unemployment, underemployment, limited access to education and health facilities, and climate change are some hurdles that should worry every discerning mind.

Youth unemployment, which has surged post-COVID-19, leads to a loss of productive potential and human capital, adversely affecting national economies and the well-being of young people. It can trigger a vicious cycle of poverty, disenfranchisement, lack of access to resources, and social unrest.

If left unaddressed, youth unemployment could result in increased dependency on government welfare programs, thereby straining public finances. Tackling youth unemployment may necessitate the injection of additional government resources by diverting funds from crucial areas like education, digitalization, infrastructure development, and climate change while resulting in escalating debt levels in underdeveloped and developing nations.

The IsDB is committed to addressing youth unemployment through a multi-dimensional approach. This approach encompasses the provision of quality education and training reforms, promoting entrepreneurship and self-employment, creating supportive business environments, and implementing 'future-proof' job-creation policies.

We have consistently supported youth aspirations through relevant programs and initiatives. Among these is our long-standing "scholarship program," which has been in existence since 1983. Through this program, the IsDB has supported over 18,000 students in seeking higher education in various academic fields to contribute to their communities' development.

Since 2011, the IsDB has engaged young people in its decision-making toward internal programming through its annual youth development forums. We have also developed initiatives for digital skilling, entrepreneurship, vocational training, and partnerships with youth entrepreneurs to generate green jobs.

We are constantly looking for ways to mainstream youth empowerment into our regular operations and initiatives, such as the Food Security Response Program (FSRP).

This year, we are excited to launch our 2nd challenge call on green skilling in post-crisis situations with the International Labor Organization (ILO). We are also promoting climate resilience and environmental sustainability, ensuring a just transition for youth and all segments of the population.

Moreover, we are working with partners like the UNDP to strengthen entrepreneurial ecosystems for youth and women.

Together, we can build a brighter future where the generation can lead, innovate, and contribute to society's advancement.