Currently in El Salvador, 37.9% of young people between ages 15-19 dropped out of the education system. Photo: UNDP El Salvador

Because the greatest asset of my country, El Salvador, and many other countries, is its people, and in order to harness that potential, young people must be empowered. After all, youth empowerment is one of the pillars upon which human development is based, which can be understood as the increase in the power of the people to generate change, get involved, and benefit from the processes of development in homes, communities, and countries (UNDP, 2010).

Our upcoming 2018 El Salvador Human Development Report (IDHES), to be launched on September 20th, will promote the protagonism of youth as active subjects in Salvadorian society. Since, when people get involved in decision-making processes and problems that affect their lives, they cease to be mere beneficiaries of change, and become rather subjects capable of pursuing the things they consider to be valuable, reaffirming their identity and sense of belonging.

El Salvador has a historic opportunity to take advantage of their current demographic bonus, which is a national situation characterized by having greater population of potentially productive citizens than the dependent or inactive population. It is estimated that this situation will endure until around 2033, meaning that the interventions that the country makes over the next two decades will be decisive in consolidating human development.

However, this demographic bonus is not an automatic guarantee of an improvement in life conditions. Currently in El Salvador, 37.9% of young people between ages 15-19 dropped out of the education system; and only 18.5% of people between the age of 16 and 29, who belong to the Economically Active Population, have social benefits and remunerations appropriate to their work. Therefore, in order to take advantage of the demographic bonus, it will be necessary to invest more in the young people of the country, thus expanding their opportunities for quality education and decent work.

Our upcoming report uses an interdisciplinary approach that combines the concepts of human development, citizen security and human resilience. In particular, it explores the resilience of Salvadorian youth in the face of the adversity of violent. And it shows that as young people are more exposed to acts of violence, their level of resilience decreases.

Finally, we wish to emphasize that in order to achieve the 2030 Agenda, it will be necessary to implement an acceleration strategy that favors youth development. This is the case for two reasons. Firstly, because given the complexity of the agenda, it cannot be addressed by treating the problems “gap-by-gap”. Rather, we need to identity interrelated problems in order to develop new ways of dealing with them. Addressing these problems will require sets of interventions and “combos” of public policies that can be applied differently in distinct contexts and under distinct conditions.

The second reason is that we need to do things differently in order to surpass the current level of average human development in the country. With that in mind, the report proposes to work primarily on “geographic areas and deficit indicators” of specific groups of young people with greater vulnerability. Otherwise, there is a risk of progress in those areas where conditions are more favorable, and the principle of advancing without leaving anyone behind is put at risk.

In other words, the country has a privileged but limited window of time to invest in the capacities of its population, particularly in its youth, and to empower them to be key actors in the construction of peace.

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