Strengthening Universality for Youth-Centred Development: The Pacific approach

Date: 12 August 2015
Author: Mereia Carling

Strengthening Universality for Youth-Centred Development: The Pacific approach

The Pacific Youth Development Framework (PYDF) 2014–20231 uses human rights principles and social protection approaches to promote inclusive and targeted investment in key youth populations to improve universal access to basic services and opportunities for young people in the Pacific. The PYDF comprises four priority outcomes for youth across the development sectors in the areas of education and employment, health, governance and participation and environmental action. These are common to youth policies across the region, which have been developed and prioritized by young people. The framework’s implementation strategies address barriers to investment by focusing on the drivers for investment: strengthening development accountability; engaging beneficiaries and stakeholders; improving statistical and analytical evidence; and utilising strategic information for policy, planning and programme development.

Inequity within the youth population

The State of Pacific Youth Report 2011 determined very little change in the youth situation between 2005 and 2011. The research found that while some young people had improved education and access to health and other services, of concern was a significantly sized youth population who still lack access to these services due to various vulnerabilities and types of discrimination. For these young people, the situation was deemed more critical than at the baseline in 2005, due partly to the compounding pressures of the global economic crisis.2 Key segments of the youth population facing various degrees of marginalization from mainstream development efforts include young women; rural youth; youth who have dropped out of education and are not in any training or employment; young people who are discriminated against because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression; and young people with disabilities.

Identifying key populations

The PYDF engages governments of 22 Pacific countries and territories, development agencies, and youth, aiming to undertake periodic mapping of service delivery coverage in participating countries to assess reach to key populations across the four priority outcome areas. The process is intended to identify gaps in service delivery to inform national administrations and their development partners to allow them to improve service delivery and technical assistance.

Engaging key populations

Many youth programmes do not represent the diversity of young people and, as a result, their priorities do not always respond to the issues of the most marginalized young people. The PYDF aims to strengthen national representative structures for youth to be inclusive of key populations. It does this by supporting networking initiatives and providing collaborative opportunities for marginalized youth to access small grants to lead their own change initiatives in their communities. In addition, a regional youth think tank, which provides advice and guidance to the framework’s regional coordination mechanism, includes members representing key populations and their networks such as the Pacific Sexual Diversity Network and the Pacific Young Women’s Leadership Alliance.

Insufficient investment in youth

Despite the substantial size of the youth population in the region and the significance of issues such as youth employment and young people’s sexual and reproductive health, there remains a lack of targeted investment required to meet the needs of young people in the Pacific. As a result, there has been minimal change in the overall status of youth since 2005.3 Youth issues are often sidelined from general development priorities in favour of issues with clearer evidence bases and with access to sources of funds. The PYDF aims to be a catalyst for youth investment by focusing on the incentives for investment.

Creating demand: Engaging youth to influence decision-making

When direct beneficiaries are engaged in development processes as participants, they can hold duty-bearers more accountable and increase development responsiveness. The PYDF has positioned youth as an equal partner throughout the process of development, both as co-managers of the regional framework coordination and as part of a think tank of experts providing advice and guidance for regional coordination. The PYDF exercises a participatory decision-making model, through facilitated communities of practice which apportion equal voice to all stakeholders including governments, development partners and youth.

Strengthening the evidence to support investment

There are major gaps in the available data on young people in the Pacific, posing one of the biggest challenges to promoting their rights. For example, many Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) do not measure youth unemployment with international standards and thus vastly underestimate the real situation. Often, census and national survey data are not analysed to determine youth profiles. The lack of data means a lack of evidence that would provide incentives to invest. The PYDF will focus on establishing regional youth indicators that can be used in routine national and local level surveillance. Disaggregated information needs to be made available: by sex, five-year age groups, geographic location and household asset base.

Integrating youth into relevant sectors

The PYDF uses an integrated approach to bring a youth focus and youth engagement to relevant sectors where there are already resources, expertise and programming traction. Mainstreaming approaches are notoriously difficult, particularly so for youth sectors that often have low-priority government mandates. High-level commitment is required to authorize a holistic approach across a range of sectors, and entry points need to be identified. In the Pacific, the absence of a regular high-level forum for youth has made it necessary to seek entry points at strategic opportunities within relevant sectors. Where forays have been made to bring a youth-integrated approach to new sectors, ensuring that programme outcomes have had both economic and social benefits for young people and communities as a whole, has enhanced results.


While it is still early days to claim success, the PYDF’s development processes and inception stages are promising as key youth populations become increasingly engaged and connected to development agendas, and development partners increase momentum towards greater commitment and support for its strategic approaches.


Mereia Carling joined SPC in 2012 as Social Development Advisor – Youth, responsible for leading the development of the Regional Framework on Youth Development and for mainstreaming youth objectives across SPC’s seven technical divisions. Mereia also provides policy advice to SPC member countries and to regional planning processes on youth-related issues. Prior to this role, Mereia worked for eight years at UNICEF Pacific as Social Policy Specialist and in Child Protection. Before that, Mereia worked at Save the Children Fiji as Child Rights, Research and Advocacy Manager and in the media as a television programme producer. She holds a Masters and a Post-graduate Diploma in Development Studies.

Show 3 footnotes

  1. Secretariat of the Pacific Community, 2015. The Pacific Youth Development Framework 2014–2023: A coordinated approach to youth-centred development in the Pacific. Secretariat of the Pacific Community.
  2. United Nations Children’s Fund and Secretariat of the Pacific Community, 2011. The State of Pacific Youth Report 2011: Opportunities and Obstacles. United Nations Children’s Fund – Pacific and Secretariat of the Pacific Community
  3. United Nations Children’s Fund and Secretariat of the Pacific Community, 2011. The State of Pacific Youth Report 2011: Opportunities and Obstacles. United Nations Children’s Fund – Pacific and Secretariat of the Pacific Community

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