Sustainable urbanization is a pressing global issue that requires collective action from all
sectors of society. Significantly, the world’s population continues to gravitate towards urban areas, so it is
becoming imperative to ensure that our cities are built and developed sustainably and inclusively.
According to the Commonwealth Youth for Sustainable Urbanization Network Sixty per cent of
the population of the Commonwealth is young people under the age of 30. Well-managed human settlements are key drivers of climate change solutions, economic development, innovation and entrepreneurship, and sources of employment underpinned by the activities of young people, who largely still lack a seat at the decision-making table.
Let’s explore the significance of educating and involving young people in sustainable urban development, and showcase inspiring youth-led initiatives that contribute to the creation of sustainable cities.
The Significance of Educating Youth for Sustainable Urban Development:
Education plays a crucial role in shaping the attitudes, knowledge, and skills of young
individuals, who are future leaders and decision-makers. Hence incorporating sustainable urban
development into the curriculum is essential and by doing so, we can equip young people with the tools they need to contribute positively to their cities.
Let’s enumerate some key reasons why educating youth is essential:
a) Raising Awareness: Education helps young people understand the interconnectedness
between urbanization and sustainability. Additionally it allows them to grasp the social, economic, and
environmental challenges that cities face, such as pollution, climate change, and inequality.
b) Fostering Innovative Thinking: By exposing youth to sustainable development concepts,
we encourage critical thinking and problem-solving skills. This enables them to develop
innovative solutions to urban challenges, ensuring a sustainable future.
c) Building Sustainable Mindsets: Education instils a sense of responsibility and ownership
among young individuals. By integrating sustainability into their values and beliefs, they become
agents of change, actively seeking ways to improve their communities.
d) Promoting Inclusive Development: Education empowers youth from diverse backgrounds
to participate in decision-making processes, ensuring that urban development is inclusive and
responsive to the needs of all citizens.
Inspiring Youth-led Initiatives for Sustainable Cities:
Young people around the world have already taken the initiative to drive sustainable urban
development. These inspiring youth-led initiatives showcase their creativity, passion, and
dedication to creating livable and sustainable cities. Here are some noteworthy examples:
Youth-Led Green Spaces: Young activists are transforming neglected urban spaces into
vibrant green areas. Through initiatives like community gardens, urban farms, and pocket parks,
they promote biodiversity, improve air quality, and create recreational spaces for all to enjoy.
Sustainable Transportation Advocacy: Youth-led organizations are advocating for
sustainable transportation options such as cycling, walking, and public transit. Therefore, they organize
bike-sharing programs, promote pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, and campaign for improved
public transportation systems, reducing reliance on private vehicles.
Waste Management and Recycling Projects: Young entrepreneurs are tackling the issue of
waste management by setting up recycling centres, conducting awareness campaigns, and
creating innovative products from recycled materials. These initiatives contribute to waste
reduction, resource conservation, and a cleaner urban environment.
Social Entrepreneurship for Sustainable Development: Many young social entrepreneurs
are starting businesses that address urban challenges while generating economic opportunities.
Examples include sustainable fashion brands, eco-friendly technology startups, and social
enterprises focused on renewable energy solutions.
The Role of Engagement in Empowering Youth:
Beyond schooling, it is generally important for society to carry out youth empowerment, and the effectiveness of such efforts to actively involve them in sustainable urban development. Here’s why youth engagement matter:
Ownership and Participation: Involving youth in decision-making processes gives them a
sense of ownership over their communities. When their voices are heard and valued, they
become active participants in shaping the future of their cities.
Collaboration and Co-creation: Young people bring fresh perspectives and innovative
ideas to the table. By engaging them in collaborative projects with policymakers, urban
planners, and community leaders, we can tap into their creativity and co-create sustainable
Mentoring and Skill Development: Establishing mentorship programs and providing
platforms for skill development empowers young individuals to take leadership roles in
sustainable urban development. While learning from experienced professionals, they gain the
confidence and knowledge to drive positive change.
Networking and Peer Learning: Engaging youth in networking events, conferences, and
workshops fosters peer learning and creates a supportive ecosystem for their initiatives. All in all, It
allows them to connect with like-minded individuals, share experiences, and find opportunities
In conclusion, just as pointed out by the UN-HABITAT “There are currently more than 1.3 billion
young people aged 15 to 24-a demographic reality unprecedented in human history”. To emphasize, Of those 1.3 billion young people, almost 85% live in developing countries, which account for over 90% of
the global growth in the population of cities. 60% of this urban population is projected to be less
than 18 years of age by 2030.
More so, the scale of this ‘Urban Youth Bulge’ requires a reformulation of the social contract between
young people and their societies. Failure to do so within this crucial ‘window of opportunity’ risks
consigning the largest youth cohort in history to the margins of society.
Finally, after reading the aforementioned passage, I hope you also understood how important it is to invest in the future of everyone by empowering young people for sustainable urbanization. We can use young people’s potential to build livable, inclusive cities by educating them, encouraging their engagement, and promoting great youth-led initiatives.
As can be seen, it is crucial to involve young people in decision-making processes and encourage their efforts to influence our urban environments for future generations.