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EACEA National Policies Platform


9. Youth and the World

9.1 General context

Last update: 28 November 2023
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  1. Main concepts
  2. Youth interest in global issues

Main concepts

Ireland’s first National Policy Framework for children and young people is Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures, The National Policy Framework for Children and Young People, 2014-2020. The framework, targeting 0- to 24-year-olds, includes the desire that all children and young people in Ireland should be ‘Connected, respected and contributing to their world’. It states that children and young people should be supported and encouraged to both play a full role in society and to recognise that they themselves can heavily influence their own lives now and in the future. The framework also states that young people should ‘be civically engaged, socially and environmentally conscious, and […] aware of their rights as well as being responsible and respectful of the law’ (pp. 6). The framework is discussed further in Chapter 1-Youth Policy Governance.

Education for Sustainable Development is defined as ‘what you learn in school to make the world a fairer and better place for everyone’. This child friendly explanation of education for sustainable development was developed by The Department of Education, in collaboration with Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth’s Citizen Participation Unit. The definition was informed by the National Strategy on Education for Sustainable Development; UNESCO; Global Education Network Europe; and The World We Want: A Guide to the Goals for Children and Young People.


Youth interest in global issues

The Irish government specifically do not monitor young people’s awareness of, or interest in global issues.

However, Youth 2030 is a global youth work and development education project funded by Irish Aid, which strives to increase the integration, quality, and spread of global youth work and development education in non-formal youth work education, organisations, and projects. Its aim is to create an enabling and coherent policy and practice environment for global youth work at both a national, European, and global level.

This Agenda aims to empower young people to develop the knowledge and skills to engage with global issues and to explore their own values, beliefs, and connections with the wider world.

GenZ Index

GenZ Index is a three-part research report investigating Generation Z (those born between 1995 and 2009) in Ireland. The first part of the research report, GenZ Index: Initial Findings (Young Social Innovators and Amárach Research, 2019), reported asking participants which of several issues they would see themselves contributing their time to:

  • Climate change
  • Depression or Anxiety
  • School or exam stress
  • Being different (diversity)
  • Consent
  • Fear or anxiety about the future
  • Sex education
  • Drugs or Alcohol
  • Housing
  • Poverty
  • Loneliness
  • Cyber bullying
  • Terrorism or Conflict
  • Other
  • None

Climate change was ranked as top issue, with 64% of respondents contributing most of their time towards this issue. Participants were also asked to select what they personally considered the greatest sign of a successful life, from:

  • Making a difference to your community/world
  • Being financially secure
  • Loving your job
  • Being a good parent
  • Owning your own home
  • Having good friends
  • Being happy/good mental health
  • Having a loving partner/good relationships
  • Making a difference to your community/world was the highest selected response (39%).

Part 2 of the Gen Z Index was published in July 2019 and relates to phone usage, social media influence, unrealistic beauty standards and peer pressure.


A Generation for Change

A Generation for Change: Spotlight Report on Young People, the Sustainable Development Goals and Ireland was written by Ireland’s UN youth Delegates and published by the National Youth Council of Ireland in 2018. The report details issues affecting young people at a local and global level; how these issues relate to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); and Ireland’s commitments in relation to these. Generation for Change’s summary report lists key messages as that:

  • Young people want the Government to recognise their potential to be a force for good in Ireland and in the world. They want both the Government and the international community to allow them to play an active role in achieving the SDGs.
  • Young people want the Government to tackle poverty (including homelessness) in Ireland and internationally.
  • Young people want Ireland to mainstream the SDGs throughout all Government actions and policies. Young people want Ireland to be a leader internationally and help other states achieve the SDGs to ensure that no one around the world is left behind, reaching the furthest behind first.

The role of education will be central to Ireland and to the world in achieving the SDGs by 2030. Young People are calling on the Irish Government to recognise the importance of SDG 4.7 in providing educational opportunities to better understand the world in which we live, our role in society, and support our empowerment to bring about change at personal, local, national, and global level

4.7: By 2030 ensure all learners acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including among others through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship, and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development


National Volunteering Strategy (2021-2025)

The National Volunteering Strategy (2021 - 2025) sets out a long-term vision for volunteering and volunteers in Ireland. With actions to be implemented over five years, the Strategy sets out a general direction for government policy in relation to the volunteers and the volunteering environment, including young volunteers. It also builds upon and strengthens the renewed relationship and partnership between Government and the voluntary sector which has developed during its preparation.

The purpose of the Strategy is to recognise, support and promote the unique value and contribution of volunteers to Irish society. The Strategy also provides an opportunity for Government to acknowledge how important volunteering is to the well-being of the nation and to steer the delivery of an agreed and ambitious vision. The contribution of volunteering to our society has never been more prevalent than during the response in the last number of months to the COVID-19 pandemic.


The Strategic Objectives include:

Strategic Objective 1: To increase participation and diversity in volunteering including embracing new trends and innovation.

Strategic Objective 2: To facilitate, develop and support the Volunteering Environment so that it contributes to vibrant and sustainable communities.

Strategic Objective 3: To recognise, celebrate and communicate the value and impact of volunteers and volunteering in all its forms.

Strategic Objective 4: To promote ethical and skills-based international volunteering to deliver results for beneficiaries and to enhance Global Citizenship in Ireland.

Strategic Objective 5: To improve policy coherence on volunteering across Government both nationally and locally.


An ethically diverse population of young people

Throughout its history, Ireland has experienced periods of mass emigration. In particular, the famine in the 1840s led to a subsequent population reduction of more than 50 per cent (Fanning, 2018: 81). Moreover, when one considers the more recent large-scale immigration occurring from 1996 to 2007 in Ireland (Quinn et al., 2008), it can be easy to forget about the corresponding increase in the number of young people arriving to the country, or being born in Ireland, with at least one immigrant-parent. Census 2016 provides the most up-to-date data (see table below) available on ethnicity and cultural background in Ireland. The next Census is scheduled to take place on 3rd April 2022. There will be amendments to the framing of several questions regarding ethnicity, ethnic identity, nationality, and religion, to accommodate the ever-changing context of Irish society.

Notably, the 2016 Census acknowledges that, ‘White Irish’ (82.3%) is the largest ethnic group for young people aged, 15–24 years. Moreover, the nationally focused report, Make Minority A Priority (Walsh, 2017) reveals that, in Ireland, nearly “1 in 7 people (15%) aged, 15-24 are minority ethnic;” increasing to 16.1% for young people aged, 0-14 (Walsh, 2017: 38). In addition, the report stresses the need for intercultural youth work in Ireland to do more to support the specific needs of young people from minority ethnic backgrounds. Refer to Access All Areas by Walsh et al. (2020) for a comprehensive toolkit to support and develop diversity and inclusion best practice within a youth organisation.

Minority-led organisations in Ireland have been playing a key role in shaping conversations around diversity, inclusion, discrimination, and racism. One particular organisation, Black and Irish – which is both ethnic minority and youth-led – was founded in June 2020 following the untimely death of George Floyed in the US. The founders, Leon, Boni, Femi, and Amanda, set an aim to highlight and celebrate the identity of black and mixed ‘race’ Irish people. The organisation, with over 53,000 instagram followers, have gained national recognition with their very own RTÉ podcast series on spotify. In addition, they have used their platform to engage with government officials and other stakeholders to discuss the challenges and obstacles facing young people from minority ethnic backgrounds in Ireland.


Ethnic or cultural background of young people aged 15-24 (extracted from census 2016)

Ethnic or cultural background           

White Irish



White Irish Traveller



Any other White background



Black or Black Irish



Asian or Asian Irish



Other  (inc. mixed background)



Not stated






Ethnic minority only