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EACEA National Policies Platform


9. Youth and the World

9.1 General context

Last update: 22 January 2021

LAST MODIFIED ON: 11/11/2020 - 21:14

On this page
  1. Main concepts
  2. Youth interest in global issues

Main concepts

Youth policies for Northern Ireland do not specifically refer to global issues, such as climate change, green production and consumption, human rights, international development and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. However, under the Northern Ireland Act 1998, public authorities must have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity between people in nine equality categories, one of which is persons of different ages. Public authorities must also take into account the views and experiences of children and young people when policies are being developed. See the article 'Young people's participation in policy making' in the Chapter on 'Participation' for further information.


Youth interest in global issues


The Government does not currently monitor young people's awareness of and interest in global issues. Where monitoring activities have collected data which touches on youth interest in global issues, these may not be specific to young people or to Northern Ireland.

Examples included below cover human rights, sustainable development and green patterns of production and consumption. No sources for youth interest in the UN Sustainable Development Goals are available.

Human rights

As highlighted in the report Our Lives in Our Words (Children's Law Centre and Save the Children, 2015), 43 per cent of the 11-16- year-olds interviewed for the Young People's Behaviour and Attitudes Survey in 2013 (Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency) had heard of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. In more recent publications of the survey, this was not covered. While 58 per cent of 16-year-olds interviewed in 2014 for the Young Life and Times Survey said that they had learnt about children's rights in school, 36 per cent reported that they had not. In more recent publications of the survey, awareness of children’s rights has not been covered. 

Sustainable development

Data from Visions for Change (UNEP, 2011), a report based on the results of the Global Survey on Sustainable Lifestyles, presents information on young people's attitudes to and understanding of sustainable development issues. 8,000 young people aged between 18 and 29 were interviewed from 20 different countries, including the United Kingdom (UK). Main findings for the UK include:

  • 52.7 per cent of young people over one quarter ranked environmental degradation among their top three concerns.  
  • 28.8 per cent of young people placed the issue of poverty as number one priority.
  • 17.8 per cent of young people considered the issue of environmental degradation as number one priority.
  • Young people from the UK were found to have higher levels of awareness and interest in sustainability and environmental concerns than those from developing countries; for example, organic, seasonal and local and fair trade products were recognised by them as emerging norms.

Green patterns of consumption and production

In 2018, the National Centre for Social Research conducted research on British social attitudes to climate change. It found younger people were overall more worried about climate change and its consequences than older people. 31% of 18-34 year olds are “very” or “extremely” worried about climate change compared with just 19% of over-65s. 35% of graduates are “very” or “extremely” worried about climate change compared with 20% among those without any educational qualifications above GCSE level.

In Climate Change: Children's Challenge (UNICEF UK, 2013), UNICEF UK/Ipsos MORI polling in 2013  notes the following about children and young people in the UK, aged 11-16:

  • 89 per cent were aware of climate change.
  • 74 per cent were worried about how climate change will affect the future of the planet, believing that the world will have changed due to climate change by the time they are adults.
  • 73 per cent wanted the Government to do more about climate change.
  • 64 per cent were worried about how climate change will affect children and families in developing countries.

Currently, the UK is experiencing growing debate and concern surrounding its climate policies, stemming significantly from the youth climate movement and school strikes for climate.  A survey in 2019 by ComRes found that young people in the UK aged 18-34 were significantly more likely (60%) to say they care more about climate change than Brexit, compared to over-55s (43%). Another survey by YouGov and ClientEarth in 2018 found young people aged 18-24 are more likely than older cohorts to believe that the majority of the effects of climate change in the world are happening now or will happen in the future.

 In June 2019, the UK government announced their commitment to a target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.