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EACEA National Policies Platform


9. Youth and the World

9.1 General context

Last update: 25 January 2021


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


Main concepts

Youth policies for Scotland do not specifically refer to global issues such as climate change, green production and consumption, human rights, international development and the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals. However, in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and as outlined in its National Youth Work Strategy 2014-2019 (Scottish Government and Education Scotland, 2014), the Scottish Government supports and promotes the active engagement and participation  of young people in the planning, delivery and management of services. The Scottish Government’s commitment to a new National Youth Work Strategy 2020-25 continues to support young people’s involvement in policy. See the Chapter on 'Participation' for further details.


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 Scotland.

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

Human rights

Together, the Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights, is currently (October 2020) seeking the public’s views in a survey to help shape the report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, highlighting priority children’s rights issues in Scotland.


This report will inform the UN Committee’s review of the UK’s progress implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Among the issues covered is special protection measures and child justice, and civil rights and freedoms.


According to an analysis of different surveys of children and young people in Scotland, published in 2013 by the Scottish Government:

  • less than half (44 per cent) of the children and young people interviewed in 2010 by the Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland had heard of the UNCRC
  • children participating in workshops organised by the Children's Parliament in 2011 had some awareness of human rights and the UNCRC, although this understanding was often in relation to the basic needs of children in other countries; moreover, understanding of children's rights was lowest among children and young people with the greatest need for services.

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 production and consumption

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.

The Scottish Household Survey 2019 showed a significant increase in the majority of young people aged 16-24 who viewed climate change as an urgent and immediate problem. The largest increase was amongst this age group, increasing from 38 percent in 2013 to 69 percent in 2019. Additionally, in 2019, for the first time, the majority of each age group viewed climate change as an immediate and urgent problem.

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.