• Young people around the world are leading COVID-19 recovery efforts on the grassroots level.
  • Here are four ways youth is ensuring that no one is left behind.
  • Read the report "Davos Labs: Youth Recovery Plan" here.

Many young people, which make up the largest demographic in many countries today, are conscious of their responsibilities to other people and the planet. They are the first to have experienced at least two major global shocks, the financial crisis and the COVID-19 outbreak, making them disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

This calls for youth to be at the heart of the COVID-19 recovery process.

Young people are also serving as catalysts of inclusive change. Throughout the pandemic we have witnessed young people rise above and beyond to help all those in need, from the United Kingdom to Afghanistan. As Bill Gates has explained, these young people demonstrate our values as a society and they serve as powerful examples of how to make a positive difference in the world.”

Here are four times young people ensured no one was left behind.

Solar warriors in Kenya

The youth in Kenya are taking it upon themselves to support the management of COVID-19 vaccination. The youth-led Solar Freeze is repurposing their business units of solar-powered chest freezers to store medicines and vaccination doses that require a cold facility. The organization, which is run by young Africans, has also sent scores of refrigerators to Kakuma, the world’s largest refugee camp.

Solar Freeze team trains people at Kakuma on assembly of its solar-powered freezers.
Solar Freeze team trains people at Kakuma on assembly of its solar-powered freezers.
Image: Thomson Reuters Foundation/Handout by Solar Freeze

Reaching marginalized villages in Pakistan

Some 5,000 miles from Kakuma is the Balochistan province of Pakistan. The province is the least developed in the entire country, with over half of its population living in poverty. The rigid and mountainous terrain coupled with poor infrastructure makes it extremely hard for aid organizations to reach.

In desperate times during the pandemic, young people led the recovery efforts. The youth-led Balochistan Youth Action Committee (BYAC) is making sure that help reaches the most marginalized villages of Balochistan. The campaign has helped more than 15,000 families by providing basic food supplies, 4000 frontline staff with personal protective equipment, and donated books to over 60 libraries in areas that are without internet facilities.

Reaching the most marginalized villages of Balochistan, Pakistan.
Reaching the most marginalized villages of Balochistan, Pakistan.
Image: Balochistan Youth Action Committee

Story of hope in Malaysia

The pandemic has impacted everyone, but some vulnerable segments are hit the most. The 20-year-old Syrian refugee, Hasan Al-Akaraa, comes from one of these vulnerable groups. Understanding the mammoth challenges faced by refugees during the pandemic, Hasan started his own campaign Al Hasan Volunteer Network to help people in the refugee camps.

With a clear message of hope and resilience, Hasan along with his friends and volunteers is helping the Syrian refugees in Malaysia with food supplies and other essentials. The network is also crowdsourcing to pay the medical bills of those who cannot afford and ensuring that help reaches to everyone.

Volunteers loading supplies for refugees.
Volunteers loading supplies for refugees.
Image: Al-Hasan Volunteer Network

'Outbreak of Generosity' in Italy

The earliest severely hit countries outside China were Spain and Italy. As the pandemic unfolded and started taking a huge toll on human lives in Italy, Nourhene Mahmoudi geared up to help his nation.

Mahmoudi and his friends launched the Outbreak of Generosity campaign. The campaign has mobilized volunteers from 12 countries and has provided advocacy training as well as a comprehensive toolkit translated in 14 languages to help the youth in leading change.

The inclusion of young people in policymaking will ensure that development is sustainable and inclusive. As Zen monk and former professor Haemin Sunim explains, “Historically, the people who bring about change in the society tend to be not the middle-aged but the passionate youth. Their hearts are sensitive to the plight of the oppressed. Hold on to that youthful heart and spirit no matter how old you are.”

What is a Global Shaper?

The Global Shapers Community is a network of young people under the age of 30 who are working together to drive dialogue, action and change to address local, regional and global challenges.

The community spans more than 8,000 young people in 165 countries and territories.

Teams of Shapers form hubs in cities where they self-organize to create projects that address the needs of their community. The focus of the projects are wide-ranging, from responding to disasters and combating poverty, to fighting climate change and building inclusive communities.

Examples of projects include Water for Life, a effort by the Cartagena Hub that provides families with water filters that remove biological toxins from the water supply and combat preventable diseases in the region, and Creativity Lab from the Yerevan Hub, which features activities for children ages 7 to 9 to boost creative thinking.

Each Shaper also commits personally and professionally to take action to preserve our planet.

Moving forward

Governments must adopt an intergenerational lens to all recovery efforts. They should include young people or groups like the World Economic Forum's Global Shapers Community as co-designers of national recovery plans.

Having diverse young people in politics and policymaking can ensure that the recovery is inclusive and that all the voices are represented. It can also help the world become prepared for future shocks. To build a more inclusive, resilient world, it is imperative that young people have a seat at the decision-making table.