To mark International Youth Day, Commonwealth Youth Programme South Pacific (CYPSP) Regional Director Ms Afu Billy writes on why we should be working with young people to create better futures for all.

"Young people make up nearly half of the populations of the Commonwealth countries and are an asset to their nations. Young people are fresh, vibrant and strong. They have energy, strength and creativity which can be used by governments and other non-government stakeholders for their country's and communities' development; and used in their own lives to work toward empowerment.

"The problem in many of our Pacific nations is that we leaders play a great 'lip service' but do not follow through. Many of the sentiments we speak of are never realised. Young people need to be empowered.

"However, empowerment does not just happen to young people. Adults, especially those in positions of power, have a very important role in the empowerment of young people. It's vital they work to create conditions - economic and social - which enable that empowerment to develop.

"Why should young people be empowered? Because between 50 and 70 percent of the developing world's population is under the age of 30. Around 45 percent of the Commonwealth population live in poverty, on less than US$2 a day; young people are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults are. Pro-poor strategies must be pro-youth. This vast human resource should be used and not squandered.

"In much of the developing world the youth population will be extremely high in the years leading up to 2015. This is a great economic opportunity - young people will be having fewer children which means they will be more productive with fewer dependents to care for.

"However, young people will only benefit if governments and the private sector invest in young people. If we leave things the way they are now, young people will continue to be the largest ever unemployed group in society.

"CYPSP would like Pacific governments and non-government and civil society organisations working in the Pacific, to start working towards youth empowerment and start taking an 'assets-based approach' to youth development."