In many parts of the developing world, simultaneous changes in technology, economics, culture, politics, demographics, the environment, and education have become so pervasive and globally inclusive as to create new and emergent conditions for the coming of age of recent cohorts. These changes are reaching across national boundaries and into the smallest rural communities, carrying with them both the transformative force of markets, technology, and democracy, but also the risk of marginalization. Adolescents and young adults whose lives are affected by these changes can be beneficiaries when they are prepared for them but can also bear their scars if they are not. Those who do not feel the immediate impact of these changes will nonetheless be affected indirectly as the overall pace and pervasiveness of change continue to accelerate.
While young people—a term used in this report to capture this phase of the life cycle roughly equivalent to the age range 10 to 24—have little opportunity to affect the speed and direction of change, some will soon be taking responsibility for its management as adults. Their success in making a well-timed and proficient transition from childhood to adulthood will fundamentally affect the extent to which they will be able to become active participants in and beneficiaries of global change in the future.
Concerns about how global forces are altering the passage into adulthood are all the more urgent because of the changing demographic profile of many developing countries. The acceleration of these global changes has coincided with unprecedented growth in the size of the population of young people in developing countries. In 2005, the total number of 10-24-year-olds is estimated to reach 1.5 billion, constituting nearly 30 percent of the